Tell Us the Good News

In November 2008, I took kids from Woodson High School in Fairfax, Va., to Rockbridge (Young Life’s camp in Virginia) for our fall weekend. Four were Latino and had never even been to Young Life; they had no idea we would talk about Christ. I was a little nervous as the first club began, but was thrilled at how they responded to the games, skits and music. They didn’t really pay attention during the talks, but they had a great weekend.

Norma, who is reserved but incredibly sweet, told me about her home country, and how “bad” she was when she lived there. For the past two years, she has missed not being able to do things here that she could back home. She confided that if she could improve her English, she would like it here better.

Belky, outgoing and energetic, has lived in the United States for five years and is more confident with her English. She told me she used to go to church, but stopped going because church is for good people or people who want to “get changed” into good people. She admitted that since she stopped going, she has behaved “worse” but didn’t seem to feel guilty about it.

On Sunday, both girls asked me for Bibles. On the bus ride home, we arranged to hang out the following Tuesday. When I called the night before to confirm the plan, Belky asked, “Elaine, can we bring our Bibles?”

Deep talk in a diner

When I picked them up from school the next day, they brought along their friend, Natalie*, who just moved to the United States from Morocco three months earlier. I was already thinking that this was the most fun, most real group of girls I’d ever been with.

As soon as we sat down at the diner, they brought out their Bibles. That’s the moment I looked up at Natalie and realized, “Wait a minute, she must be Muslim.” So I asked her and she said that she was, but “not so strict.” I prayed for God to guide me as to how to show Natalie respect and sensitivity since I had not yet “earned the right to be heard” by her.

Belky had already read two chapters in John, but both girls admitted it was hard to understand, so I told them I’d order them Spanish Bibles and let them trade once I got them. They had so many questions. Norma asked me, “Wait, who’s John?” and Belky echoed, “Yeah, who is John?” I explained that he was a disciple of Jesus and wrote one of the Gospels. They asked what “Gospel” meant and I told them it meant “good news.”

“Good news? Well, what’s the good news? Tell us!” I was wowed by all of this and couldn’t stop smiling and thanking God. I took a deep breath, said another quick prayer and charged ahead, “OK, let me make it simple and show you something really cool, then you can ask me questions as we go if you still have trouble understanding.”

And that’s when I showed them the bridge illustration (a visual tool that helps explain the Gospel) — which became a conversation where they could fill in just about everything! Even Natalie contributed to the drawing and ideas. When I talked about how we were separated from God, she told us about the seven layers of sky that prevented us from seeing God. She was surprised that we didn’t know this “common knowledge.” I affirmed her contribution by saying that she was right; we are incredibly separated from God, without a chance on our own to see or be with Him.

Well, somehow God brought us through it all. He timed everything perfectly (Natalie even left for the bathroom right before the girls asked how they could actually begin a relationship with God). Belky and Norma were so excited to see all this as real — that they could have a relationship with God and experience eternal life — and it was something they could understand, and were free to do on their own!

Once they understood the process of admitting, believing and committing their lives to God, Belky looked me in the eye and said, “How can I start living this now?” I told her we needed to tell God that we wanted it, and asked, “How do we talk to God?” She responded, “Praying,” then, looking at me for affirmation, asked, “So when can we pray?”

At that point Natalie stood up and showed us how she prays and asked if we pray like that. I thanked her for her demonstration and said that God loves talking to us and will listen to us no matter how we stand or fold our hands, or what time of day, or even what we say.

As we left the diner, the timing worked out again, because Natalie needed to be home by 3:30. I dropped her off first, without a dull moment in the car and endless thank yous from Natalie when she got out!

Going "home"

Before dropping off Norma, we sat in my car and prayed. The girls wanted to pray silently but asked me to say something, so I opened by thanking God for what He’s done for us, the life He offers us and blessings for both of them by name. I also thanked Him for the opportunity to be with them and share this moment with them. Then I stopped praying and a few minutes later they each said, “Amen.”

As I was driving Belky home, she looked at me and said, “Elaine, I have never met anyone like you before. You actually want to hang out with teenagers and have fun with them, and teach them about God. What makes you want to do this? No one does this for me.”

I told her I did this because I love God and want to share the life I have been given with others, and that I couldn’t imagine anyone more worth it than girls like her. She looked over at me and said, “When I go to college, will there be Young Life? I want to be a Young Life leader, too!”

*Name has been changed.