ICYouth: On Living Out Our Lessons {Trever}

Thank you for your generosity Immanuel. Because of your generosity, we are able to share stories of how God is changing lives! Every Friday, one of our student bloggers shares how God is working in his or her life. Leave some encouragement by commenting?

by Trever Carter

One of my absolute favorite additions to a typical series at iMPACT is what we call a Review Preview. At the end of each sermon series, students get an opportunity to take advantage of an open mic to share about how God has changed them through the previous series, and at the end, we take a quick look at what’s coming up in the next few weeks.

Since I didn’t have the courage to stand in front of the group on Sunday night, I might as well show how the past two series, Love Does and Silver Linings, have affected my life.

For Love Does, I just want to share a couple of stories. I took a lot away from all of the bottom lines, like the fact that I didn’t have to be defined by my failures, but I think that the series really shown through in a few moments over the past month. Last month, I was able to work at our church helping run the election. I was there from 5 a.m. to 8:30 p.m., so believe me when I say that it was a long, monotonous day. And also hear me when I say that teenagers don’t typically work these things (I did it for social studies class in school). The people that work these things are often older, and deeply impassioned by the United States government system. The man who worked next to me was named Harold, and he was a single man in his mid-seventies with A LOT to say about his life experiences … about 15 hours worth of things to say. Sometimes, he even got so caught up in what he was saying that he didn’t hand the ballots out the right way which resulted in some angry voters. Although there were times where I just wanted to get up and walk away because I couldn’t get a word in, the Love Does series started to speak to me. I thought that this man probably didn’t have many people in his life that he could share his experiences with, or many people at all that could really talk to him. So, I thought that Love would sit and talk to him and engage in conversation with him, just listen to him and be present for him. And what he had to say was actually very interesting: a long life full of a lot of crazy experiences. Love is patient, kind, gentle … And a lot of those things I also got to implement in my family. Just being present and loving them when they frustrated me.

And this was complemented perfectly by the next series, Silver Lining, which had everything to do with changing the dynamic of your family and finding the silver lining. For me, that was big. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE my family, but sometimes they really just know how to push my buttons –some more than others– and it taught me so much about how I am personally responsible for the dynamic of my family, how I respond to them and how I treat them. That was a tough pill to swallow, but it was so encouraging.

The other thing I loved was just seeing the strength of the community in our youth group, how we are a family and we all love each other and are there for eachother. It became completely evident when kids started taking the mic to tell about how God has helped them through their peers, deeper, iMPACT and the leaders. It reminded me how incredibly blessed I am to have the adults and youth group I have in my life –so I know I’m a week late, but I am certainly thankful for that.

TrevernewheadshotTrever Carter is a senior at Grayslake North High School. He enjoys running, playing lacrosse, and photography. He also likes to write, serve with the church, and spend time with his friends.

ICYouth: The Beauty in Failure {Trever}

Thank you for your generosity to our one-fund, Accelerate. Because of your generosity, we are able to share stories of how God is changing lives! Every Friday, one of our student bloggers shares how God is working in his or her life. Leave some encouragement by commenting?

by Trever Carter

When I look back at the past couple years of my life, I can see a general trend of ups and downs—a roller coaster of life, if you will; and I think it’s safe to say that we all experience the same thing to some degree.

Nobody’s life is perfect and easy and happy and fun and without struggles all the time, and I certainly don’t think that that is how God intended life to be. Instead, we look back at our lives and see the crests of the roller coaster, where we can really feel God and the fruits of the Spirit that He manifests within us. Other times, we are at the troughs, the low points of struggle and seemingly far from God. More often than not (for me, at least) those troughs and low points come hand in hand with one thing: failure.

Failure is imminent. That’s certainly part of being human, and I certainly believe that all of our lives can be characterized by bits of failure. For some of us, those are really big. For other, they come few and far in between, but certainly add up after a while. And for all of us, failure eventually starts to hurt. Failure makes us start to feel like we aren’t worth it. It makes us feel like we aren’t worthy. And more often than not, consistent failure instills in us apathy to stop trying all together.

But that is certainly not what God has intended for us.

There are numerous people in the Bible who have had failures: sinners, prostitutes, liars, people that ran in the opposite direction of God, people that didn’t trust him, doubters. Many of these people, however, are iconic for doing God’s work, and I think that’s a beautiful thing.

God lets our lives get messy. He lets us ride the highs of life, but he also lets us fail. What we do with our failures, however, is the most important part. We can be owned by our failures and overly concerned with a list of moral wrongs and rights that we need to uphold, or we can fall madly in love with Jesus, handing our failures over to Him and allowing Him to use us for His work.

