An Illinois youth group came to Madison to learn about God and to help others. None of them expected that their lives would change, too. Here are some of their stories.
“I turned against God a few years ago because I was mad at Him. So even though I still went to church, I would just sit in the back and listen to music, with my hair like a blanket over my face.
I came on this missions trip thinking it would be a long and boring week. But it has all been worth it. I felt so very good helping out in Madison knowing that I had made a difference. I also thought of all the sad faces I’d seen in Madison and my heart just melted. I feel as if God brought me here for a purpose.
In the mornings, we would some spend time with God. And on Thursday, we had a time to worship God that was unlike anything I had experienced.
It was during those two times that I saw what my heart was like. God showed me the depths of my sin and I cried out to Him. I didn’t want to be a person like that any more. With all my heart I started to repent for turning on God long ago and thinking bad of Him. I felt like my heart ripped out of me and I decided to turn it over to God. Without God, I knew I would keep making a mess of my life.
I knew that I was changed and I smiled. I even prayed out loud and moved the hair which is usually always covering my face. I finally realized how much closer to God I am now. I will forever try my best to believe in and love God with all my heart!”
“Our week-long mission trip was almost over. In the evening, we were in a class time together. We learned about God and His creation. It amazed me to realize how big God is. After the teaching ended, we were given time to reflect on what we learned. When I started thinking, a few tears rolled down my face but I could just wipe them away with my hand. Then I felt like a tornado was destroying my heart with all kinds of feelings: happy, sad, lost, alone.
I was thinking about my life and how I’ve been living it and what I’ve done. I said to myself, “I am done with this. I am tired of trying to do this by myself. I need God!”
I started to pour my heart out to God repenting and thanking Him and finally saying I was ready to come to Him because I knew that He was waiting for me.
I felt God’s presence in the room and I never want that feeling to go away.”
After we ate dinner and had our 15 minute break, I was surprised that we were going to worship again. I wanted to play games and hang out like usual, but now I wouldn’t trade that evening for anything!
We started off singing the song “How Great is Our God.” The way I worshipped was just like any Sunday–you know, raising one hand and singing without much thought about what I was singing.
Afterwards we watched “How Great Is Our God” by Louie Giglio. I was shocked, stunned and out of breath when he showed the size of the biggest star that God had created.
When the clip ended we began to sing and pray. At first it was quiet, but then something started to tug on my heart. I prayed and prayed, then started to weep.
I didn’t know at first why I was crying, but when I started to reflect I realized that I had done nothing worthy of God’s love. Earlier in the week, I felt so proud of myself for praying for people on the streets, but now I realized my arrogance and pride. I felt so ashamed.
I felt like God was coming closer to me, asking for my heart to fully belong to Him. But I felt like I was unworthy. That I had done too many bad things in my life. I pictured what my heart must really look like — filled with dirt, refuse and everything disgusting. I asked God, “How can I give this to you? This is so unworthy of you!”
Yet God still wanted my heart.
“Why, God?” I asked.
“Because I love you.” It was like God said that to me with such a gentle whisper.
That night, I gave God my heart. And I cried for a long time, saying, “I love you, I love you.”