Joshua Chiles, senior pastor of the Life Center in Abbeville, had a powerful message for the youth that gathered Saturday, January 11, during the LEAD 2020 student worship retreat.
“It doesn’t matter how dark you are, how white you are, how pale you are, how skinny you are, or how big you are. Why? Because God created you the way that you are, and you are a treasure,” Chiles said. “In order to love somebody else, you’ve got to first love yourself.”
The student worship retreat held January 10-12, was primarily planned and coordinated by Greenwood Campus Houseparent Bethany Wade. When she approached President Danny Nicholson about the idea, he provided his full support for the effort.
“Events like these are wonderful opportunities to provide a deeper healing for our children, as well as a meaningful impact for other youth in our surrounding community,” Nicholson said.
LEAD is an acronym based on the current Connie Maxwell yearly theme of love (1 Cor. 13), encourage (1 Thess. 5:11), act (Micah 6:8), and decide (Josh 24:15).
Friday consisted of a sermon by Pastor Chiles and a private concert by People of the Earth (POTE), a Christian worship band out of Kentucky.
Saturday evening was open to all youth groups, with more than 200 students filling the gymnasium to hear Pastor Chiles and POTE. The evening was made even more fun due to a large donation of glow sticks courtesy of a local Walmart that were handed out.
Sunday ended with children sharing what they learned throughout the weekend, a slide show, and a final concert by POTE.
On Saturday evening, Chiles referenced Daniel 1 when Daniel asked to be tested on a diet of vegetables and water for ten days, and then compared to other servants that were fed the royal food.
“What are you allowing to go into your system?” he asked the youth. “What are you watching on TV, and what type of music are you listening to? Should we really be talking about killing people, or should we be talking about loving people?”
Chiles continued, “As leaders, what do we do? We love, encourage, act, and decide. Daniel decided not to defile himself with the royal food and wine. You have got to be different.”
That evening, after the sermon and worship music by POTE, more than 20 kids made their way to the front for prayer and decisions related to their walk with Christ.
There was little doubt that the weekend was impactful for everyone who participated. That was confirmed when Bethany received this message from another Housparent a few days later:
I want to say thank you for this weekend. This week was hard. Hard for me. Hard for my girls. This week was filled with so much brokenness and pain for all of them, including myself. This week my girls faced parents going to jail, siblings battling with suicide, families not believing and trusting them, wanting to heal, and help their loved ones but not being able to. Pure and utter brokenness.
I struggled with figuring out how to love them the right way. How to encourage them the way they needed. And mostly how to let them know that even with their worlds crashing around them, that they were loved, chosen, and had a purpose in this life. And then Friday they heard that. Friday started a conversation that has lead us through the weekend.
These girls heard things they had never heard before. Thank you for giving them this opportunity. I know some of them didn’t seem to be super involved, but they have talked about it. As I sit here writing this, the songs POTE sang are playing from their rooms.
Brokenness didn’t win this week. Pain is not what they are feeling today.
Thank you for all you do. For the weekend, for the nativity practices, for the Bible studies, and everything in between. I am so thankful to work and live in a place where people like you show these children Jesus. If there is ever anything that you need help with count me in.