Written by: Emily Marotta
Our SLAM team was absolutely thrilled to serve at Hometown SLAM in Raleigh, North Carolina last week. Leading up to it, we spent time praying about how to best engage and serve these youth. The week itself made me reflect on my own days in youth group. I remembered when I was 12 years old, and had no idea who God was or why it was so important that I learned about him. I had leaders at my youth group that invested in me and encouraged me to seek God and learn his Word. My eyes became fixed on Jesus, and my life became devoted to loving him and learning about him. Reflecting on the lessons I learned between the ages of 12 and 18 made it clear that my role as a worship leader for these youth was more than just to lead them in worship. I wanted to invest into these youth in the same way that I had been invested in at their age.
Throughout the week at SLAM Raleigh, we had several different service opportunities, including sorting food at a food bank, visiting the elderly, serving the homeless, writing letters to prisoners, making blankets for the sick, tutoring local refugee kids, and more. The youth leader at Hayes Barton United Methodist Church, Emily Newman, did a fantastic job of organizing the week so that the service projects were intentional and meaningful. In Luke 4:18, Jesus quotes the prophet Isaiah: “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because He has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed.” Jesus often speaks about the importance of serving, especially when it comes to the poor and marginalized. This week was full of opportunities for students to do just that.
As the week went on, I saw students start to open up their minds and hearts to what God was doing in them. The students in my group began making considerations and actively seeking understanding about the things that they were seeing during these service projects. This openness started to expand into our night sessions. Each night, Ty Mathews taught a Bible lesson, and whether it was about Jesus bringing life to the widow’s deceased son (Luke 7), or asking God to do something new in them, the students began to understand the importance of learning the Word of God in order to bring life and serve with a compassionate heart.
At our last morning session, Ty asked one of the girls in my small group to share something that she felt like God had done in her over the week. She responded: “Being able to serve all of these different people made me realize how much life I can give to others .God wants us to do that, to bring life to other people.” Over the course of one week, I watched as God moved in the hearts of the students, and I was brought to tears as students testified to feeling like they could fully surrender to God after being afraid for so long. When I was their age, God began teaching me and giving me life, and being able to share that life with the students in Raleigh was such a special experience. Our prayer throughout the week was that God would begin something new in these youth, and we heard testimonies affirming that. God most definitely met us in Raleigh, and I am hopeful that the students will continue to meet with him.