This weekend the junior high ministry that I serve with went on its summer retreat; it was chaotic, overwhelming, and absolutely beautiful.

We got off the bus to this- a football field teeming with 900 students playing dodgeball with these giant beach balls threatening to flatten everyone.

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I’m taking adolescent psychology right now, and it’s made volunteering with these kids a lot more interesting. What I see is that when they came to the field, all these different kids came together. They were supportive, they mixed between ages and genders, the sheer novelty and craziness bonded people together in a way that we don’t see in school or daily life.

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But the coolest part of this whole weekend was spending time with my girls and seeing how far they’ve grown. When we first started together, they were 6th graders and trying to figure out who they were. They were inwardly focused. This time, I saw these girls reach out to each other. They heard vulnerabilities and stories and they offered encouragement and comfort. We ended the weekend by having the girls take turns sitting in a circle while everyone offered encouragement and affirmation. The things they said were incredible. They were specific and targeted and true. And after we encouraged, we prayed over the person in the middle. These 8th grade girls laid their hands on someone and prayed blessings and thanks for them. This was powerful.

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Adolescent psychology misses that. Schools miss that. There are some incredible moments to be had when we invest in the lives of these students, and I’m so thankful for the opportunity to witness them.

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