Friday, February 22, 2013

The Priest and the Hundred Dollar Bill

I know, it's an odd beginning.

Before the priest, before the hundred dollar bill, before the camp weekend, he was simply one of our new teens -- a shorter, round-faced, sweet middle school boy. He came to youth group on Wednesday nights, the friend and neighbor of some teens. Brown hair, dimpled face with a mischievous smile, and a respectful attitude, TJ* seemed like a Southern boy transported to our snowy Minnesota suburb.

He joined us for youth group lessons and football games on the church lawn. In between Bible lessons and dodgeball matches, God gave us a love for this new teen, and we prayed often for him, and our other youth group kids.

One cold October weekend, our junior high piled into an orange and grey school bus and trundled three hours north to a weekend retreat. Two nights into the retreat, our thirty-some students were bundled in with four hundred teens from across Minnesota and Wisconsin in a rustic, metal-heater-gushing lodge. As the man on stage spoke of God's huge love for us, and asked us to bow our heads, I saw a stirring from our long wooden benches. TJ --shorter, middle school TJ, in a room full of middle school and high school peers,with his head up determinedly-- was bravely walking down the orange carpeted aisle. Alone in a room full of strangers, before the youth speaker had fully finished his invitation to come, TJ was coming.

Guitarists and vocalists sang quietly on stage, "It's your kindness, Lord, that leads us to repentance" and I wiped happy tears from my cheeks. Excitement and joy coursed through me, as I caught my husband's eye and nodded to TJ. A smile broke across his face too, and we closed eyes to thank our amazing Creator who loves us, and calls us, and desires relationship with us.

TJ continued to grow, spiritually and physically. Suddenly a summer later, it seemed, he towered over us, a stocky football player. Hanging around before and after youth group, he asked great questions, spoke of reading his Bible, and leaked joy from his face and smiles.

"I'm talking to my family's priest too," he told us one night. In our youth group, teens came from a variety of community churches and we welcomed them all. "He gave me a book to read," TJ said. "In it I found a hundred dollar bill!"

"Wow! What did you do?" I asked him, wondering about the situation.

"I told the priest and tried to give it back," he responded, "but he said I could have it."

Shaking my head, I grinned at this example of honesty from my teen. One hundred dollars is a lot of money for any of us.

"What do you think you'll do with the hundred dollars?"

"I don't know," he mused, and we talked of other things.

A week or two later, the sight of a blackened house on a familiar street rocked our town. Midnight flames scorched and ruined the family's home. Neighbors with one of our church members, we soon learned details of the occupant kids' ages and needs.

Calling our youth group families, we asked the teens to bring any extra toys or clothing on Wednesday night to share with this family. The generosity of our students astounded us. Bags and bags of animals, toys, dolls, and clothing were carted into our youth area.Towels, shampoos, and soaps arrived, and our piles grew taller.

After talking it over, and praying aloud for the unknown family whose home had burned down, our students decided to drop off the items anonymously, simply giving the credit to God's huge love. In scrawled marker and color crayons, we shared this.

And TJ? He quietly came up to us and opened his wallet. "I'd like them to have this," he said. In his hands was the hundred dollar bill.

Spilled joy. Spilled generosity.

And it gets me over and over again. This amazing Creator who spills lavish love and joy into us, and splashes out to others. 

We love working with teens. They amaze us, teach us, and humble us. Think of us tonight, friends? We're headed to an all-night Lock In with our junior high. Pray for energy, stamina, and great times of connecting with our teens.

Linking too with Imperfect Prose

Photo courtesy of Microsoft clip art.

15 comments:

LOLITA said...

God bless you with your ministry, Jen. It simply is amazing to see how the youth grow after Jesus' heart. You a lot going for the Kingdom.

Praying for your weekend Lock-In. He will strengthen and guide you.

Jayne said...

I love working with youth! They are so excited about learning about and serving the Lord. Next weekend I have the pleasure of hosting the youth boys at my house for the weekend. Area youth groups are gathering for the Discipleship Now (D-Now) weekend. It's a time of worship, Bible study and missions all in one weekend. But even more fun then this is watching a young person come to Christ and serve wholeheartedly. Thank you for your service with youth.

Jennifer Dougan said...

Lolita,

Seeing teens (and adults) chasing after God's heart thrills me too -- and it's my desire for myself too.

Thanks for praying for us this weekend.

Jennifer
www.jenniferdougan.com

Jennifer Dougan said...

Jayne, how fun that you get to host that D-Now event for the teen guys. Thanks for doing that. May you have energy, lots of food, and laughter as you watch them grow in their faith.

Jennifer
www.jenniferdougan.com

Pam said...

And how God can take that blessing and keep it moving 1000 fold! Blessing that will come back again and go out again. Love this story, Jen. Thanks for sharing it.

Jennifer Dougan said...

Thanks, Pam.

Jennifer
www.jenniferdougan.com

Susan said...

Great story -- yay God. He's so faithful.

I missed praying for your lock in, but I can still pray for the results :)

Blessings and thanks for the visit!

Jennifer Dougan said...

(grinning) Thanks, Susan.

Jennifer
www.jenniferdougan.com

Jennifer Dougan said...

Susan's site: http://onestepawayintl.org/hp_wordpress/2013/02/

Brandee Shafer said...

What a great kid.

Alissa Collins said...

Wow. Wow. Wow.

I love this story.
I love it because kids never fail to amaze me. I love it because I could feel your overflowing joy, I smiled because I know how it feels to watch a child you love and mentor start a relationship with Christ. It's just good stuff.

Cheryl Barker said...

What a great story, Jennifer, and a great testimony of how God works and what he can do in our lives. And this is just the beginning for this young man!

Jennifer Dougan said...

Brandee,

Thanks for stopping by.

Jennifer
www.jenniferdougan.com

Jennifer Dougan said...

Allisa,

Smiling with you... Thanks for coming alongside this journey of loving and mentoring others too.

Jennifer
www.jenniferdougan.com

Jennifer Dougan said...

Thanks, Cheryl. I am honored by how he changes and transforms me, and all of us who let him too.

Jennifer
www.jenniferdougan.com