“What are you really looking for to get more out of life?” Cru missionary David Williams asked the 80 high school students gathered in the gym the first night of the retreat organized by the high school and junior high school ministry of Cru.
Getting more out of life was a question David had asked himself even through his mid-20s. He had heard about Jesus many times as a youth growing up in church. Yet, he didn’t embrace Christ because many of the adults he knew didn’t live for Christ during the week. He had an alcoholic father who was very verbally abusive and occasionally physically abusive to him and the rest of his family.
Feeling rejected and abandoned, David sought acceptance from others. He began to look for love, meaning and purpose through his friends. He would do anything to feel like he belonged including vandalizing and experimenting with drugs, smoking and alcohol.
As a teen it wasn’t more of Jesus that he was looking for, it was buying into the things of the culture that he heard would satisfy him and give him meaning and purpose.
He continued this pattern into his 20s. But it could never satisfy.
“It just made me more and more thirsty,” says David. “I kept running after more and more things.”
When David was 26, he and his wife separated and then divorced. When she told him, she was leaving, moving to another city and taking their son that got his attention.
All the things David had looked to and ran to he realized were so empty.
“It was really during that time that God opened my eyes to the reality of Christ – to the reality of His love and the reality that there is true forgiveness and acceptance even in spite of me.”
David ended his message about how God redeemed his life with an invitation: “If God is tugging on your heart and you want to receive Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, you can pray a prayer with me." Many students prayed along with him and then he prayed for them, but he didn’t invite them to come forward Saturday night.
With “More” as the theme of the conference, the main goals for the weekend were for the students to “Go Deeper with God and Grow as student leaders." Besides all the fun activities, they had some serious times as well. The students could choose to attend different breakout sessions: on music, God’s Word, being a servant in your school and relationships with the opposite sex. On the last day, students helped serve the community by collecting canned goods for a local food pantry and conducted spiritual surveys in the neighborhood, at a roller rink and on a college campus.
The 3-day retreat that started on the Saturday of President’s Day Weekend featured activities such as a bonfire and basketball, swimming, snow tubing, paintball and poetry slams at the Pinebrook Retreat Center in the Pocono Mountains of northeastern Pennsylvania.
On Monday evening, the final night of the Northeast FastBreak 2012 Conference for high school students from Philadelphia and New York City, David spoke and about 40 students left their seats and came down front after he challenged those who had either given their lives to Christ earlier in the weekend or that night to come forward.
God is redeeming David’s past to reach young people with the gospel and help them learn from his mistakes.
“ I look back at some of the choices I made as a teenager – from the shows I watched, friends I hung out with, and things that I did. They still affect me today as a 40 year-old-man, completely forgiven by God,” he says. “Although completely reconciled in a relationship with Him, not wanting to chase after the things of this world. Yet, still facing horrific consequences for my sin and so through that, God has given me a heart for this generation of young people.”
“We can’t remember an event that produced such visible fruit, demonstrated by student’s making decisions to follow Christ,” said Kevin Young the New York City Metro Director of Cru's high school ministry.
You too can make a difference in the lives of the next generation by volunteering.