Have you ever thought one weekend could bring you a new life?
For many teenagers, life is merely existing – getting through – or even thinking that life is not worth living. Life for many teens in the world around you is not filled with lollipops, ice cream cones, or even loving parents. Instead, there are young people that walk by you every day on the street, sit next to you in church, or visit your home with your son or daughter that simply struggle to survive. For them, their daily lives are filled with all sorts of threatening, fearful circumstances including cruelty from the very ones that should love and protect them the most in this world – their parents.
These kids turn to drugs, cutting (a form of self-inflicted harm that helps teen release emotion whether it be a sense of anxiety, anger, sense of hopelessness, etc.), harming others, or in some extreme cases murder. What is a teen to do when their world spins out of control like a tilt-a-world that never comes to a stop? Who can they go to when there is no one they trust enough to confide in? Who will step in and offer them hope in their life of chaos?
Let me introduce you to a non-profit organization that reaches out to teens from all walks of life – Vida Nueva (VN), a Spanish name which means New Life. Teens that attend come from different backgrounds — some are from encouraging and loving homes while others are from hostile and unloving homes. VN is designed to provide an opportunity for all teens willing to step outside of their normal lives to attend a weekend created to help them discover the most life-altering encounter with the most loving Man that ever walked this Earth — Jesus Christ.
He is the only true source of hope that can offer them the light they need in their darkest circumstances. He is the only source of never-ending peace and joy that can accompany them through whatever valley they may be asked to travel.
Silence the Noise
VN is a sequestered experience in which the teens (ages fifteen to twenty) are isolated from the outside world for an entire weekend. Connie Sides, an avid volunteer, describes the sequestration in these words, “Our daily lives offer so many distractions from being able to just focus on Christ and hear from Him. By sequestering the weekends and not allowing anyone to come and go, to watch TV, or to access their cell phones, it helps both the team members that are serving and the candidates that are attending to be able to just focus on Christ’s message for them in that moment.
Everyone needs a break from the world and the stresses in it. Sometimes you just can’t think with all the noise in the world and it helps to get away and just be still and listen.”
Connie and her husband Chris are two of hundreds of volunteers that give of their own personal time to attend VN and pour into the lives and hearts of all these teens. In fact, these volunteers pay to serve. It takes 110 to 120 volunteers to ensure that each weekend occurs. Remembering back Connie thought of one of her favorite memories about VN — overhearing some of the participating candidates one weekend talking about the team having to serve them.
She shares, “This was so special to me because I realized that their perception wasn’t one of ‘they had to pay,’ but that they ‘paid to serve ME.’ They started to see that they were valuable. Not that we just told them how valuable they are to Christ, but they understood they are valuable to their peers as well. We all have a desire to be loved. And knowing that others sacrifice their time and resources to ensure that you know that you are loved is something that cannot be measured. There is something very precious and rare in seeing others with a servant’s heart. It’s humbling. It’s motivating. It’s contagious!”
Making a Weekend a Reality
VN hosts four weekends a year – one for boys and one for girls. It costs eighty dollars to attend one of these weekends; however, no teen who has a desire to come will be turned away. VN will search high and low for sponsors to make these weekends a reality for a desiring teenager.
To become a candidate for VN, a teen must be sponsored by a previous attendee from either VN, Tres Dias (adult version of VN), or a Cursillo-type weekend. These organizations are all closely related by how they orchestrate the events and purpose of the weekends. Their central purpose is to provide the attendee a deeper sense of who Christ is and His love for them.
It takes money to make an experience like VN happen: venue, food, decorations, gifts, sponsoring candidates to attend, and much more. To make sure each VN weekend is a success, they have several volunteers who help raise monetary support by doing fundraisers. One such fundraiser is coming this fall on October 11 at the Birmingham Jefferson Convention Complex. The main attraction will be several family members of Duck Dynasty – a reality-based A&E show displaying the lives of the Robertson Clan who made it rich with their duck call and who love and serve the Lord with their whole hearts.
If you are a teen who would like to attend VN or if you know of a teen that might benefit by attending a weekend such as VN then all you have to do is visit their website: www.bhamvn.org. VN also has a Facebook page that you can visit. It is Vida Nueva Birmingham Events.
The Embrace of One
Never underestimate the power of reaching out into the lives of teenagers. You may be the only one who will take the time to point them to the hope, peace, and love that only the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ can offer. To close with significant words from Connie, “…the majority of teens [attending VN] come hurting with scars that are often times leaving them in a place of feeling as though God’s grace could never extend far enough to reach them.”
We must become the arms of Jesus embracing these hurting teens with His love. What will you do to embrace the world around you with the pure and radiant love of Jesus Christ?