December 18, 2012
"Some were convinced by what he had said, while others refused to believe."
Reflection by Donna Schaper
The year was 1973. The place, Tucson. I was the slightly paid "youth minister." We initiated a composting project, which the youth group did to raise money to go on an urban immersion trip to San Francisco. The dozen kids who went were changed for life by their visits to soup kitchens, shelters, the morgue and more. I still know most of them. They raised their money by using the great Arizona sun to decompose the bags of lettuce leaves plus an eggshell or two which elderly ladies demurely brought to church on Sundays. I'll never forget seeing those white-haired ladies, wearing hats, carrying garbage to church on Sundays. They were barely touching what they couldn't quite imagine touching. We mixed in every kind of other waste we could find and earned $6,000 the first year by selling bags of compost for $1 each. The trustees were originally appalled by what was happening in the parking lot, convinced it would stink, which it did not. As they watched that youth group come alive, they changed their tune. They even funded the youth minister for another year.
In San Francisco, the police were just bringing on women officers. The sergeant leading our tour of the police station told us "it won't work" because women can't carry a 100 pound bag of sand on a straight line for thirty feet. "They are just not strong enough." That's when Carol, age 17, picked up the bag and carried it back and forth twice.
Some believe because they see what is wasted become fertile. Others believe only if you show them that all people have some kind of strength. Most believe by a slow steady faith formation, in youth groups, in questioning what they learned in youth groups and then going on to walk a strong, secure line lifelong, without trembling or tumbling or being afraid of their load.
For all who continually, weekly, monthly fret about the work of "youth work," we give thanks today, for all that they do. We pray for one more congregation to fund youth work and campus ministry because they get what can't be wasted. Amen.
About the Author
Donna Schaper is Senior Minister at Judson Memorial Church in New York City. Check out her blog, Grace at Table, at donnaschaper.com.
Looking for a way to say "thanks" to someone at church? Click here to preview and order How Can We Thank You?, a new collection of reflections from the Stillspeaking Writers' Group.
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