Friday, February 26, 2010

Challenge 2010

Teens from as far away as California, Florida, Canada and Virginia packed Pinecrest for Challenge 2010, Pinecrest’s youth conference for ages 14-20 from February 18-21.

The Orange, Hot Pink, Black and Purple teams competed for points in icebreakers and games throughout the weekend, with the Orange Umpa Lumpas winning first place and the “Think Pink” team claiming the team spirit award. Activities included sledding, Wii bowling and tennis tournaments, The Amazing Race, and Balloon-a-Pallooza-Rama.

As fun as the games were, though, the important thing was that God really met the youth in a personal way. On the first night, speaker Pravash Mukherjee, from Norfolk, Virginia, challenged each person to write one thing they were expecting from God during the weekend. As the conference concluded on Sunday, many of them testified that God had met them in ways they hadn’t even expected.

Here are a few of their testimonies:

The minute I walked in the doors here on Thursday, I felt God really strongly, and I was like, “Oh boy,” because I knew God wasn’t thrilled with the way that I was leading my life, and I didn’t really want to change. On Friday, we were singing, “I don’t want to talk about You like You’re not in the room,” and I really realized, God, I want to feel Your presence again, I want to open up to You again. And I confessed a bunch of things to God, and I made a commitment I was going to totally turn my life around and I was going to repent. I feel like God’s really changed my heart this week towards Him and helped me to start again and live a new life in Him.

These past couple years that I’ve been coming to Youth Week and Challenge and all these other youth conferences, I’ve always been struggling. I’d come, I’d meet God, and I’d go back home, and I’d be around friends, and I’d just go back into my life. I was always struggling to stay with God. I realized for the first time in my life, probably about a month after this past Youth Week, that I can’t just come and meet God just for a week or just for a weekend, I have to come, and I have to stay with Him, 24/7, all the time. It can’t just be for Youth Week, it can’t just be for Challenge, it can’t just be every Sunday, just normal life—I have to be with Him all the time in order to stay on track.

Before this week, I was kind of feeling like I couldn’t feel God, like I didn’t know His voice, and I was really longing for that. I was praying in Chapel, and I was like, “Oh, I just want to hear Your voice.” And I realized that I wasn’t listening. He’s been talking; I just haven’t been listening to Him. And also that I have the key to His heart, and it’s not someone else who needs to come tell me what God’s going to do for my life and how my path’s going to go—God is going to tell me. Someone else doesn’t have to tell me what He’s going to do for me because I’m going to know. I just think that’s really awesome.

These last four months have been such a pain for me. I was just frustrated and depressed all the time. These last two months, I wasn’t praying at all, I kind of gave up on God. I felt like I didn’t have anyone by my side, even if I had a bunch of people, I felt like I didn’t have friends. I really felt alone.

I tried to find myself in every possible way, everywhere. In school, I tried for sports, I just tried to be the best, but I couldn’t be the best. Then I tried to do the same thing in my studies. And then the college stuff came, and I was just going crazy, because I was trying to get the grades, I was trying to get applications, I was trying to get everything done. At the same time I was frustrated and depressed, I felt I had no friends. I turned my back to God.

Then, this Challenge, I just didn’t expect anything. I came here and I was like, ok, this is just a weekend, I’m going to have it and leave and be done with it.

[Friday night,] they started playing the “You Won’t Relent” song, and I love that song, and I just started breaking. I was there in the back, and I was just breaking and breaking. And then God told me, “You need Me. You don’t need anything else but Me.” And I found myself again with Him. Because He’s the one that completes me—nothing else but Him.

For two years now, I’ve been wanting to become a lawyer. I’ve been starting to save up money now. Well, God said, “Missionary,” and I was like, “What? You’ve got to be kidding me! No!” I’ve never thought about being a missionary, ever. And just right then, I was like, “Really? Are You sure? Me?” I didn’t know what I was saving up money for. I thought I was saving it up for college. Now I know that I’ve been saving it up for a missions trip, and it’s just amazing how God can change your plans drastically. He loves us so much. I’m so thankful. It’s just amazing.

I’m not like a very out-there person—I’m kind of shy and timid, but I was praying last night, and the Scripture came to mind: “God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power.” And, it really just kind of inspired me. I have the keys to the kingdom, I have the power—what am I so afraid of? I can go out there and reach out to people, and God’s got my back.

