It is hard for me to put into words how important my youth group, J-walkers, was and continues to be to me. Before I joined, I didn't really like being a part of the church. Sure, I believed in God, but church always seemed like somewhat of a chore. I also didn't feel very connected with any specific group of people. I had a few friends here and there, but I didn't have much of a support system. Once I heard about youth group, I felt a calling to go--although I didn't understand why. And after I joined, everything was different. I had no idea that joining youth group would change my life forever, but I'm so glad that it did.
To start off, youth group introduced me to an entirely unique set of kind-hearted, caring individuals. My youth minister and all of the youth leaders were extraordinarily welcoming. I was shocked by their ability to make me feel at home while treating me as an equal at the same time. I didn't feel like I was a student in a classroom talking to a teacher, I felt like I was talking to a friend. Once I felt comfortable around them, it didn't take me long to feel comfortable around all of the other youth group kids. Through various activities, games, retreats and volunteering opportunities, all of the people involved in my youth group became a second family to me. They became the support system that I was lacking in my life. We may have been a little dysfunctional at times, but I knew I could count on every single one of them.
Once I had established a close bond with all of the leaders and members of my youth group, participating in church-like activities was no longer a chore. I enjoyed volunteering my time to help out at the church, soup kitchens, or really anywhere that my youth group was. Our group also participated in a week of service every summer called Project People, where we would stay in a retreat house for a week and spend every day travelling to a different place in our community to help someone in need. This love for volunteering grew, and I began to enjoy volunteering more on my own. To this day, volunteering is one of my favorite things to do, and I enjoy helping people any chance that I get. Youth group also made me appreciate going to church. I started paying more attention at mass and genuinely looking forward to attending every Sunday. I began to get more and more satisfaction out of attending church, which helped my faith grow to a whole new level.
Although I am grateful for all of the things that youth group has given me, faith is the one that I am most grateful for. Before, I knew of God's existence, but our relationship did not extend much past that. Now, I am able to be aware of God in everything that I do, and know that He is always with me. I now know that God was the One who was calling me to attend youth group, because He knew it would bring me closer to Him. I see God in every single one of my youth leaders and fellow members. I felt His presence at every volunteer site that we had ever attended. I found Him in church, where He has been waiting for me all these years. And it changed me. Since joining youth group, I have become a new person. I am faithful to God, I am kinder to others, and I am transformed into a daughter of Christ. I may struggle with my faith sometimes, as all Christians will, but because of my youth group, I have my support system to remind me of who I am and to trust in God.
Youth group opened my eyes to the value of relationships, the worth of helping others, and the miracle of Christ. If it weren't for them, I'm not sure who I would've been in high school, and I'm not sure who I would be now. Even though I am graduated, I still feel very much a part of the family that has made me into who I am today. I am eternally grateful to the J-walkers, all of the youth leaders, Kathy (the greatest youth minister in the world), and our God. Youth group meant more to me than I will ever be able to express.
If you have the opportunity to get involved with a youth group but have not yet done so, I highly encourage you to give it a shot. It just might change your life forever.