It is safe to say UDLC is pretty Penn State Strong. If you didn't go to PSU, your brother, wife, child, or family member went. If they didn't go, you just grew up on PSU football. It was just the thing to do. Each August the small minority of other Big 10 school supporters would see UDLC covered in Blue and White and we would bring out the Michigan or OSU rivalries and it would always end up with a good hearted ribbing depending on who had a perceived stronger Defense or who the QB was, but one thing was true everyone recognized JOE PA and what his presence at PSU did for the team and fans.
There has been some stuff that has happened recently, but this post is not about that. This is about the MEASURE OF A MAN. The heart of a man who did not live for his Football team, but for the individuals who made up the teams he coached. It was not for the position coaches working for him, but the men who coached players in different positions. Most of all Joe and his wife Sue wanted to make better people in the world, not just better players.
Joe and Sue gave a lot of money to PSU, this is true. However, they also gave a ton of time and love to the students, professors, and staff. Sue works at the Spirituality Center, making sure there was a place for all faiths to learn and grow and worship. The Library was in large part possible because of them and looks all around the campus and there are things made possible by the Paterno family. However, these "things are replaced", what is not replaced is the young people who go out into the world and then touch the lives of others.
I would go on and on about the Paterno's because I have an overabundance of respect for them both. I respect what they gave to PSU and the love they had for higher education. The reason of the post is not about that, but in setting an example of living a life for others and our ability to touch others in ways we will never see.
In church work and working with young people, it is often understood that you will not always see the results of those long talks, weeks of service, or Sunday school or Confirmation lessons immediately. That being said, there are amazing youth who you see have a heart for Jesus and they come shining through to you and you know that God's will is coming to you through them. However, it is not many High School youth who can balance their faith, social pressures, and the stress of being a teenager (I do thing UDLC has a large number of them though).
Youth worker will tell you it is stressful. It is long hours of worrying about events, permission forms, fund raising, practice for band or youth Sunday or choir etc... It takes a lot of time in your life. It takes a lot of energy and can be emotionally draining and there are times you pray "WHAT IS THE DEAL GOD? WHAT DO YOU NEED ME TO BE DOING HERE?
Sometime after that prayer we have an answer. It may not always be the answer we wanted, but it is there. It could be you were at the right place or online at the right time preparing something and a teen that needed to talk finds you. It may be that someone stops you and tells you how much the youth ministry means to them and the things they see in the "Youth Ministry" really bring an element that was missing at church. Sometimes it is that you need to make a drastic change for the good of the program, but we have to remember...WE ASKED FOR AN ANSWER!
I can only speak presently of my experiences. I will ask other people to blog about their own in the coming days and weeks, but I have a few examples to share and in turn maybe you can share with others.
I am 7 years, 5 months and 24 days (390 weeks for those calculating it at home which is also 3,935,520 minutes) into my ministry at UDLC and in that time I have had said to me "The things you do for the Youth in this church is amazing" to which I answer "It is much easier when you have a great starting point." This humility can only go so far, so I accept the compliment and then share with the youth themselves.
1 Bill is an older member of UDLC. He has had his own personal health problems in the past few years, but every Sunday I see him smiles and a laugh to be shared. His joy is one of our youth particularly. Now, she is a shining example and honestly a real example for the youth, but this young lady is what Bill shares with others. He has shared with her also, but given the things these two have both dealt with in the past two years, I believe God has put them together so they can support each other. Bill sees not only her, but the influence and the strength she offers younger youth. He is a strong supporter of our program and when he has the chance he tells the youth how amazing they are. Bill doesn't realize it, but he has also set an example to other adults who now realize they can recognize the teens and children of the church and tell them when they see their talent. They also see there is a difference between real compliments and support and empty accolades.
2. Chris is a parent of three. He has only been a member of our church for 2 years, but in that time he has gone from new member to one of the leads on our property committee and teams up with another guy Bob to create a Mr. Fix It/Mr. Build It team to rival the "Extreme Home Makeover team". However Chris went on our Summer Mission building trip for the first time last year and his time with the youth had inspired him. He saw the joy and spark the youth have when building and working to make a physical difference for these people and he said, why can't we do this at home? Then rather than letting someone else answer, Chris answered it himself. Chris along with two other ASP vets Bob and Todd have come together to make a local home repair ministry for our community. He designed it not for the handy men and women of the congregation, but for youth and adults. To let us go out and make a difference. Chris does not know it yet, but even if this ministry does not make it 10 years, his impact on future men and women who will do similar work starting here is dramatic.
3. "Marie" Changing the name to protect the innocent. Marie spent years with youth. She loves youth and while they have blown by her in technology and global awareness at times, she loves them. She supports them and me. She takes time to be with them and her life has become beyond stressed as of late, but her focus is still being involved. Marie brought the idea of a "30 Hour Famine" back to UDLC. She wants us to look to recruit teens and friends (50 in totals) to raise $5,000 at minimum for the famine in the Horn of Africa. Even with everything on her plate she wants to get the youth involved and educated on this that she is planning to not just be at the event and support it, but help plan and lead it. Marie is also my biggest cheerleader and critic. I enjoy this, but her constant desire to be more is not lack of contentment (honestly, i felt like nothing was ever enough), but it was the desire for us all to be more, to push ourselves to be more. Striving to challenge our youth to aim higher, bigger and not be afraid to fall short and learn lessons from these experiences.
These are just my few examples, but from a media spotlight to a flashlight on my church, people make a difference. Not in being on TV or giving money, but by being genuine and giving of themselves.