By Jessica Brodie
Have you ever had an experience that completely changed your life and brought such extraordinary hope about the future in Christ that it brought you to your knees in gratitude?
That was my experience for 12 weeks this winter and spring, and I find myself blinking back tears of joy as I write this. For, as much as some denominational leaders have been focused on strife and division and theological differences around sexuality, the reality is that no matter what we the people choose to focus on, God is still on the move, changing hearts and lives and using His people called Methodists to be His hands and feet in the world.
Beginning in January and culminating in April, I had the opportunity to serve as a mentor for nine eighth-grade girls who made the decision to go through the confirmation process at my church. Confirmation is a special part of a young person’s faith journey where they learn fully what it means to be a disciple of Christ and then publicly, before the congregation, affirm their commitment to follow Jesus. I happen to be a member of Mount Horeb United Methodist Church in Lexington, the largest church in this conference, so our church confirmed 114 students on Confirmation Weekend, but many churches celebrate just as joyfully the confirmation of a handful of students. While impressive and heartening, though, it wasn’t the huge number of kids who experienced confirmation this year that caught my heart and soul. Rather, it was what I personally experienced with “my girls,” the nine beautiful young women whom I now count as sisters with me in Christ Jesus.
I thank my friend Denise, my co-mentor, for the opportunity. In the fall, she asked me one night after church if I’d join her in serving as a mentor for this almost-three-month process. While I do have kids in the church, I do not have an eighth grader, so I wasn’t obligated in any way to do this. But the moment she asked me, I felt a powerful jolt from the Holy Spirit.
Without knowing much more than that it was a weekly commitment, I found myself saying yes.
And then the magic happened! We were assigned a group of nine girls, none of whom I knew. Every Sunday, the hundred or so of us—kids, church leaders and other confirmation mentors—would gather for instruction on how to grow in faith and discipleship, and then we’d break at the end into our small groups, where Denise and I and the girls would sit in a circle and talk about Jesus and what it really means to follow Him. Early in the process, we did a weekend retreat with the 100-plus kids as a way to connect and draw even closer to God.
Our small group was amazing. We very quickly got to know every single one of them—their hopes and fears, their struggles, their kind hearts, their amazing sharp minds. The girls named our group the “God Squad,” and we had a group text going throughout the process.
What I experienced was as much a blessing to me as it was to them. I was overwhelmed by the hope and joy I felt getting to know these young women. Their faith, especially in the extremely difficult reality of middle school, was mind-blowing. I saw how they came together and truly loved each other the way Jesus would love—and they also loved us, their mentors!
Today, I look back at pictures of their confirmation celebration and the spiritual retreat we took together, and my heart is filled with so much love. These girls give me such hope for the future. I don’t know that I’ve ever known people with such compassion, such pure and honest spirits, such joy. One day, these same kids will be our world’s leaders, and I thank God for that.
And I learned from them! I grew in my faith because of them and what they taught me.
In 1 Timothy, the apostle Paul is writing to a young believer whose faith and commitment to Jesus was so strong that Paul chose to serve as his mentor, and Timothy ultimately became one of Paul’s trusted partners and co-workers.
As Paul urged his young student to remember, “We have put our hope in the living God, who is the Savior of all people, and especially of those who believe. Command and teach these things. Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity” (1 Timothy 4:10-12 NIV).
Amen to this—my “confirmation girls” set an example for me of how I should live my life, and I know they’ll do this for countless others.
These girls will face challenges over the next few years, and for the rest of their lives. But I also know their families, their friends, their church and their fellow brothers and sisters in Christ across the world will be all around them, bolstering them and propelling them on with encouragement and accountability.
Praise God for them, and for this experience! And praise God for an experience that reminded me beyond a shadow of a doubt what our church is meant to do on behalf of our savior, Jesus—not argue with fellow believers about sexuality or other issues, but instead to powerfully and earnestly make disciples of Christ for the transformation of the world.