Not really in that order I suppose.
I sat across the table from a very good friend and mentor not so long ago over some delicious hot beverages and we talked about where my life is going. and what it might look like, and a little about what it ought to look like. He asked me to become part of the youth ministry team here and I agreed and then a few days later I played one of the best games of capture the flag ever, made some new friends and started recognizing what may be a new calling on my life.
I connected with the kids in a way I never really have before and it's got me thinking, "I want to be in some kind of youth ministry."
I'm not sure yet if that means packing up in a year or 3 and going somewhere to become an official pastor or if it means staying right here and getting a teaching degree to become a high school teacher (probably English/Language Arts) but I feel this pulling whenever I think about it, like there's something inside me going "yes! THAT's the direction we should go, this way! this way!" and it makes me excited.
My oldest brother is a youth pastor and I've always loved going with him to events and watching him interact with the kids. He has a gift for connecting with them in a way that few youth pastors I've been around could do, and I've always looked up to him and in the back of my mind I've always thought that maybe that's what I wanted to do too. I know that if I take that road he would be happy and willing to share his experience with me and I believe he would be an invaluable resource along the whole way, and I'm excited to know what he'll think when he finds out God is calling me to a similar path.
I've prayed about it, talked to my wife about it, talked to my pastor about it and now I've written about it and the whole time I feel stronger and stronger affirmation in my soul and mind that "yes" is the answer. God wants me to be part of sharing His word to the next generation of this world, a tremendous responsibility and a tremendous gift. I write this all here to get out of my own head but also to encourage any who read this to think about what their life looks like and where they feel God is calling them. Your path is in front of you and you have but to choose it over another, and if you can't see it very clearly, that's ok. I can't see very far down mine and truthfully no one else can see very far down their roads either and if they say otherwise they're either on a much nicer path than the rest of us or they are fooling themselves. The thing to remember is that whether or not you can see the way that lies ahead, God knows your path from beginning to end and even what comes after.
Sometimes it's frustrating that He decides not to share such information with we who are trying to follow these often strange and unknown roads, but I believe He does so, so that we won't miss out on anything.
I can go on all day about how delicious a certain food is, but until you've tasted it for yourself you would never understand. Or I could put you on a path that I know will take you on unexpected turns, but if I tell you the end location, would you really think it necessary to go around all these bends and hills and sometimes even loop back around in order to get there, or would you just try to plow straight through? Let's be honest, we're human and we have a tendency to try to just shove the connection from A to Z in place forgetting all the other letters, if you see what I mean.
We would try to push straight through, and in doing so we would probably miss out on a great deal of things that would have prepared us for what we must face when we reach the end of our path.
I leave with this thought,
"To those whom much is given, much is expected."
The sky is still partially filled with thick, dark clouds that block out some of the early morning light. On the horizon the dim opalescent purple outline of an enormous covenant carrier ship in orbit juts out above the distant mountains, dwarfing them with its unfathomable size. Flashes of distant explosions light up the peaks. Far below is a long, narrow, twisting ravine, cutting its way through the hills from the crater that used to be Command Center Nine. The Falcon banks hard in sudden turbulence, the rotors straining with the weight of the sudden tilt and the pilot grunts in concentration as he works at the controls, leveling the small craft out.
Seated on one side of the open passenger bay, a Spartan, small by their standards, leans over the edge for a better view. If he survived, she thinks, he would have headed through there. She turns to her companion seated on the other side of the craft and points down, indicating a trail. The other warrior, a tank of a man even for a Spartan, gives her a short, sharp nod.
“Take us down and follow that ravine! Don’t get too low though; there could still be hostiles in the area.”
The pilot nods his head and gently but quickly lowers their altitude until they have a good, clear view of the narrow canyon below them. They follow its winding path, searching for any sign of life and so far, seeing none. It goes on like this for a while until they see a clearing ahead of them.
“Commander, I have smoke at two o’clock, could be the missing pelican.” The pilot says.
“I see it too, circle it.”
The Falcon banks to the right and comes up to the side of what is obviously a crash site. A thin trail of smoke rises from the surrounding area but there are no flames. They circle around it and get a little closer. A blackened, torn up wing sticks out of the earth and a strange angle, like some kind of monolith. There’s no doubt about it, this is the lost ship. The commander notices strange shapes lying around the ship.
“Bring us down.”
They get closer and details become clearer. The shapes are bodies, covenant bodies. Five jackals and a minor Elite lie dead in the mud, two of them showing the tell-tale signs of taking sniper rounds through the head. He’s been through here for sure the commander thinks. The Falcon’s landing skids touch ground about twenty feet from the crash site, sinking a little in the soft earth.
“Erik, stay with the ship, keep a sharp eye. I’m going to have a look around.”
