Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even GREATER THINGS than these, because I am going to the Father. // John 14:12
Uplift this year was just what we needed. I could sense God moving in a big way through the experience.
It all began Saturday night with a screening of the movie GREATER – the story of Brandon Burlsworth who walked on with the Arkansas Razorbacks football team. Through faith in God and trying his best in whatever he did, Brandon worked up to a starting position. I don’t want to give away the story too much. You can find out more about the movie and watch the trailer here: http://greaterthemovie.com. And after the movie, Marty and Vicky Burlsworth came on stage to be interviewed. The testimony of the Burlsworth family is absolutely amazing. Brandon’s legacy lives on in big ways because he decided that being a disciple of Jesus was greater than anything else he could do – including playing professional football.
The Sunday night keynote speaker was Mark Moore, CEO of MANA Nutrition (http://mananutrition.org). Mark inspired us to take small steps to change the world. He challenged us to think small and aim low (i.e. what little things can we do to make an impact in our communities?). He encouraged us to give up – that is, give up whatever doubts, fears, and trepidations we may have in serving God through serving others. Finally, he told us to “Go to Starbucks” – emphasizing the need for face-to-face community, sharing life together.
On Monday night, Jim Miller (a Bible professor at Harding) shared his story of doubt and struggling with faith after the sudden passing of his father. It was a powerful testimony of how our doubts don’t have to completely derail our faith.
Monday night ended with one of my favorite parts of UPLIFT each year – hundred of teens crowding into the rotunda of the McInteer building and singing for about an hour. I recorded it this year so that you can listen to some of it. CLICK HERE TO LISTEN
B. Chris Simpson was the Tuesday night speaker. The students always look forward to hearing from him, and he always delivers a memorable message. B. Chris walked us through some of the stories of demon possession in the gospels. He showed us how demons effected those under their control in the Bible, and how the still influence our lives in similar ways today – Isolation, Imprisonment, Impropriety, Inability to Speak, Inability to Hear, Loss of Control, Self-Harm, etc. But through Jesus, we have the power to overcome the demons in our lives. “We will dance in the darkness cause greater things are yet to come!”
The week wrapped up on Wednesday night with an inspiring and challenging message from Andrew Baker, the UPLIFT director. He reflected on how the call to DO (John 14:12) is a call to SERVE. He explained that we serve by showing mercy, by bringing peace, and by preemptively loving our neighbor. As an example, he shared the story of Jeremy Courtney whose organization, PREEMPTIVE LOVE COALITION (http://www.preemptivelove.org), is providing life-saving surgeries in Iraq for children born with crippling birth defects. His story is absolutely amazing. Check him out online and on YouTube.
I don’t even have time to mention how stellar the drama performance was this year. And Harris III, the illusionist, was unbelievable. The classes, the worship, the time spent together – God was at work in all of it.
But one of my absolute favorite parts of the week was one of the last things we did. I began doing this last year, and I think we will do it again at the end of each week of UPLIFT. During our Group Devo time I asked our teens two questions: What do we (young disciples) want to be known for? What are some things we can do? These are their answers.
- More involvement in FCA (Fellowship of Christian Athletes) at school
- Foster Parents’ Night Out
- Regular visits to Mitchell Manor
- Cards & gifts
- Christmas caroling & more
- House Cleaning & Yard Work for people around town who are unable to do much themselves
- Loose Change Jar set up in the Teen Center
- Change for Change organization
- Micro-Loans to small businesses in developing nations
- Making no-sew pillows and blankets for foster children, patients at Riley hospital, residents at Mitchell Manor
- “Adopt a College Student”
- Care packages & letters of encouragement
- MISSION TRIPS (most requested)
- Foreign (i.e. Honduras, Dominican Republic, etc.)
- Domestic (somewhere around the US)
- Local (i.e. Bloomington/Indianapolis)
- Kickball and/or Wiffle Ball Tournament Fundraiser
- Lehigh Fields?
- American Legion?
- Sponsor a child through Compassion International
- More hang out times together as a group
- Movie nights, Game nights, etc.
- Bead bracelets to sell for fundraiser/for a cause
- Thank You cards to mentors and influencers
- Trips to visit Riley Hospital
- Hand out toys & teddy bears
- Graduates Wall for all the graduating seniors in the Teen Center
- Video game tournament to raise money for a cause
- Use money from Wednesday night meals to help fund mission trips
- Turn the ugly back room in the Teen Center (the black “video game” room) into a Workshop where we can make blankets and pillows, write cards, make bracelets, etc