By Tim Deschner
I was the “fat kid with braces” to the other 7th graders at Baker Junior High school. Outwardly I took it with humor and even sass, but inwardly that rejection cut deep. Then one Sunday my youth pastor invited me to go on a youth retreat to the HEB Foundation Camp, and there on a hot, dry summer day, she read the passage from Isaiah in which God tells a rejected people: “Water will gush forth in the wilderness.” We could hear the Frio River gurgling in the distance. She invited us to pick up a rock representing a burden we carried and, when we were ready, to throw it into the river. Later that afternoon, I sent “fat kid with braces” to the bottom of the Frio. Her youth-ministry trick worked.
The living water I found that summer was the acceptance within my church’s youth group – that spiritual ecosystem teeming with teenagers, frisky college-aged counselors, and wise adults – all bound together in a love for Christ. That’s why I work with the youth to this day. I want them to have that watering hole of grace “gushing forth” in whatever wilderness they may find themselves (and there are many). To watch them grow and play together, to hear their “ah-ha” moments, or to see them exhausted at the end of an ASP workday is to witness God’s grace in their lives. It feels as good as dipping your toes in the Frio River on a hot summer day.