Love is Red 2016 // God Winks

ashley_blog-lir-2016

Love is Red 2016

I look out and see black worshipping next to white, worshipping next to Mexican, next to Hispanic, next to Native American, and the only color that matters is red because that’s the blood of Jesus!

John Gray, Love is Red 2016 speaker

I realize that the normal person would probably grit their teeth and prepare for teenage drama and eye rolls when confronted with the thought of a church auditorium filled with literally thousands of middle and high school students. I, on the other hand, throw on my new Rock City Youth tee, pull out my favorite pair of Converse shoes and post to Instagram that even packing has me #RedBullexcited for the weekend.

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Wednesday Night // t-minus 14 hours and counting // @rockcityouth ➵ @lirconf

Love is Red (LIR) is a Youth and Young Adult conference in Canton, Ohio with the vision of “developing leaders and inspiring students to know God and to make Him known.” One of the greatest parts about this particular conference is that they host breakout sessions not only for students, but for leaders as well! It is purposely designed each year to run Thursday-Saturday because the organizers knew from the beginning that Youth Pastors and Leaders are at church on Sunday! This way, students get to miss a day of school and leaders can be back for church on Sunday! [side note: It is a fact that most Rock City Youth students, although glad to be out of school for a day, were actually pretty concerned about missing a day of classes! World changers, man.]

In three short days, we experienced 6 world-renown preachers and spent hours worshipping God alongside our peers, led by some of the biggest names in worship music, Elevation Worship and Jesus Culture!

Thank you Jesus / Just as I am I come / Hallelujah / Oh what amazing love
Thank you Jesus / Just as I am I come / Hallelujah / Oh what amazing love

I could spend this entire post trying to impart to you every motivational sound bite from all 6 preachers, but I have a feeling that I wouldn’t be quite as inspirational as they were in the moment. Instead, I want to highlight a few shining moments from the weekend and share with you how God spoke to me.

Two phrases that I am folding up and tucking in my heart forever from Love is Red are

If you want to see God do amazing things in your ministry, you must hold tight to obedience – Noah Nickel

and

Souls are at stake here. – John Gray

Anyone that knows me knows that I do not take kindly to hearing the word “No.” (Future husband – consider yourself warned.) Growing up, I was used to getting my way pretty much all the time and if I didn’t get my way at first, I had this INSANE power to exhaust my parents with my debate skills to the point that they would rather just give in than argue for one more minute about why, for example, taking my mom’s shiny, red convertible to the drive-in movie just wasn’t a good idea.

Well, God knows my weaknesses and He knows that I need to learn how to hear “No.” The mission field is ripe with “No.”

  • “No, I am not interested in hearing about your ‘best friend’ Jesus.”
  • “No, the church doesn’t have enough money to provide for that family’s need.”
  • “No, it’s not a good day to go to the beach today.” (Is it bad that that No is the hardest to accept? Just kidding. Really!)

Over the past 3 months, God has put me in Obedience Bootcamp. I am asking for things and God is saying “No.”

  • “No, you can’t go to San Salvador…yet.”
  • “No, you can’t live in your house OR your dad’s house.”
  • “No, you can’t be in a dating relationship right now.”

What I am learning is that God says No for a reason. He does not say No just to taunt me or be mean to me. God says No because He can see the future. He is already in the future. I know that I must be obedient to God if I want to move to San Salvador and be a part of what He is doing there.

Souls are at stake. Wow. First of all, let me say that I fully understand and believe that God does NOT need me to save a person’s soul. God may choose to use me, but He does not need me. God is in the business of soul-saving, not me. With that being said, I do not want to stand in front of Jesus on judgment day and have to say, “Father, I am sorry that I did tell ________ about you because I was busy ________ (being disobedient).” I know that there are people in this world that God wants to use me to reach. There are people that will identify with my story and finally understand that if God has mercy and forgiveness for me, He’s got it for them too. There are people that will trust me with their story and trust me when I tell them just how much Jesus loves them – enough to die on a cross in order to erase their sin from God’s memory.

Is there anything worth risking missing the opportunity to be used by God and a part of His salvation plan? Absolutely not, if it means being disobedient to a God that I trust with my life now and for the rest of my days.

Hands up / Heart open
Hands up / Heart open

Of course, Love is Red wasn’t just for me. Love is Red was for each individual person there. Love is Red was for:

  • Jin, our OSU bus driver who randomly picked our assignment for the weekend and ended up coming into the conference and rededicating his life to Jesus!

PRAISE BREAK!!!!

  • Pastor Amanda, who was picked out of an audience of thousands and told by Pastor John Gray that she would see “supernatural increase” in her house in the next 30 days!

PRAISE BREAK!!!!

  • The EIGHT Rock City Youth students who boldly walked to the stage when people called into ministry were requested down front!

PRAISE BREAK!!!!

  • The hotel room full of Rock City Middle School boys who, without being told to, prayed over their friend who felt called into ministry!

When God said No to my big, bold prayer to move to San Salvador in December 2015, He wasn’t saying No to hurt me. He was saying No to things I had planned because He knew that the things HE had planned were so much greater.