“Yes Ma’am.” The hulking soldier replies. He grabs his assault rifle and hops out of the Falcon.
The Commander’s feet sink a little in the mud as she approaches the scene. This means he’ll have left tracks. As she gets closer she notices the distinctive odor of death surrounding the area. The crew are likely buried in the rest of the ship, there’s no way they survived. As for the small covenant force, she sees they’ve been obliterated. A smile touches the corner of her lips. He always was fast she thinks. The jackals have been torn apart by assault rifle fire, except for one whose skull is crushed in. She steps over the dead body and scans what’s left of the Pelican’s insides; empty. Just as suspected she finds a path of large boot-prints leading away from the crash site and towards the far end of the valley. He must have gone into the mountains. She switches on her radio.
“I got a trail, looks like he’s headed to the mountain pass.”
The pilot’s voice crackles a little bit in her ears. “Scans show there’s a village up not too far up the face. Could be he’s headed there.”
“It’s a start, let’s move.”
Moments later she and Erik are seated in the Falcon again, leaving the valley far below and behind. Ahead of them looms an enormous peak, reaching far into the sky to the clouds. The terrain looks treacherous, ravines and cliff faces everywhere, all carved from the same sharp, unforgiving stone. Snow drifts near the top, capping the peak in white. The Commander looks at the screen on her wrist-com. Ten hours to go.
“Alright people, we have until nightfall to find him. After that, planetwide evac is in effect for all UNSC personnel. Let’s get our man and get out of here.”
Another flash of lightning arcs across the sky, a streak of red against the cold blackness of night. A lone figure crouches amongst high boulders and watches the narrow valley below. In the flash he sees them moving about the crash site, picking amongst the pieces of the downed ship and squabbling amongst themselves over their finding. One of them, towering a good six or seven feet taller than the rest, stands apart from the group and watches the surrounding hills. He shifts his weight from one foot to another, as if to keep himself from pacing impatiently. In a low, guttural voice he growls some order to his smaller bird-like companions. They glance around nervously, mostly at their apparent commander, and start scavenging through the skeletal wreck more quickly.
With a near silent snick the Spartan’s rifle zooms in, giving him an up close and personal view of the small force in the valley below. A light rain falls from above, causing a small trickle of water to flow from the mouth of the canyon at his back. He shifts his weight to one knee to steady himself and takes stock of the situation below. The Covenant force is a small one, probably a scouting party. A lone Elite stands guard and barks orders in his harsh alien tongue, towering above them and wielding one of their typical blue plasma rifles menacingly. Four of the jackals sift nervously through the debris as quickly as they can, while a fifth one stands guard from the top of the wreck.
Another snick and the Spartan focuses closely on the fifth Jackal. What’s left of the Pelican is half-buried in the mud, its right side and wing jutting from the ground as if reaching skyward. Pieces of the ship are scattered everywhere. The rear of the ship has been torn open to reveal the cargo and passenger bays inside. The Jackal is taller than his companions and a large frill of feathers stands out from the back of his head like a headdress. He holds a long, narrow rifle, a Covenant beam rifle and sweeps the valley; his head darting back and forth like a bird. The Spartan moves his scope to the Elite below. Simple, blue armor shows him to be a minor Elite, with no adornments or tokens of rank.
The Spartan puts his reticule square on the Elite’s head. Another flash of lightning lights up the sky. The Elite turns to shout at his troop and exposes for just a second his split-chinned, fanged mouth. Thunder reverberates across the valley and thick, blue liquid bursts from the back of his head as the bullet passes through his throat and exits his helmet. Perfect, the Spartan thinks. The Jackal scout atop the ship doesn’t even turn in time to see his leader fall. He perches on the crashed ship’s wing, looking the other way. A second burst of thunder rips across the valley, this time without lightning preceding it and a spray of viscous alien blood spurts from the Jackal as a bullet tears through one side of his head and out the other.
Jackals come loping out of the exposed cargo at the sight of their leader’s dead body bouncing down the slanted wing into the mud. One of them spots the Elite’s lifeless form and begins screeching in shock and confusion. They move to activate their shields too slowly. Machine gun fire bursts through them with a deadly spray of bullets and three of them fall shrieking to the ground. The fourth dives and rolls, but not quickly enough. The Spartan comes out of nowhere in a blur, and the last thing the Jackal feels is his skull being crushed inward by a large, armored fist.
With a nod of satisfaction the Spartan moves into the ship. He salvages another clip of assault rifle ammunition and a pistol. He finds a first aid kit and thanks his lucky stars. The cockpit is smashed beyond recognition. He won’t be calling for help anytime soon. He takes one last look around and leaves the downed ship behind. He reaches the other end of the valley and begins a steep climb to the mountainous terrain. He knows of a settlement amongst the cliffs there, and with the help of his new supplies, he might just live long enough to find it.