This time is my final time being a Young Adult Volunteer since I’m 25 years old. So I contacted Brandon and Seth, the YAV coordinators, as soon as I put in my application and asked, can you please make me a YAV captain for my final go around? I’ve been most excited about leading a team of college students. A lot of my team are actually first time YAVs so just being able to bring the excitement to them that I felt my first time is probably the most exciting thing for me.
I tell my YAVs, if you’ve ever heard of the three circles of comfortability where you have your inner safe circle where you don’t feel challenged at all and everything is wonderful, then the second circle is being challenged. I’ve tried to tell YAVs and participants alike that you need to step out of your comfort zone. If you’re an introvert, try your best to be a bit of an extrovert. If people want to high-five, just high-five them. Put yourself out there and be open to receiving the love that these Christians, that share the same faith as you, are trying to give you.
The first time I was at a Gathering was in 2010 as a participant. I was a sophomore in high school and my mom was an Adult Leader for our youth group. And I had a great time. I loved New Orleans. It’s probably one of my favorite cities in the country. As soon as I got home, I wanted to be a YAV. I wanted to be involved in whatever I could do at the next Gathering.
Then in 2012, I was 18, going into my freshman year of college, and my mom passed away. She was a huge driving force behind me getting involved in our church group and church in general. As soon as that happened, everything for me went completely downhill in terms of dealing with my faith and being involved with church.
When the opportunity came to be a YAV in 2013 I was super scared. I didn’t know how I was going to handle it. What was it going to be like for me to be in a place where my mom had been the force behind me the first time? And at one of the Mass Events they did an in memoriam for the church, for the past few years, and no one had told me that my mom’s picture was going to be on the screen with her name. No one told me. My pastor didn’t tell me, my dad didn’t tell me–and he was an Adult Leader at that Gathering.
I was sitting with my YAV team in the stands and I just started crying. And my team’s looking over at me, asking are you okay? And I said, no that was my mom up on the screen. They literally just dropped everything, every worry or stress that we were dealing with at the time was just gone, and they were wholly focused on picking me back up and reassuring me that everything was going to be okay, that I was going to be okay. We were still enjoying the Gathering, still enjoying our role. We were a team and teams stick together. It was a really hard moment but my team helped me through it.
This Gathering, I have orange clothespins with different verses on them that I wrote down that have to do with either dealing with anxiety, dealing with depression, finding strength through faith, and coming to God with any issues that you’re having. These verses really helped me out whenever I was going through pretty dark times. I feel like they’ll be incredibly helpful for the youth that I hopefully pin them on.
I know there are youth here who are going through tough times, who are dealing with stuff at home, who have had a parent or someone they love pass away, and they’re probably unsure about their faith.
When my mom passed away, I know I was questioning, “Why, God, why did this happen to me?” I just want to help them see that they can turn to their faith in times of hardship.
What would my mom say if she saw me as a YAV? What would she say if she saw me as a YAV the FIRST time! We’re three times in now, so… the first time she was probably proud that I even had the guts to put myself out there and be willing to profess my faith with a bunch of college kids that I didn’t know, that I just met, that we had to show up and they basically found out cold turkey what had happened to me.
This time feels a lot different for me, being in a position to serve as a team captain for YAVs and play the role that my YAV captains played for me of being a leader and giving guidance. I feel like she would be incredibly proud of that.
I actually have my confirmation verse tattooed on me. It came up at my mom’s funeral. It’s Romans 8:31, “What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?” At the time it was a testament to my faith being so shaken to its core and needing to be rebuilt and needing to have me place my trust and faith in God at all times. To this day, I’m still living that real present faith, that living faith as the church calls it.
I hope the participants learn to step outside of their comfort zone. For the past two or three years, they’ve been fundraising and doing Bible studies and having discussions with their groups, so they’re perfectly comfortable being with their church youth groups. But then you put them in an environment where there’s 20,000 plus other youth who share the same faith and beliefs, and it’s important for them to come out of that shell and make friends and talk to other people in general.
When they walk into the stadium for the first time, I really hope they feel the same way I felt in 2010. Absolute chills. Wow, these people all believe the same thing I do! I hope they open up and let their faith come out of them and that they can show others that yes, this is what I believe and this is what I feel.
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