When I was eleven I started going to youth group at our new church, The Yakima Vineyard. I remember my first visit vividly because I was so anxious about not being old enough. I had visions of someone asking my age and kicking me out! That didn’t happen, obviously, and I continued going. I was a little weird, as most 11 year olds are, and desperately wanted to be accepted and thought well of. My favorite shirt at the time was my F.R.O.G. (Fully Rely On God) shirt, that was covered in frogs, oh man. This was also a pretty disruptive time in my life. We had just stopped attending a church that my parents had helped plant ten years previously. We were in a new church, a new house and town and my family was pretty silent about all that change. This youth group walked me through that time and became a place that I was accepted and valued. One of the youth leaders, Kat, played a huge role in that.

Kat was young at the time, I think 19 or 20, but in my mind she was so mature and cool. She had a house and a roommate and she bought her own groceries. I wanted to be like her, so bad.

She invited me to stuff, asked me questions and listened. I remember doing her dishes with her, going grocery shopping, and laughing a lot. She was fun, bubbly and inclusive. She was not afraid of hard or weird conversations. She was there when I held my boyfriends hand for the first time and then asked me about it later. She was always picking me up and taking me to the movies. She taught me the important life lesson of dipping oreos in peanut butter.

Of course she also spoke at youth group and I’m sure she prayed for me, but those are not the things I remember. I remember her faithful presence in my life. What a beautiful example of discipleship.

Kat is actually still my friend. She continues to invite me into the her life and we wrestle together over hard questions. I’m so thankful for her and her impact on my life. And I wonder who am I discipling? Who will I walk with, like Kat, for 19 years or more? My kids for sure. A few of my youth friends that I am still in contact with, hopefully my neighbors. I don’t have everything figured out, and probably never will, but from a place of curiosity and openness, I lean into the relationships around me. Discipling those God has put in my path. The act of faithfully showing up and offering friendship is such a beautiful, impactful gift. It definitely shaped my life.  

Melissa Lee
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