I didn’t know what to expect when I was going to come here, and I’m really glad I did, because I’ve just felt really passionate about God, but I never knew how to express it. I’m usually composed and try to keep my emotions concealed with regular life, so I’ve felt that I’ve had a heart full of passion for Christ but I was never able to let it out. I just wanted to cry out to God, I wanted to be able to shed tears for Him of joy and just rejoice in everything He’s given me, and I could never do that.

This weekend was amazing, because I was just on my knees, crying, and then after the baptism in the Holy Spirit, I just cracked, and my heart poured out to God in a way that was so passionate. It’s amazing, because I never thought that I’d be able to express my emotions to Him. He’s just given me that, and it’s amazing—through the music, through everything, I just want everything I do—every way I walk, talk, speak—I just want to show my emotions to Him. It’s amazing He’s given me the gift to actually be able to do that now.

God has met me in every way that I have sought Him. I was looking for healing, and He healed me. I was looking for answers, and He answered me. I was looking for the Spirit, and He came, and I was looking for truth, and I asked it to hit me in the heart. I was expecting something hard and something explosive. But you know what, it didn’t come like that. It descended so gently, and it overflowed, and it was so awesome, and it was so 100%, and it was so complete. It was the most content I’ve ever felt in my whole life.

I was looking for people to fill in places in my heart that only Jesus Christ could fill and only the Spirit could fill. I always look for people, and I’m insecure like that. I felt complete, and I wasn’t looking for people anymore. That was so cool.

I always struggled with worship, and I always get distracted with things. But just seeing you guys worship really ministered to me. And seeing everybody’s hands raised and everybody dancing and everybody giving their heart really made me give my heart to God because I saw you guys, and I saw how dedicated and how much you love God, and how hard and how deep you guys were worshipping. And I wanted to worship that deep, too. This is our generation, that we’re going to take back, and we’re going to go back to our homes. We all came from different places—we’re all going to go back to our homes, and we’re going to light our home towns on fire. We’re going to light our schools on fire. I want to go home and light my home on fire, light my church on fire again. I want to give it back to God—I want us, this is us—our time, and I want us all to give it back to God. And I love Him, and I want us all to love God.

My church at home is really falling apart, and that can be very discouraging to me, that my own church is falling apart. So, God said, “I want you to go home, and I want you to help your church.” I know that I’m only one person, but that one person in the Old Testament slayed 800 people at one time. So, if that guy can do that, then I’m sure that I can help my church and I can grow stronger in Him and I can read His Word more and help those in my school. I’m very happy I came to Pinecrest.

Youth Week 2010 will be held from July 18-24.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Serving for God's Glory

We are all familiar with the story of Mary and Martha in Luke 10:40. Well, nearly every Sunday for the past month I’ve been either travelling on outstations off-campus or working in the kitchen, and in some ways, I’ve felt like Martha—busy. As God has called me to serve, though, He has really met me in some new ways.

On January 17 we had an outstation to Hearts Ablaze, a church in Albany pastored by Pinecrest graduate Stephen Addo. During worship, God really gave us His joy, as we thanked Him for all He has done and made a proclamation that we would not stand by and watch our families or our situations be overcome by the enemy. God is bigger and greater than any obstacle we face. First Year student Job Wafulu from Kenya preached a sermon on allowing God to make us into the leaders He wants us to be.

More recently, I participated in an outstation to Faith Deliverance Tabernacle in Schenectady, NY on January 31. God met us there from the get-go. The church was absolutely beautiful, with a giant stained glass portrait of Mary Magdalene bowing at Jesus’ feet. As I was thinking of how beautiful the church was, the congregation started filtering in, and I realized that the people, too, were beautiful. They had hearts full of welcoming hugs and kisses towards strangers.

God truly met each one there that day through worship, and Third Year student James Culver preached a grounded sermon on Philippians 3:1-14, in which he challenged us to realize that all our achievements are counted as rubbish in comparison with knowing Christ. How true that statement is.
In all of this, God, in His goodness and in a way only He can, has been working something in me: humility—humility to realize who I am serving. Am I serving the people in these churches, or am I serving the God they worship? The answer is resoundingly the latter. God calls us to serve, then enables us to do it. And it always was, always is, and always should be all for His glory!

- Stephanie Polivka, Second Year Student

The Pinecrest outstation group with members of Faith Deliverance Tabernacle