We had just spent ten years in the Lowcountry. That’s not a metaphor–that’s what we in SC call the lower part of the state. The clock said half past time to roll out, so we made the move back to my hometown near the Upstate foothills. A change of venue was going to be great.
The threat of mountains filled the horizon and the familiar trickle of crystalline creek waters floated on the air. It would be nice but it meant work, too, even though we would live in a familiar town and go to a familiar church. It meant forging new relationships with new young people.
We do youth ministry, and that requires genuine friendship to work well.
It’s our chant over on the family ministry page. A relational style of ministry where you earn the right to speak into someone’s life by investing time and love in them. Community. So when the youth pastor of our new old church invited us to go on a day trip one Saturday, we dove on it.
The plan was to zip through the Blue Ridge Parkway for a Great Smoky Mountains instagram session(before instagram… shameless attempt to be hip). Then hike into the woods to get our nature on. We brought sandwiches so there would be no Man vs Wild going on that day. The youth pastor planned a short devotional time at a popular camping location. It looked to be a great time and the perfect opportunity to get to know some of these skeptics.
I was new to most of these guys so they held me at arms length. My Barba had yet to reach its current state of awe inspiring-ness. I was just a new target for a strategic crack so the fellows could get in good with the ladies.
We piled in around a burned out camp fire to start the devotional when one of the cool kids found an old steak knife. It made the rounds, guy to guy, in the chatty little clique. I didn’t say anything because I was new. Finally, the youth pastor spoke up, “Chris, give that thing to Ken.”
I don’t know why I did it. Maybe it was my own need to be a cool kid but when that blade hit my hand I spun on my heels and flung it like a major league pitcher. It rocketed out of my hand, traveled about 25 feet and sank an inch deep into a lonely little pine standing next to the trail. It just vibrated there. My soul leapt within me.
Instantly the group was swallowed by silence. I had those boys dangling on a string. The youth pastor cleared his throat through a smirk and began reading. A couple of minutes later the chatter started back up, but this time I looked over and whispered, “Hey, cool it over there.” Silence.
I wish I could tell you that I traveled with a circus and threw knives at my wife for money but that’s not true. That little stunt was pure and simple luck. What throwing that knife did was give me instant credibility. Now, instead of being an intruder I was a mystery that everyone wanted to solve.
I. WAS. JASON STATHAM.
We got back to the bus for the trip home and found the keys locked inside. DOH! Not to fear. Christie and I brought our kids on this trip. Those same teens that worried our kids would be bothersome brats now cheered as we stuck toddler Caroline through a vent window and taught her to open the door. SCORE for the new family. We were now cemented for all time as legends. People would write epic poetry about that day, and one day there would be a film adaptation.
Maybe not. But that day went a long way toward getting us in good with that group of teens. They were open to hear our thoughts about their life because of our street cred. It was all because
we wanted to share not only the gospel with them but our lives as well. (1 Thes. 2:8 paraphrased)