Friday, November 16, 2007


To be honest, I'm kinda' tired of talking about this. It's draining and such a downer. I know if I'm tired of talking about it, you've got to be tired of reading about it. But here I am writing about it anyway. . .

When we agreed to help out on the youth retreat this past weekend, I felt very ambiguous about the decision. An "I can take it or leave it" kind of attitude. I pretty much told Honey to decide what he wanted to do and I would follow, support, and, most likely, have fun doing it. So, like so many times before, we left the girls with Mom & Dad, and Bubba, Honey, and I boarded a bus full of teens headed to the retreat site.

Just a side note here to say that Bubba thoroughly enjoyed himself. You know, he was the youth group baby for so long that lately he's been talking a lot about missing camps, and retreats, and such. His brain knows that it's not our job anymore, but his heart misses all the fun and attention he got from the teens.

As soon as we got to the church and began loading luggage, we saw one of our old teens. He had just finished 8th grade when we left and now he is well in to his 10th grade year. I love 10th graders. They've finally grown up and aren't as nerdy as they were in middle school. For me, it's my favorite age, and usually the time I form stronger bonds with the kids. In 10th grade, they can actually have a conversation with you and the glimpses into higher order thinking come more frequently.

Anyway, our old teen was attending this retreat with a friend from school and it was really great to see him and establish that he is, in fact, several inches taller than me. And to top it all off, we were assigned to work with the 10th grade group that weekend.

Saturday night, we were finishing up an activity, when I saw Old Teen. I sat down next to him hoping to catch up on his life when I became very aware that I had just interrupted something. He was talking to another teen and although I didn't hear anything Old Teen said, I heard the other teen's reply. "So if he left, why is he back here?"

In that moment, I froze. Emotions that I thought were worked through and in the past erupted to the surface. To this day, one of our greatest regrets about the timing of our resignation and the secrecy that surrounded it is the fact that we were in relationship with many teens and their parents. A trusting, give and take, friendship relationship. And, literally, one day we were promising that we were dedicated and committed to that group, and the next we had "resigned to pursue other opportunities". To my knowledge, no explaination was ever given to anyone, including us, about why we had resigned. At the very least, we felt everyone thought we were heartless and shady, not worthy to be trusted. It took many tears, prayers, and conversations for me to realize that where the teens are concerned, it's not about us. We weren't calling them to follow us, we were calling them to follow Jesus. They can do that whether we are there or not.

What still hurts is knowing that human nature doesn't allow one to just not know. Oftentimes, when we don't know the true information, we make up our own version of the truth. We make assumptions and harbor feelings that may or may not be right.

So, I froze as I sat down, because I wasn't sure I was ready to hear Old Teen's version of the truth. And I really didn't have it in me to honor our former elder's request to "just tell them to talk to us" if they ask you what happened. Even though, to this day, that is really the only true answer I have.

Before I could get back up, excuse myself, and allow them to finish their conversation in private, Old Teen awkwardly cleared his throat and asked the other guy, "So, what kind of truck did you say you drove?" And I felt invited to stay.

The next morning was our official Sunday morning worship time. Not just some songs before another session was to start while the cooks cleaned up from lunch and the pre-campers played outside. Worship. Praise, prayer, and sweet communion when everyone stopped the going home preparations and came together in that once in a lifetime, never have the exact group of people gathered in one place again time. To say that I was overwhelmed with emotion that morning would be an understatement. As I looked around that room and locked eyes with the unsure 6th grader on her first retreat, the taller than me 10th grade boys, the confident Seniors, the dedicated adults and parents, the precious pre-campers that want so much to be noticed by the big kids, emotion bottled up from somewhere deep inside consumed me. I miss this.


A D said...

It breaks my heart. I have to say I was a little angry at the way things were handled and to at least everyone I know, no explanation has been given.
I don't think that was God's plan for you but He is directing the path you are on now.
We love and miss you deeply. Do not be discouraged. Don't let the devil take your joy and put awkwardness in your relationships. We just have to forgive and love. That is our victory in Christ!

Misty said...

It is so sad when I hear about churches mishandling people... Recently I had friends in a similar situation to yours and when they were "let go" my friend said to the man "by state law you may not owe us an explanation, but by God's law you certainly do." and that resonated hugely with me...

I am sorry too that people (including you) were hurt, and that as time has passed, kids and their families were hurt. Certainly God works good through all things and so there will be redeption in the lives of everyone involved...

Cindy said...

Oh Jenni, I am so sorry. I had no idea you guys had been through all of that! And so recently! That was all before I found your blog! Can you get me caught up? What does your husband do now?

Being in ministry, your story breaks my heart- we have seen it happen TOO MANY times. We haven't experienced it to quite the degree you did, but one church we left didn't handle things well and I was surprised at how long it hurt; how it would rise up in me at odd times.

I'm touched by your attitude and how you're dealing with it- I read a lot of grace in this post.

You know.... our church is looking for a youth minister. Wanna be neighbors? :)

The Binkley Family said...

First off, I want to say that the whole situation makes me upset because giving NO information is more destructive to people than whatever the truth is, and I think that was very unfair of a church to do that to its "family".

Secondly, I am sorry that you are having to deal with those emotions, but I don't believe in coincidence. Perhaps the Spirit is beginning to lead your hearts. Be prepared for God to present new opportunites down the road. You guys are definitely effective for kingdom work!

Big Hugs!!!

The Pittman's said...

Matt and I had a great time getting to hang out with you and your guys. I agree that the Sunday worship was very touching. Matt and I talked for a long time about how much we miss all of it also.

javamamma said...

Cool that God met you there, in that place.

sshough said...

My heart breaks for you. I wish I could give you a hug! I know ya'll were good at investing in teenagers, and you can do that whether it is your livelyhood or not. Praying that the healing continues! Love you! (Are ya'll by chance headed to A-ville this week?)

SJ said...


That breaks my heart about everything that happened. But in response to the end of your post...all I have to say is:

You can take the girl out of camp but you cant take camp out of the girl. You've been a camp (youth) girl for SO's very understandable that you miss it, even with everything that happened.

We know that God works for good and I'm praying for his direction for you guys...whatever it is, it will be good...somehow...eventually.

Larissa said...

I agree with Jennifer...on both points. Coming from someone who grew up being the "paid help" in church, I know how difficult it can be to work with church people, and how confusing when things like this happen. We're supposed to be able to trust, because we're all christians, right? Which as we both know that's not always the case. It can be so maddening! Not to mention hurtful!

But God does big things in situations we don't expect. Who knows, maybe someday you guys might get back into y.m. I bet you probably thought you might not even ever have the desire again. Time does heal, but I know even when you've thought you've dealt with it and it's over, it's amazing how one situation can take you all back so quickly! I've always thought that was horrible what happened to you guys, just horrible. Yall still continue to be in my prayers, and by the way, I can't wait to see the Christmas pics.