Have you ever felt so out of place that you wished someone would come along and invite you somewhere you felt welcome? Well, I did, and it took the courage of two of my friends, Alexis and Sky, to invite me to an outing with their church youth group and to become a follower of Jesus Christ.
My journey started at lunch one Tuesday my freshman year of high school. The youth group leader, Brother Ty, had come to have lunch with Alexis and to invite people to come to Zero Gravity, a theme park with four to five rides, with them that Friday. I had some concerns about going because the only people I knew that were going were Alexis and Sky. He asked me some questions; what I do on Friday nights and whether I would be willing to come with them for some fun. I told him that on Friday nights, I do absolutely nothing unless it's fall, when I have band performances at football games, and that I would try to be there Friday. He handed me the flyer for the activity with the time and location of the church and Zero gravity. I went home that day and handed my mom the flyer and asked her if I could go. She said yes, because I needed to get out with my friends more.
Six o'clock on Friday rolled around and I was headed to the church with Alexis. We made it to the church and then we were greeted by several peers and the pastor. The pastor welcomed me to Landmark Baptist Church and walked my mom and me into the sanctuary. As we walked in the double glass doors leading to the welcome center, we were greeted by several church members, the youth pastor, and his wife. My mom and I felt like we belonged and that we had found our family church at last. My mom signed me in and left, saying she loved me and telling me to have a great time. At seven, everyone was there that was going, so we gathered in the sanctuary for a short service to bless the trip. I felt even more at home after the message. About thirty minutes later, we were loading the church bus to head to Zero gravity. When we go there I was amazed at how cool it looked. There was bungee jumping, a sky coaster, a sixteen-story free fall called. "Nothin' But Net," and several other rides and attractions. I never rode anything due to some of the restrictions on the rides, but it was fun and hilarious to watch my friends do some daring things. We didn't leave until midnight and every one of us was exhausted and ready to sleep for the next twelve to fifteen hours.
After all the fun at Zero Gravity, I thought that I should try and go to church there that Sunday, so I did. Sunday morning was the best church service I had had in my life. The message spoke to me, saying that I was lost and Jesus could help and I knew that, but it felt as if I were the target of the message; it was different somehow. So I convinced my mom to bring me back every Sunday and Wednesday night for the services. It was not until July 1, 2012 that I became a member of Landmark Baptist Church. I had accepted Jesus as my Saviour. It was then that I decided that I needed to find out God's plan for my life.
The summer after my sophomore year I found God's plan for my life at my first YouthCon in Oklahoma City at Heartland Baptist Bible College (HBBC). Three days of a youth conference was what I needed and it helped me on my way. Day One, Wednesday, consisted of traveling there and signing in to our hotel and the college for the conference. There was orientation first a four, then two hours later we had our first service of the conference. After the service the girls got to go White Water Bay (WWB), a water theme park with only a few rides open for the YouthCon, while the boys went to Celebration Station, a place with arcade games, bumper boats, go-karts, and much more. The places were open late just for the YouthCon, so we did not have to leave until midnight.
Day Two had three services: Special Sessions, Morning Service, and Evening Service. During the Special Sessions, I was in the Senior High group with about one to two hundred other people. It was a medium-sized room on the second floor of Southwest Baptist Church and filled with chairs front to back and side to side. The morning service was in the large sanctuary and it was great, even though I fell asleep. After the service we were served lunch by the YouthCon group, then we went to Frontier City, an amazing amusement park. We spent three to four hours there and I had made more friends with the teenagers thee than I had made in school. The evening service was exactly like Day One and was great, even though we all smelled like sweat. After the evening service the girls then got to go to Celebration Station and the boys got to go to WWB.
Day Three was the last day, but it was the best out of the three. We had our Special Sessions where all the girls were in the sanctuary and the boys were in the senior high meeting room. Our speaker told us that being a woman does not dictate what we do in our lives. That was when God's plan was revealed to me; I needed to be a teacher in Christian schools and to tell the children that God has a plan for every one of them. The morning service could not have been any better. We left that day and when we got back home I told my mom that I wanted to be a teacher no matter how much I had to do to get there.
The start of my junior year began and I did not know how much I could change. The church had several things planned the first semester and I did only one, the basketball and volleyball tournament. It was held at our church, and it was amazing. The girls did volleyball and the guys did basketball. My team consisted of myself, the youth pastor's wife, and two other teenagers, Kristian and Kat, which I had gotten to know. We had one of the best teams there, and we dominated the other teams! We got first place, and the prize was tickets to Six Flags Over Texas. The tournament helped me understand what working together can accomplish in time.
The year passed and it was summer again. Church camp came up and I did not know if I wanted to go because it was in Georgia. My pastor finally convinced me to go, and it was one of the greatest weeks of my life. We left at four o'clock on Saturday morning, June 7, and it took us seventeen hours on a cramped fifteen-passenger church van. The pastor of the camp was an evangelist that comes to our church often for church revivals. While we were there, I met new friends and had a great time. We played many games in-between services, and on the last day we had an obstacle course. The obstacle course was very difficult for me, but I had camp workers helping me over the tire wall and the other campers cheering me on. When I had finished the course, I felt as if I had accomplished something very important. The week had ended and we headed back to Texas. We stopped in Mississippi to sleep so our drivers would not fall asleep while driving. The next morning we left and made our way back home.
The summer had come and gone and it was almost time for the YouthCon again. I was even more excited than the year before because I knew what to expect and knew it would be better than last year. The days went the same as before, but the messages spoke to me in a new way, saying that I needed to know what I was going to do after high school. I was not very rushed to find anywhere to go, but I looked for colleges that had the same beliefs that I did, but I never found one that week.
My last year at Red Oak High School had begun and I was sad to be leaving my home town in the later months. The first semester passed and I was still looking for where I could go to college. I had applied to several colleges but only two had responded, Houston Baptist University (HBU) and Ouachita Baptist University (OBU). I had gotten a letter from HBU in the early days of January and as I read the letter of rejection I started to think I would not get into a college. It was the middle of February when I got a letter from OBU. I opened it just to confirm that I had been rejected again but when I opened it I started jumping for joy. I had been accepted! My parents and grandmother were so proud that I had gotten into a college of my choice.
The rest of the school year and graduation had passed uneventfully. The summer began and church camp came again but this time we went to Triple S Christian ranch, north of Little Rock. It was a great week and I had got to spend time with campers my age and the younger campers too. The services showed me that there are more people out in the world that need help other than those that are in our own community and state. The week came to an end and I had a great time.
The YouthCon came again and I was not in the same group as the other years, I was now in the college and career group. The day were the same, other than being in a different group and being by myself.
To me, church has been, is, and always will be my culture; it has helped me to become the person I am today and has changed me dramatically over the years. I had made some bad decisions before my freshman year, and that year God decided to push me a little harder to do his 'WILL.' Church has helped me realize that I need to help those around me and to stop and think of the consequences that will occur from my actions.