Olivia Shank’s first response to my departure delay was, “This means you get to go to Love is Red, right?!” Thank God she was right.

"Day 2 of #LIRConf is in the books and OH EM GEE - these moments are now memories that we will keep and return to often for the REST of our LIVES. God winked at Rock City Youth tonight and has given us a peek into what is to come: the best." -Pastor Amanda
“Day 2 of #LIRConf is in the books and OH EM GEE – these moments are now memories that we will keep and return to often for the REST of our LIVES. God winked at Rock City Youth tonight and has given us a peek into what is to come: the best.” -Pastor Amanda

Click HERE to catch a glimpse of our Love is Red experience and HERE to watch recordings of every worship session and every speaker!

Bloom Where You’re Planted

I think we all know at this point that three months ago, when I looked ahead to 2016, I saw myself living in San Salvador fulfilling God’s call on my life as a full-time missionary. As it turns out, God did see me doing full-time mission work in San Salvador, but He was on a different timeline than I was. Instead, God’s plan had me on the mission field here in Columbus, Ohio for a little while before sending me south.

Well…okay. Bloom where you’re planted, right? So I dug down, secured my roots and searched for the Son (see what I did there??).

Teenagers can be a very challenging group of humans to work with, let alone love. But I completely believe that God breathed air into my lungs so that I would share His love with students and help them grow into disciples who make disciples. So if I am going to be temporarily planted in Columbus, I am going to serve and lead the people for which God created me.

Our Youth Pastor Amanda recently gave me the responsibility of Leadership Coordinator. For the past few weeks I have been working to find new leaders, begin to discover their strengths and connect them into our ministry. I have been developing and implementing a plan for onboarding the people who have shown interest in Youth Ministry at Rock City Church. This new position required me to be in the church office a few days a week, so not only did I get to take on a new and challenging position, but I have been able to closely watch Pastor Amanda work and learn from her leadership. She has shared with me some of her challenges as a Youth Pastor and allowed me to brainstorm new ideas for how to get students in the door of Rock City Youth (RCY).

Rock City Youth took a break for the month of December. This was a refreshing and much-needed break for our leaders, but it caused our numbers to drop when we returned at the start of 2016. A new tactic for growth presented itself to us just a week ago – the Rock City Youth Telethon! Last Tuesday night, a handful of RCY leaders and students gathered at the offices with a list of 600+ students who had either been to Youth at least once or marked themselves as a high school student on a Sunday Connect Card. Using this list, we divvied up the names and began calling students, informing them of what Rock City Youth is if they had never heard of us, inviting them to come to the next evening’s Youth Night and encouraging our regular students to bring a friend or seven.

Needlesstosay, this experience was productive but had a few oops! There were the students that were no longer in high school – “Oh, congrats on graduating! Got any younger siblings at home?” There were the people who were only in Columbus because they were visiting family – “Oh, okay! Well, were you visiting high school friends? What’s their number??” And there was this response that I got – “Veronica? There ain’t no Veronica here! This is a pizza place!” Lo siento, amigo!

TGIYN_1.2
Rock City Short North // Thank God It’s Youth Night
TGIYN_2
Gettin’ fueled up for night of soul-replenishing worship {thanks Annie’s Mom 😘}

Wednesday, Youth Night, came and when the numbers were in, between the Instagrams, Facebook posts, Snapchats (yes, we gave into the Snapchat phenomenon), invite cards and phone calls, we saw a 20-student increase from January to February! GOD IS GOOD!

Youth night, as always, was an amazing night of worship, friendships (new and old!) and a beautiful and hilarious message from Pastor Amanda. We are blessed to be able to use Rock City’s brand new Short North campus for our Youth Nights. This gives us access to a state of the art worship experience and space for our growing population!

I was excited to not only see new student faces, but about 10 new LEADER faces! Much of my connection work is done from behind a computer, so it was a blessing to meet the people attached to the emails! I am seeing Youth Night from a new perspective these days. I was once totally consumed by the student experience, but I now look at it from a new leader point of view, and it is just as amazing. I get to watch leaders fall in love with Youth ministry and get a glimpse of why we do what we do.

Why we do what we do – well, that’s a question for a whole other blog post 😉 But the long and the short of it is that we do Youth Ministry because we live in a fallen world and our culture follows the youth. Teenagers set the tempo for what is cool, what is worth our time and money, and what gets the most time on our social media airwaves. If we can lead students to Jesus, they can lead the world to his heart. It could also be argued that teenagers are the most needing of Jesus’ love, acceptance, and affirmation, but like I said, that’s a post for another day.

The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup;
you hold my lot.
The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;
indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance.
Psalm 16v5-6

Follow the Rock City Youth fun on Instagram, Facebook, and online!

be cheerful no matter what // pray all the time // thank God no matter what happens.

TGIYN_3
// as thunder roars, we’ll shout Your name //
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Karis, one of our new leaders @ RCY
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The Youth Office, where the magic behind the magic happens {I may have taken over Pastor Amanda’s desk for a day while she was out 😬}

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