Those who have tried and failed have much more to say than those who have failed to try. God says that he will take our failures and turn them into something beautiful. I’ve seen it in my life, a beautiful redemption story that allows me each day to fall more in love with God and encourages me to consistently seek after Him without fear of failure.

TrevernewheadshotTrever Carter is a senior at Grayslake North High School. He enjoys running, playing lacrosse, and photography. He also likes to write, serve with the church, and spend time with his friends.

If You’re Ready to Find Joy in Giving

Maybe you cringed at the thought of reading a post about giving. It’s understandable; giving is a spiritual practices that is often difficult to speak about for myriad reasons. God, however, has shown us in His word that He intends giving to be joyous and celebratory. And that’s how He’s moved Tim and Angie Hill to feel about giving. Maybe you want to feel that way, too? Read on!  

The Hills sat down to answer some questions about giving, a spiritual practice about which they are very passionate and in which they find much joy! We hope the following interview blesses you as you consider God’s view of giving and how He is inviting your heart to wade in or wade deeper into the waters of giving and generosity.

As always, thank you for your generosity and commitment to Accelerate, our one-fund that supports all ministry efforts at Immanuel. 

Immanuel Church: How do you feel giving has blessed your lives?

Tim and Angie Hill: Giving to Immanuel and other charitable causes blesses our family by helping to keep money in the proper prospective. As it says in Matthew, No one can serve two masters. By giving away a portion of the blessing that God has given us, we can break the bond of servitude to money.

Giving also blesses our family by allowing us to bless others. We believe in the work Immanuel is doing. We know that Immanuel has blessed our family in so many ways and we want to be a part of helping Immanuel bless others. We believe in the work done by the other charities we support and we want to help, if only in a small way. Perhaps it is an over-used cliche that it is better to give than to receive, but I am sure most people can think of a time where they gave their time or an item, or money to help someone-out and they left knowing that they were the ones truly blessed. That is how we feel about our giving.

IC: What role does your faith in God have in your giving practices?

Tim and Angie: Faith plays a critical role in our giving because we are 100% confident that God will use the money for the purpose he intends. Without this faith, we would be more likely to doubt how the money would be spent and thus would likely not feel as generous or would at least be less joyful about giving. A confidence that we are giving back a small portion of what God first gave to us and knowing that giving is part of God’s plan makes giving an expression of faith rather than a burden or something we are “supposed” to do.

IC: If you were part of a committee responsible for relaying the importance about the practice of giving in the Church, how would you express this message to others?

First, we would need a catchy slogan like Haggai 2:8, “The silver is mine and the gold is mine, declares the Lord Almighty.” Or how about Malachi 3:10, “Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the LORD Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it.”

Money and giving are often difficult for people and church communities to discuss. I believe that is because too many people give from a sense of guilt or duty. It says in 2 Corinthians 9:7 “Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” I believe this has to be the key to any promotion of giving. It has to be about giving because of a sense of gratitude rather than a sense of necessity.

Also, while monetary giving is important, it’s important to focus on giving time and talents in addition to treasures.

Lastly, I believe some see a Biblical tithe of 10 percent as unobtainable, and, thus, become frustrated. But we don’t need to be frustrated at the thought of giving a specific amount. Bob Goff said at the Loves Does summit, “Focus on who you are becoming.” Make a plan, set a goal and strive toward it. In the words of Goff, “Pitch, pick and point!”

IC: If there was a point at which you didn’t give, what are the differences in your lives now compared to then?

I can remember a time when giving at Church was an act of seeing what I had in my wallet, deciding what I could afford, and then needing to been seen putting something in the offering plate. It was something I probably should do because God and the people around me were watching.

We moved away from this by deciding to become more intentional in our giving just as we were becoming more intentional in our faith. This involved making a commitment in our giving and signing up for an automatic giving program. It also meant having a plan to move from the current level of giving we were at to a tithe over a number of years. As we did this, giving no longer felt like a burden. It felt like a blessing. It no longer was “paying” a portion of our hard earned money. It was expressing our gratitude for the abundance God has place in our care. It was no longer selfishness. It became stewardship.

ICYouth: The Toxicity of Comparison {Trever}

Thank you for your generosity to our one-fund, Accelerate. Because of your generosity, we are able to share stories of how God is changing lives! Every Friday, one of our student bloggers shares how God is working in his or her life. Leave some encouragement by commenting?

by Trever Carter

I hate to admit it, I truly do. But as much as I hate to admit it, it is safe to say that I am caught in the trap: the cyclic and toxic Comparison Trap that we have been talking about at iMPACT the past few weeks. For quite sometime, this trap has not only been a part of my life, but a controlling and integral force in it. Ever since middle school, I have always futilely compared myself to my peers, my brother, my friends. Why wasn’t I as smart or as funny or as popular or as athletic? And all it resulted in was a world of hurt, a broken heart and a distorted self image that said I wasn’t worth it.

