Throughout my faith journey I have come to recognize a reality: testimonies are powerful! One of the first testimonies I can remember hearing was during a retreat in Wisconsin when I was in high school. Interestingly enough, I often reflect on this experience and its format as I now create and plan retreats. It was the perfect mix of using what a camp has to offer by way of the outdoors and a powerful faith encounter. We had daily devotions, scripture readings and prayer as well as some survival type team building scenarios. The combination led to a powerful and dynamic faith and bonding experience.
As part of the faith programming, we heard the testimony from a Christian speaker. I do not recall his name, but I do remember his message. It was an all too familiar Augustine style narrative. You know the ones I’m referring to - man was raised religious, decided to rebel, fell heavily into drugs, alcohol and promiscuity, hit rock bottom, had a life altering God moment, repented and is now speaking to others, cautioning of his woes.
There are many of these types of stories out there, very dramatic and powerful conversion moments. It may sound like I am a little negative toward these, and that is semi-intentional. To be clear I am not against these types of stories - they are powerful narratives and stories that need to be told to demonstrate how powerful God is and how he can work and how everyone, regardless of previous actions, is offered forgiveness through Christ.
The hint of negativity comes in when people who have not had these powerful, dramatic conversion moments begin to think, “Hmm, my story isn’t anything like that. Did I do something wrong? Is my life just too boring? Do I love God as much as they do?” This is a trap that I got to see firsthand as a youth minister. I remember having a conversation with an adult volunteer about giving his testimony. I knew the volunteer well and I knew his story, and it was exactly what I wanted. He, on the other hand, was not so sure. His response was something like, “You want me to give my testimony? Why? It’s not a very good one.” That was the moment I had this entire revelation. I responded with something like, “If God is in the story, it is a powerful one.”
It was during this time that I decided I had a mission. I wanted to make sure that my volunteers and those I worked with knew that they have a powerful story, regardless of how they came to their faith. I know many who have had those powerful, dramatic stories, and they are great! So many people, especially young people, are tempted by innumerable different false promises the world has to offer and we need people who have been there to tell them it isn’t all it cracks up to be.
However, I also know many people who grew up in their faith, never strayed and continue to this day. THAT IS A POWERFUL STORY!! It is often tempting to try and spice our stories up, but we don’t have to!
First off, that is a powerful testament to not only that person for remaining faithful for so long, but also to their parents and families who have done such a great job of creating a family culture that fosters that kind of faith. Just to note, I am not saying this if children stray it is the fault of the parents. Sometimes you can provide the perfect atmosphere and culture and still people have free will and can choose a different direction regardless.
Secondly, just as there are those young people out there who are being tempted to the not so great things in this world, there are also young people out there that are living a faith filled life and who, just like my volunteer, think that they may be doing something wrong. Questioning whether they should be trying to have these intense conversion moments. We need young people to be hearing stories from those who are just like them - living a faith filled life, but not necessarily having a big conversion moment.
To wrap up, my point is, as long as your story has God in it, it is a powerful one! Personally, my story has a bit of both. It definitely is not crazy party goer turned saint (not that I am a saint, far from it!), but also not “cradle” Catholic continuing his journey. Everyone’s story, regardless of drama, is a powerful testament to the love, patience and devotion God has for all of us. There is no “boring” God story.
Camp is such an unique experience! Our staff take turns sharing their perspectives of the experience that is CYO Camp Rancho Framasa!
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