When I was a student at the small Christian college where I got one of my semi-useless degrees (at least in terms of marketability), I took a great class on missions. You know it's a great class when you learn something you've carried as part of your foundational theologies everafter.There are three ways of doing evangelism, I was taught (explained succinctly): proclamation--in which the gospel is simply proclaimed vocally to the lost; presentation, where the gospel is lived out in front of those one is trying to evangelize with the hope that the lost will see the difference; and participation, where a person marries the Word proclaimed to involvement in the lives around them, to reveal God's love by sharing and speaking it.
I also learned about people groups, about the myriad people groups in the world who didn't know Christ. And I realized exactly who my 'people group' was--teenagers! From the time that I was a teenager myself, I was drawn to people of those years. As soon as I graduated from high school I became a Young Life leader, and that first year, more than a few of my 'kids' were actually older than I was. I was a YL leader on and off for about 5 years, spent more time with teenage girls in those years than I did with my college-peers. Loved every dramatic moment of their lives, every trauma and boy-crisis, every sports high, and every earnest question.
After Beve and I married, we continued to work with teenagers. In fact, we lived with hundreds of them in a dorm at Pacific Lutheran University. We had a real open-door policy in the dorm. There were always students hanging around, and many nights we told them to turn out the lights of our apartment on their way out because, as new sleep-deprived parents, we'd taken our exhaustion to bed well ahead of them.
After that, we were Sunday school teachers of teenagers, youth group leaders, youth elders (at different times), led mission trips of them, and...had our own, of course. Though I wasn't an amazing mom of toddlers, about the time they passed from elementary school to middle school, started growing hair and attitudes, parenting got a whole lot easier. And more fun! I know this flies in the face of conventional feelings about teenagers, especially those whose hormones are in overdrive, but it was true for me. The thing is, children are so irrational. Really. "Why did you hit your sister?" I'd ask. And all he'd do was shrug. "Don't drag the baby up the stairs. She doesn't want to go!" I told them. With a completely bland look, they'd say, "But I want her to." "Who wrote on this wall?" And they'd just look at me as if I was speaking French. I'm telling you, they made me crazy when they were little. The older they got, the more interesting they became. Even when they were disobeying me, we could talk about it, and I actually understood what they were saying. Sure, sometimes they seemed a little irrational, but then, so am I.
The point is, for the last 38 years, I've either been or have been surrounded by adolescents. That's a stinkin' long time with any people group. And perhaps my longevity with them is why I did better with my own children. But now, I'm sitting at the cusp of living a teenager-less life. Our youngest, SK, turns 20 years old on Inauguration Day (she was born about 15 minutes after the "Thousand Points of Light" George Bush was sworn in!, and every four years, the nation celebrates her birthday with a big, well-heeled party, unfortunately, without inviting her!). As Barack Obama takes the oath of office, SK will be closing the page on those 'tumultuous' teenage years, and beginning her 'roaring' twenties!
So I'm thinking I need to find a new people group. Start expanding my horizons. Maybe the Wolof people of Africa, for example. There's just so much turnover among teenagers, for one thing. They only last so long. And, let's face it, I'm getting a little long in the tooth to relate to them, anyway (don't tell Beve, though. He's older than me and not only works with them everyday still, but has a decade left to 'relate' to them!).
With so much ending right now (and as you know, I'm not just talking about the teenage years!), a new people group is only part of the new thing I need. So who will God point me to next? What direction will He send me in? With the last chapter closing in my life, just the way SK's is, what will my new 'roaring' chapter be? Because I know God, I am certain something lies ahead, something that will extend the Kingdom, broaden out the rough places in my own life, and stir my always-willing-to-be-stirred passions! This is what He's about, this is always His master plan--to use us for His purposes, to build us up as He does. So though one decade is ending, and my people group changing, may the next be better than I can imagine.