This summer, I've been able to see the Lord work in the lives of my friends. I'd like to share a story with you that has inspired me SO much. If you know me in real life, please realize that all names have been changed because of the personal nature of this particular story.
A close friend of mined named Alice decided to attend our church's high school camp last minute. Neither one of us is a big part of our youth group, especially now that we've already graduated, but another friend convinced her to go literally a few days before the camp. She told me she wasn't really looking forward to it, but she wanted to be open to whatever the Lord had in store for her.
Will, a guy whose parents forced him to go to church camp every summer, was also attending the camp. He was very outspoken about how he did NOT believe in God, how he did NOT want to be there, and how he did NOT want to talk to anyone. He dressed in gothic clothing, with huge black pants covered in chains, a long black trench coat, fishnet sleeves, spiked jewelry, and massive combat boots. His long, black bangs fell over his face. Will stood off in the back of the room during worship service. He ate alone during meals. While a few people would occasionally venture over to him and ask if he wanted to join them for lunch or an activity, he always refused and he was eventually left alone.
When Alice told me this story, she explained how that from the very beginning, while everyone kept far away from Will, she felt this strange urge to love him. As Christians, yes, we're supposed to love everyone. It's easy to say, "I love everyone," but in the case of a mean, angry person who dresses drastically from everyone else, while we might "love" them deep inside, it can be very difficult to express that love. Alice explained to me that while Will was placed on her heart and she prayed for him frequently, she was hesitant to approach him. After all, he looked... scary.
As the camp continued and Will acted out with harsh words and then pulled away, everyone began to avoid him more and more.
Every night after a worship service, everyone would break out into prayer groups before joining back into a large group of people. All the teens began to pile out of the sanctuary, gathering with their cliques of friends. That's what feels natural and more comfortable for prayer, after all. Alice lingered behind, fighting an inside battle.
Like always, Will was dragging his feet, waiting until everybody left so that he could wander off by himself or sit alone during prayer time. Alice could feel the Lord telling her to ask Will to join her prayer group, but she dreaded approaching him. She dreaded the angry response that was sure to come. In all honesty, she was a little afraid of Will.
Alice told me that her spiritual struggle lasted throughout the entire walk through the sanctuary. I don't want to talk to him. Please don't make me. I'll pray for him, but why do I have to pray WITH him? There's no way he'll agree. Finally she reached the back of the room where Will still stood. Taking a deep breath, she crept towards him and said, "Hi, Will. Would you like to be in my prayer group?"
Much to Alice's surprise, Will agreed and followed her outside.
Alice was horrified to realize that she had taken too long and everyone had already broken out into prayer groups. She finally managed to find two other stragglers who Alice didn't know very well. Everyone went around the circle and prayed. Alice suddenly felt an urge to pray aloud for Will. Fear gripped her heart. Will had made it very clear that he didn't want anything to do with prayer and God.
What would he do if he found out she had been praying for him all week?
When it was Alice's turn to pray, she finally swallowed her fear and began to say something like: "Jesus, I want to thank you so much for Will. You have placed him on my heart so much lately. Please give him strength and help him through whatever he's dealing with right now. Please show him that You want to be in his life."
After Alice prayed, Will's turn came around. Tension hung in the air. Everyone knew that Will had refused to pray all week. But for the first time, he started to pray. His sentences were short and a little uncomfortable, but they actually seemed... sincere.
After a few minutes, the other two stragglers excused themselves and left, but Will and Alice continued to sit together, a little awkwardly at first. And then Will spoke without any sort of prodding on Alice's part, commenting on how the worship service had actually touched him and that his prayer during their small group was the first thing he'd prayed in years.
All of a sudden, Alice started talking to Will about faith and trust and all sorts of things. She told me later that she hardly remembers anything she said, that it all seemed to come from the Spirit and that she could hardly believe what she was saying. Alice and Will talked for two hours, long after all of the other groups had finished their prayer time. Nobody dared approach them because for the first time all week, it seemed like Will was having a spiritual breakthrough. Something big was happening.
Alice ended up leading Will to the Lord that night. By the end of their prayer session, they were both weeping, their shirts soaked with tears.
Even after WIll excused himself to go back to his cabin and compose himself, Alice said that she couldn't stop crying. She was an emotional wreck all night, but not in an embarrassing or shameful way. She felt like God was so close and so present in that situation. She was amazed by how He had used her.
Later that night, Will stood up in front of the entire camp and shared what had happened. It was an emotional night for everyone.
After camp was finished, Alice told me the entire story. We talked about it for a long time and by the end of our conversation, I felt so encouraged. Alice said the experience changed her life. I can see why. Even though I wasn't there, it changed my perspective as well. I'm inspired by Alice's story. I'm so encouraged that she listened to God and He used her. Not only was Will's life changed forever, but Alice's was too.
I stil get chills when I think about it.