"Don't cry because it's over, smile because it happened."
This is a quote that I thought I wouldn't need to use until mid-May, when I graduate. I thought wrong.
This weekend has been one of the most incredible weekends in my entire 22.5 years of life.
I may have cried when it ended, because I wish that this weekend could have lasted much longer. However, I am definitely smiling because it happened. This weekend impacted my life more than I could have ever imagined.
Why? What happened? I can answer those questions with two words- Project Elev8.
This weekend I spent 100% of my time surrounded by fellow Roberts' students, staff, and 28 outstanding teens from Rochester. Unfortunately, many people have assumptions that these teens are gang members, drug users, high-school drop outs, etc. People do this solely based on where these kids are from and what they read about "the city" in the newspaper. Well people, you are wrong. I know 28 of these teenagers who don't meet your perceptions. I watched 28 of these teenagers develop projects that will change people's lives and impact our world. I built relationships with some of these teenagers that will last a lifetime.
I was blessed with a team of three outstanding young men. Young men who are often viewed negatively because of the places they live and the school they attend. However, I am so glad that I know the truth. I know how much character, passion, enthusiasm, heart each of them have. My prayer is that each of them grow up to be men of integrity, excellence and of God. I was also blessed to watch 25 other teenagers leave their comfort zones, open their hearts and share their lives with me and my peers.
Wait, there is more to share. So, before this "Elev8 weekend," I hoped that I could inspire or encourage or help a few kids. Well, yeah, that may have happened and hopefully it did. But, something I did not expect happened. I was inspired, encouraged and helped by a handful of 14 and 15 year olds. YES.
Apart from the three incredibly awesomely amazing teens that I "coached" and that lived in my dorm for the weekend, there was one other that truly inspired me. I learned so much about God's love through the testimony that he shared. His words entered my heart and changed my life more than words shared by almost anyone; I felt Jesus move through this 14 year old. I heard and felt hope, love, faith, forgiveness, redemption, and many other things. I heard and felt God.
So, I hope that next time you hear something negative that happened in the city that you don't assume that everyone from the city is a thug or a high-school dropout. Assume the best and maybe they will change your life. Maybe you will see God shining through them. I am glad that I didn't assume because now I am blessed with friends who are like younger brothers to me.
I cannot wait to see all 28 of these teenagers change their communities and change perceptions. I cannot wait to see God execute wonderful works through these teens. For now, these young men and women will be in my prayers. However, a few of those young men better come back to my campus soon, because I already miss them.
Elev8 teens, I can't thank you enough for the impact you had on my life. You are incredible and God has a beautiful purpose for your lives. For now, I will leave it at that and go to bed smiling because it happened.