Each summer when we open our doors to hundreds of middle and high schoolers, we meet a diverse range of youth. Though they come from different regions, denominations, economic classes and backgrounds, the common thread they share is their desire to know the Lord. For many, however, they do not know how or what nearness to the Lord looks like. So, in just a few short days, we have the opportunity to facilitate moments where they can experience the Lord. We do this through bible studies and worship, as well as opportunities to serve low-income children, immigrants, refugees, and the elderly in the Nashville area.
These weeks are no easy task - they often require late nights, early mornings, and long days in the sun. The results, however, never disappoint. When students are taught the bible in a way that is relevant to their lives and can be practically implemented, something shifts in them. They reconsider their lives in light of God's Word. One student remarked, "SLAM had made a huge difference in my relationship with God. I feel more connected to the Lord while I'm there because of the atmosphere at SLAM and that has made a huge difference in my life, even after I return home."
Students often come away from SLAM weeks with a deeper hunger to know the Word of God. One student recently committed to visiting a nearby nursing home on a regular basis. Though she often passes the nursing home on her way home, it was her time spent learning the bible and making relationships with the elderly during her SLAM week that compelled her to commit to serving in this way. She says, "Serving with SLAM has opened my eyes to see the needs around me. I'll come home and I'm shocked to see people in similar situations with similar needs in my own community." Another youth voiced her desire to be a better daughter by helping around the house after learning about Jesus’ life of service. Simple tasks like doing the dishes after her mother cooks dinner or helping her siblings with their homework are the kinds of activity that she hopes will daily draw her nearer to the Lord. Though seemingly small moments, these formative experiences with the Lord can often have long-lasting implications on student’s lives.
Young people are so often bombarded by a culture that promotes self-interest and consumerism. SLAM tries to break down the negative impression that our modern society has made onto these students. We believe that Jesus’ life-giving words can preserve students throughout their middle and high school experiences. It’s imperative that they are given opportunities to not only learn about the sacrificial life of Jesus, but also to embody his teachings through service. Teaching them the Word of God and guiding them in a demonstration of how that is lived out will make these students better daughters and sons, siblings, students, youth, and citizens. Ultimately, our hope is for students to learn how to walk with the Lord and confidently live out his will for their lives.