WOW! Praise God! I can’t believe I have spent the last 41 years working with students, youth, parents, church families and people. As most of you know, I am retiring from Youth Ministry in the local church this week. I am reflective, joyful, satisfied, content, happy, and many other words, but most of all I am at peace with the decision that God and I have made. Ministry is not over, but it is time to visit grandchildren, explore other ministries, rest, travel and find new creative ways to proclaim the Gospel. I have been asked many times, what will I do the first week –well, who knows? St. Louis Camp Meeting begins and we will participate in that –but I do know that the first Sunday, I will finally get to hear my son preach in his church. I have always felt that my greatest accomplishment has been and should be for my kids and grandkids to be in relationship with Jesus Christ. Salvation is a beautiful gift from God!!
Our last two big events with the Mt. Haley Youth were the attendance of the International Youth Convention in San Antonio, Texas and the “Rock the Island” Christian music festival in Saginaw. The IYC was spectacular and the music festival was fantastic. God has always blessed me in so many ways and both of these events were great and the IYC was a life-changing experience. My wife, Connie, is not retiring from being the Michigan Church of God State Youth Director, so I will continue to be blessed, because we will be attending and participating in all the “big” youth events both statewide and nationally. Meanwhile, I am anticipating and expecting God to provide great opportunities to serve. We will be continuing to plan and organize the Mt. Haley CHOG Guatemalan mission in February and occasionally dropping in on Mt. Haley.
THANK YOU to Pastor David & Tara, Angie Embury, and the many others who organized a beautiful gathering of people to celebrate my retirement from Youth Ministry! I pray that God has used me to make a difference in your life as much as you have made in ours. Words cannot express the appreciation and gratitude I feel for everyone.
In closing, I would like to attach the testimonies and experiences of the three young ladies we took to the International Youth Convention. The convention is always about “life-change” and these three had that experience.
My San Antonio experience was life changing. God has touched me in so many different ways it was unforgettable. What really got me was during the conferences I have learned to completely forgive people and how to truly walk with God, and on the last day of IYC I figured out what I can do in my life to serve the lord. I want to end up doing woodworking for Christ and I’m so ecstatic that I have figured out my calling and how God wants to use me to spread his word. The last days here I wasn’t feeling the best but that didn’t stop me from praising God and worshiping the lord. This IYC has impacted my life so much it’s unbelievable. I can’t wait to start on my path to walk with God and let him use me how he wants too. I just wanted to thank everyone for their donations and generosity for me to be able to go on this trip. I couldn’t have done it without your support and prayers.
My San Antonio experience was amazing! Some of the speakers were so amazing and really make you think about a lot of things. At one of the conferences I went to, the speaker helped me learn that it’s ok to forgive some and not the bad things that have happened to us does not define who we are. Another speaker that got to me said we all have a gift and a gift could be as little as just your smile and that we all are equal and we all came from dirt. (from a sermon) All of this is going to allow me to help me to go home and forgive people and have better relationships with family and friends. We also had some fun times instead of all the serious times and we also learned and saw the history of San Antonio, Texas especially with the Alamo. We had boat tours, concerts and ate all of this mouth-watering foods. We got to try new food like Mexican and Italian and those were better than I expected. One other thing, I survived my first plane ride with no throwing up. Most of all, we all seem to have better relationships and call talk about God now to each other. I want to leave you with a question that opened my eyes: “Where are you spiritually? Are you hiding from God?”
Once upon a time during July of 2016, the Mt. Haley Church of God youth group experienced the 50th International Youth Convention in San Antonio, Texas. During the time spent in San Antonio, I was experiencing what it feels to think that God had abandoned me. Like, I felt alone and unhappy and scared. On July 4, the third day of the convention, an artist gave a unique presentation. Using black paint, he wrote the words: sin, hate, malice and lust. Then with red paint he wrote the words: God covers. He covered the words with the red paint. He continued then to paint and the end creation was a magnificent bird soaring through the air. While watching the artist, the Holy Spirit spoke to me. He told me that God could turn anything into a masterpiece. God can take broken pieces and turn them into a beautiful creation. One speaker spoke about puzzles. How if we didn’t put the pieces together then it won’t make sense. I had not put the pieces together yet. Another speaker spoke about how God made us out of dirt. How we are all just dirt bags. But God has given us all special unique gift. Our gifts can be something big or small, but these gifts are all natural things about ourselves. When the gift comes through that is when the devil sends yet another stronger army to attack us. To torture us and convince us that our gift is worthless and not needed. I realized my gift and my calling to ministry at the 2014 IYC in Nashville, Tennessee. Ever since then, the devil has non-stop attacked me. But I have God by my side and I know that he’ll never leave. I just need to put my trust in him all day, every day. IYC 2016 in San Antonio, Texas –I have once again had a life-changing realization. I want to thank my family, friends and church family for all the prayers and help. Without you, I/we would not have had the opportunity to come to this IYC.
With that, I say “Thank You” for being a part of making a difference in the lives of young people at the Mt. Haley Church of God over the last five years. God has blessed the church and we have been blessed!
Love God, Love People, Live It!
Sincerely with blessings,
Pastor Jerry Graham