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What's A Hug For?

At the start of the Fall, we took StreetLeaders and mentors to the Smoky Mountains on a hike more than 11 miles up and down Mt. LaConte, the highest point in Tennessee. The day started at 5am. Just after noon, we reached the frost-tipped summit of the mountain, basking in the mid-day warmth of the sun as we reflected in our journals on Psalm 139:1-6

“Oh Lord, you have searched me and you know me!

You know when I sit down and when I rise up; You discern my thoughts from afar.

You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways.

Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O Lord, you know it altogether.

You hem me in, behind and before, and lay Your hand upon me.

Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; It is high; I cannot attain it.”

Back at camp that night, we settled in after dinner and the blanket of the cold night began to cover the forest and push us closer to the fire. The traditions of UrbanTrekkers call for our nightly sharing of Highs, Lows, and Buffalos…or for those less accustomed to the Trekkers ways… a highlight from the day, a hard moment, and something that made you laugh. We weren’t short on any of our share-points that night as everyone recounted the adventures of the day. We were starting to open the floor to talk about some of our deeper reflections from that day, when Eddy surprised us with a question. “What’s a hug for?” I was caught off guard at first- this wasn’t exactly the plan for discussion that night, and I was still trying to wrap my mind around his question, when he continued. “It’s just that I never had a hug until Garret (Eddy’s mentor) gave me one here at UrbanPromise.” The circle was silent for a beat. A few of the adults shared glances with one another, and I could see an extra sheen covering some of those eyes reflected in the firelight. The conversation started solemnly, and ended with laughter as Garret and I tried to demonstrate all the possible ways to give someone a hug without falling into the fire.

Just when we thought the conversation couldn’t have been more meaningful that night, Eddy asked us another question. “Guys, I want to know how to follow God. I used to not believe in God, but now, getting to see and know you guys, I do believe in Him. I just don’t know how to follow Him. I need help.” Another beat, filled only by the sound of the crackling logs that sparked in the center of the circle. It was one of those questions that every person in youth ministry only dreams of hearing. Yet here it was coming out of Eddy’s mouth. And what was more, after only a few minutes of mentors sharing their heartfelt responses to Eddy, another student, Sarah, responded. With emotion choking at her words, she thanked Eddy for his honesty– sharing that she too had had some of those same questions and struggles in her mind, but never voiced them before. Last weekend, both Sarah and her dad were baptized at Ethos Church.

As I write these words, I am flooded with gratitude for the community that is UrbanPromise Nashville. It is not everyday you run across a group of people in the woods representing multiple countries (and continents), spanning the age of high schoolers to professional adults, sitting around a fire opening up about their deepest questions and challenges in life.

The Lord is moving in the lives of our youth. Seeing Him work in their hearts reminds me of my own need to embrace the Lord daily. To walk in gratitude of the fact that He sees and knows my inmost thoughts and loves me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me.

I hope that in reading this, you feel the Lord’s embrace, and know that before a word is on your tongue– however simple, deep, complex or filled with adversity your question or thought might be– the Lord knows it all together, and His hand is upon you.

Kris Schnepf

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