This past Sunday at youth group we focused on a review preview–a look back at the weeks past and a look forward at the weeks ahead. As a new addition to iMPACT this year, I was extremely happy to see how well the review preview turned out. It was a welcome break from the traditional structure of a normal Sunday night, where we instead had extended worship and just a general slow down. The most important thing to me, however, was the open mic time where students got up to share about how the series had affected their lives in the recent weeks.

A friend of mine (whom I have known since we were really little–we just recently reconnected when she began to attend iMPACT) had the first go round at the microphone. In all honesty, she just took me aback. Having known her before she had come into faith, it was a breath of fresh air hearing her talk about how God had come in and changed her life–much like he had changed mine–and taken her insecurities and turned them around and set her free from her comparison trap. Two other freshmen also shared about how they were taught that God made them to be a certain way, and they didn’t have to change that to meet the expectations of those around them.

It got me thinking about my faith, about who I am, about what I am worth. And it came at a really necessary time in my life, where I am so concerned about my future, looking around at who is doing what and always wanting to be “er”… richer, smarter, better, more able to afford school or able to get more scholarships, more inclined to know what I’m supposed to do with my life. Or when I look at other peoples faith, and wish mine was more like that. It’s toxic, really and results in nothing good.

So I thank God for Him making me exactly who I am, and blessing me with the exact traits I was meant to have. I don’t need to compare myself to others; I only have to trust that I am worth everything to God.

TrevernewheadshotTrever Carter is a senior at Grayslake North High School. He enjoys running, playing lacrosse, and photography. He also likes to write, serve with the church, and spend time with his friends.

ICYouth: Notes from Haiti {Trever}

Thank you for your generosity to our one-fund, Accelerate. Because of your generosity, we are able to share stories of how God is changing lives! 

A team of 30 high school students and leaders traveled to Haiti July 15-22; this week our student bloggers are sharing their experiences with us.  

by Trever Carter

Day 1

After a 2 a.m. start to the morning and some restless hours of anxious, suspended consciousness—you could hardly call it sleep—I awoke with the most excitement and eagerness I have had about anything … ever. My heart has always been drawn to missions, and after we climbed onto a beat up, stick-shift bus, with the cushions falling off and the metal rusting, all while sweating in the 100-degree heat with humidity unlike I’ve ever felt before, my mission was now real. Haiti to me had seemed like something you would only see in a movie, and I couldn’t even necessarily believe it was real. It’s just not something you can comprehend—and if you have never been to a third-world country, you would have a hard time believing it if I explained it to you. It’s almost like you have taken a time machine and traveled hundreds of years into the past. We were driving for quite some time, stopping so our Haitian guides could do something to the bus to keep it running … until they couldn’t anymore. Eventually, we were found on the side of the mountain for fifteen minutes, then an hour, then eventually 3 and a half or four (I truly don’t even know how long exactly). The only thing that kept our bus from rolling down the mountain was a rock that one of the Haitians placed under the wheel. And it began to get dark. And the clouds rolled in and it started to lightning and eventually rain. Haitians were coming out of the forest to see what was going on. It was pitch black. Our leaders were waving flashlights behind us so cars wouldn’t hit us if they whipped around the curve. I felt like I was in Jurassic Park, really. And I was scared. Scared because I was uncertain, never had been outside the country, it was the first day of our trip and it was not starting well. But some members of our team decided to bust out their guitars, and we just started to worship. And I began to notice Haitians listening to us sing praises to our God. Then, as we were singing God You Reign, it hit me that He truly does. His plan is greater than mine, and He is using everything in my life now to pave the way for my future. So after 23 hours of travel and hanging mosquito nets to avoid malaria and chickamonga, we fell asleep, quite easily for the circumstances I might add, ready to attack our first full Haitian day.

