My life was radically changed on September 29, 2008. The week prior to that date I was invited by at least one hundred of my school friends to Vineyard Youth’s Invite Night [VA Beach Vineyard], an event held once a year where about one thousand teenagers are invited out to church to hear an amazing message, bands, and down some free food. Having just turned thirteen, and in the seventh grade, I was still terrified to go anywhere that I was not comfortable, so I turned down most of the offers.
The day quickly came around and my best friends were practically forcing me to go. As we pulled up I noticed that the majority of the students from my middle school were in the parking lot. My best friend and I walked in not knowing what exactly to expect; everything was loud, energetic, there were people jumping and raising their hands to the music. I was beyond confused. We took a seat near the back of the auditorium with the rest of our friends and listened as the pastor, John Chappell, began to speak of a man that I truly had not a clue about, Jesus. At the end of his message, he asked the audience to come up front if they wanted to receive Jesus into their hearts. I could hear my heartbeat in my ears, and a tug on my heart. For the first time, I experienced the Holy Sprit. I turned to my friend and asked her to come up front with me. She looked at my like I had five heads and told me no. Too worried about people would think, I stayed in my seat, but my life hasn’t been the same since.
I returned to Vineyard Youth a couple weeks later and Pastor John again asked to stand up if anyone wanted to receive Jesus into their hearts. Chest pounding and hands shaking, I stood up. I publicly received Jesus into my heart that night and began to attend service every Friday night. It soon became all I could talk about to my friends and even my family; they had never experienced Jesus before, so they thought I was seriously insane. That didn’t stop me from pursuing Christ. Through Vineyard Youth and the fellowship there I began to know God on a more intense level and what he was doing in my life was becoming evident to the people I encountered.
By eighth grade a few of my friends and I started a small group at our middle school to share even more boldly about who Christ was and how he had changed our lives. The group grew to a steady ten to fifteen people weekly. I started an internship at Vineyard Youth led by one of my personal heroes, Jacob Gaines. I learned so much from his leadership and most of all began to get to know God and his plans for me more than I ever thought possible. My heart was burning for the lost, and I was ready to do everything I could to see my peers come to know Christ.
Soon, I transitioned into high school where I was determined to share my faith more than ever. I had an undeniable passion in my heart to introduce Green Run High School to the God who is very real, and who had changed my life. My friends and I started another small group; GRACE, which stands for GreenRun Redeemed At Christ’s Expense. We thought the title fit our mission well. After we got started, we began to average about twenty students a week. I preached about Jesus and what he had done in my life, fellowshipped with other students, and with the help of my equally “on fire” friends, began to see the reality of Christ enter my high school.
Although it was a victory to have twenty students hear about Christ every week we felt called to let our whole school know. We held a GRACE Scavenger Hunt in the middle of the year. We advertised free food, fun games, fellowship, and a short message. It turned out to be the biggest victory we’ve had so far at Green Run High. About seventy of our peers came to see what GRACE was all about. After the fun and games I preached to them a simple message of Jesus, and that day I know lives were changed. It would be an understatement to say that afternoon was the best feeling I’ve ever experienced. Stepping out in faith and seeing lives impacted even in the slightest bit was the most rewarding feeling.
I know with all of my heart that God has called me to reach my city and my school. I still attend Vineyard Youth serving and leading as much as possible. Three years ago God dramatically rocked my world and I’m sure that living a life as a passionate Christian is truly the best life possible. I’m almost sixteen now and heading into my junior year in high school. I believe, with Jesus as my rock, strength, and hope, I will see Green Run High School come to better know the God who transformed my life from great to extraordinary. I’m more thankful for that than I could ever express. I will continue to passionately pursue our vision statement at Vineyard Youth Church with all of my heart: Love God. Love People. Love Life.