“Imagine what we could do if we all stepped up and decided to serve God. We would be unstoppable.”
This quote, spoken by a high school student at Willow Creek Community Church’s Sunday morning “Student Impact” service in South Barrington, summed up his recent spring break trip to El Salvador.
According to Brittany Lowen, regional area director at Willow Creek Community Church’s South Barrington campus, there are approximately 1300 students involved with “Student Impact,” Willow’s high school student ministry. Nearly 100 student impact members traveled to various international locations including Zambia, South Africa and El Salvador over the past several weeks, and I was fortunate to hear a recounting of their trips at their high school church service yesterday.
“We are all just pencils, and God is writing the story.”
This quote, spoken by a girl who traveled to Zambia, summed up her time abroad. Building houses, spreading concrete in developing communities, building relationships and mentoring children are only a few of the ways Willow Creek’s high school students made an impact in international communities this past month. As photographs scrolled across the screen showing teens helping plant vegetation, reconstruct houses, play with children and help dig wells and irrigation trenches, I looked around the auditorium in awe of these 14-18 year old individuals who were willing to exchange trips to Cancun for dusty bus rides and cross-Atlantic plane flights to third-world countries to help with community development.
“It doesn’t matter where you are – God at work is all that matters and he is always working. The location doesn’t matter – the work God does in you does.”
This quote was a powerful reminder of God’s omnipresence, spoken by a senior who had traveled to South Africa with one of the girls I counseled at HoneyRock last summer, Laura. Pictured above, Laura attends Willow Creek and told me that, even though the trip to Africa was a life-changing experience, the work she’s been able to do at home with Willow Creek has been almost as formative. Her life of service is a powerful reminder that God is at work everywhere – not only in South Africa, but also at home, in public school and at Willow.
In addition to hosting a regional house group with 40-50 attendees every Sunday afternoon, my camper helps coordinate a Willow-Creek-based-before-school meeting called “Uprising” at 7:15 a.m. every Friday morning at Palatine High School (there are several other schools involved in “Uprising” including Barrington, Elgin, Elk Grove and more). Students at Willow are involved in a variety of ministries – in addition to playing varsity sports and being in honor societies at school (Laura rocks at badminton).
As I looked around the auditorium during worship, the authenticity was astounding. There were a few students standing in silence, some praying, others singing their lungs out and some even crying. The band was awesome, and did a great job pointing students’ hearts to Christ (though it’s hard to go wrong with a set list including “Your Love Never Fails,” “From the Inside Out” and “How He Loves“).
In closing, the pastor stood up on stage and addressed the students with this exhortation:
“There is so much stuff out there about what the church is ‘against’ – ‘Christians are AGAINST gay marriage, against abortion’…but what does the church stand FOR? You are the future of the church, but you’re also the PRESENT – go do something about it!”
Their response has been a powerful one – stepping out in the name of Justice. Compassion. Service. Mercy. Love. Friendship. Healing. Redemption…and the list goes on and on. Willow Creek’s high school students are a powerful example of the energy and vibrancy of the church – a small glimpse into what Jesus is capable of doing all across the world.
The closure of the “Student Impact” service – all of those seats were full before everyone filed out. Crazy.