I’ve been thinking a lot about encouragement this week. I’m writing this post from the Cincinnati International Airport, awaiting my flight back to Minneapolis and the short drive back to Owatonna. I spent the past week as a parent chaperone on Owatonna High School’s Marching Band tour to southern California.
Three of the young people in the band were then going to Cincinnati to join Trinity’s senior high mission trip to West Virginia. I flew with these three and got them connected with the group late last night. After spending part of today with them, I’m on my way home.
I saw encouragement in the past eight days. Lots of it.
On the Fourth of July, the band marched in two parades. The first of which was in Huntington Beach, California, a beautiful beach community south of Los Angeles. We lined up and rehearsed on a roadway that ran parallel to the beach, just 100 yards from the waterline. It was a sunny day with a pleasant, light breeze. I think we all spent the first 10 minutes after we got off of the buses just staring at the scene…as in “we get to do this HERE?”
When the parade started, we made our way along the beach road, and there were some folks there, and it was great. But then, we made a 90 degree turn to the left, away from the ocean, and we were blown away.
There were 250,000 people watching this parade. Live. The route ran 2.5 miles, and both sides of the street were lined 15-20 people deep.
2.5 miles is a long parade. I know that it just about wiped me out. I can’t imagine how the tuba players did it. As people who live in Owatonna, we can be so proud of these young people, they represented us so well. And their music was amazing.
But what really surprised me were the words of encouragement the band received. Walking down the streets, we’d hear people yelling “Minnesota!” and “Way to go Owatonna!” (With the name of our city being pronounced in every possible way.) People clapped. People cheered. People stood as we went by. Walking along the edge of the band, with a camera in one hand and a water bottle in the other, I heard so many comments: “They’re really good!”
I firmly believe it was the encouragement we received from the crowd that helped the band on their long march across Huntington Beach.
And then yesterday, four of us boarded a flight to Cincinnati and connected with Trinity’s group at a church in Middletown, Ohio. It was a very different experience then to step into a room with 40 young people and adult leaders. But it was no less powerful.
These are great young people, who are really committed to serve. And to see the love and care that the 12 adult leaders pour into the lives of these young people…well, it too is overwhelming. These adult leaders care for, serve and engage our high school youth in a way that can’t help but grow their faith
“For God has destined us not for wrath but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, so that whether we are awake or asleep we may live with him. Therefore encourage one another and build up each other, as indeed you are doing.” – 1 Thessalonians 5:9-11
Encouragement is a faith practice. And to encourage someone in their life and faith is one of the ways that we can live out the claim that Jesus makes on our hearts.
- There are days when we have the opportunity to encourage people who need it. The sick, those in need, those who have experienced loss, those who are in some kind of pain. Our encouragement is one of the ways that God heals.
- There are also days when we have the opportunity to encourage people who don’t appear as if they need it. Things may be going fine for them. And for them to receive a word of encouragement can feel like a pure gift. I know people who are natural encouragers, and every time I’m around these people, it’s like my emotional and spiritual buckets get filled.
I was reminded this week of the importance of encouragement. I was reminded of the difference it makes in our lives.
Let’s be “those people.” Let’s be those who encourage people around us. Let’s approach others with a good word and an affirmation. Let’s remind them that they are children of God, loved beyond measure, and that they are blessed.
Have a great weekend!