Day 2

Each night during the week we would go to a park in the center of Pignon, which to my knowledge was not opened often at all in fear of the people ruining one of the jewels of Pignon. It was beautiful. A basketball court with a volleyball net in the middle, concrete bleachers on either side, two bridges on opposite ends, grass and trees … but the most beautiful part was the people there. We played soccer and basketball, hand games, and just laughed with these kids all afternoon. And the amazing part was we couldn’t talk to them. Despite not knowing creole, I felt like I could communicate with them on another level because love is transcendent of those things. In two minutes, someone would be your best friend. And this is where I met my two best friends for the week (beside the kids on the compound, we all had the biggest and most special bonds with them). Abidal and Bebatu, ages 9 and 13. Every day they would come back to the park to see me, and Bebatu even began to attend church with me. I continually pray for them because I left my heart with them.

TreverinHaitiDay 3

My favorite part about this day was certainly the VBS. There were just so many moving components of it. The first day, the worship team attempted to sing songs in English, but by day two they were translated into Creole. Imagine the happiness of more than 150 Haitian kids singing Your Everlasting Love in their native language, dancing and loving the three right to left hops. I also saw a kid who I was told was the witch doctor’s son but has come to VBS for a few years now. When he was in crafts with me, he was reading all the Bible verses without even looking at the paper. He was singing. It was so moving for me to see a child whose parents are of totally different faith living out what he thought was the right way to live his life. We also fed them each a plate full of beans and rice, for some of them their only meal for the day, or a few days. Small children were putting down entire plates of beans and rice, and it was just really intense and powerful for me to see. In America, we glorify eating food. We post pictures of it, eat more than we have to or probably should, anticipate our next meal or pair it with our emotions. Kids here literally eat to survive, no more than that. I can never get the image of these kids eating out of my head. For the rest of the week at the compound when we would eat meals, I learned to eat slow, be thankful for it and eat just enough so that I would be alright and the people behind me could eat as well.

Day 4

TreverinHaiti2After VBS, we partnered with the team of Haitian youth that had been helping us all week at VBS. We grew so close to them too, it was awesome to see youth of the same faith live it out in a totally different circumstance. We were preparing for a youth rally (a Haitian impact if you will) that we were doing the next day. We started by worshipping under the big tree on the compound, and it was the first time I got emotional and cried over the trip. We sang Shout to the Lord and Here I am to Worship, and it was unlike anything I’ve ever experienced before. We were singing the same songs, to the same God, but in a completely different language. Erik would say “Just the Haitians now!” and they would sing loud, proud, unashamedly to our God in Creole, and then we would take over, then sing together. God is so much bigger than me, than Gurnee, than the Midwest. He has world-sized view for all of us, and it hit me so hard that God’s plans are so big and for His Glory.

Day 5

The Youth Rally went off without a hitch. My favorite part was the ice breaker games that we played before more powerful worship and an awesome message. We played a circle game to learn a everyone’s names, and then improvised and played one of their games … hot potato, also known as tock tock tock boom. I’ve never seen more laughter and cheering and yelling and just sheer happiness, another testament of the transcendent power of love.

Day 6

treverinhaiti3There are two favorite stories from today. The first is that I got to lead a team to a couple micro-loan families and interview them to see if the micro-loans they are receiving are benefitting their families and moving them toward self-sustainability. One of the women we met was named Isman. After talking for a while, we found out that she sells rice and charcoal, and only can still feed her family once a day. After that, while talking to her, we found out she sells a lot more than just rice and charcoal, and had a very good, multi-faceted business. And the micro-loan was benefitting her. She not only sends her 7 kids to school, but pays for 10 other kids to go to school and also pays for immediate need medication for sick kids in their village. She saw that her family’s needs were being met and didn’t need anymore, so she naturally wanted to give back and help others. She thought it was something she needed to. That was incredible—she was incredible. The second story was when I got to share my testimony in front of a bunch of Haitians and my team as well. It was awesome for me just to be able to rearticulate my faith in front of a bunch of people I didn’t know. After, someone I had gotten close with throughout the week (his name was Waldy) came up to me and told me he was praying for me and my family. Someone in Haiti who has literally nothing was praying for me. Tell me that’s not incredible.

Day 7

Day seven was the most rough for me. The whole week, as well as the whole next year hit me at once. Just with youth group changing a little over the next year, I think we all got a little emotional. I won’t really elaborate on this, but just know that God left me charged to come home and make where I am my mission field. I realize that I can’t be in Haiti all the time like I would like to be. But God charged me up so that I can come home and make this place my mission field, because in reality the people here need me just as much.

God moved in my heart and in my life throughout the trip. He encouraged me, empowered me, charged me up. I can’t wait to go back, but I am also happy to be here. I know for sure that I am supposed to be going to other places that need my help to help them.

TrevernewheadshotTrever Carter is a junior at Grayslake North High School. He enjoys running, playing lacrosse, and photography. He also likes to write, serve with the church, and spend time with his friends.