Arlen and I have not always been the best of buddies. In fact there was a number of years that our conversations only consisted of hellos and waves.
Reason being, 2004 as Arlen attended one of our in-home Bible studies in Bethel she became very upset with me.
For many of us our belief system and morals are shaped from by our environment. Be that family, community, culture, they all play a part.
Although unplanned, our Bible study discussions that summer focused on a lot of those very foundational beliefs that hold such a strong importance in the culture that these youth are being brought up in. It went a little like this…
Arlen: “So, Lauren my Mom has always taught me that it’s a sin for a girl to wear pants.”
Me: “That’s a great example of what we’re talking about. Let’s see where is that in the Bible.”
Arlen: (becoming defensive and flustered) “Well, I don’t know where it is, but I KNOW it’s in there! My Mom has always told me that! Are you telling me my Mom is a liar?!”
Me: (calmly) “Absolutely not. But, ya know, this is what we’ve been talking about and we need to know why we so strongly believe the things we’ve been taught and make sure that they’re grounded in God’s word.”
Arlen: “Well I don’t know where it is…but it’s in there”
And that was the end of that. Arlen didn’t come to Bible study the rest of the summer and she didn’t really have much to do with me since then.
BUT…that’s not where the story ends.
You see, where Bethel’s church culture is tainted with rules, regulations and legalism. The good news is that today I’m watching as the gospel is springing forth in ways I’ve never seen before! As the youth are learning how to read God’s word for themselves he’s shining light on who He really is and where Bethel was just a valley of dry bones…He’s breathing new life and speaking to once dry bones like Arlen….”LIVE!”
This past summer (2012) Arlen attended our youth retreat in Granada. Each person on our team prior to our trip picked a name (out of a hat) of which youth we’d been covering in prayer prior to the retreat. This person would also be who we teamed up with to have one-on-one devotions with in the mornings. Using the same materials we used in 2004. Ironic? I think not. God is so intentional and orders the steps in our lives with much attention to detail.
You already knew whose name I “just so happened” to pick right? Yup, Arlen!
Over that trip the Lord healed our friendship and we were able to have a neutral place to reconnect. In fact, having my sister, Lyndsey on the trip with us helped initiate conversation between Arlen and I as well. God is all about restoration and uses whatever means necessary to bring healing.
In fact, the rest of my summer was spent largely with Arlen. She initiated a small group of youth to come alongside me as I was leading a group and they served right with them their whole trip.
On our way back from the beach one afternoon as we were riding in the back of the truck I looked at her and said:
Me: “Hey Arlen, do you remember that one time…”
Before I even got it out of my mouth she knew what I was about to say. Shaking her head almost as I to say ‘I can’t believe that was me’ she said:
Arlen: Yes Lauren, and can I just tell you…I don’t believe ANY of that anymore! God has showed me that it’s my heart he cares about! Now that I’ve had a taste of that…I’m not the same!
I couldn’t help but throw my hands up in celebration and with a scream of joy!
Where is she now? You can now find Arlen traveling every Monday to a nearby village with a group of 3 other young women…teaching from the very same books that caused such controversy…and she’s doing it, in pants.
Arlen is an incredible young lady and I love being able to see her grow in her relationship with Jesus and how it’s spilling over in to others in her community. She’s a world changer. Stay tuned…this wont be the last time you hear about her!
It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. Galatians 5:1
We are only God’s servants through whom you believed the Good News. Each of us did the work the Lord gave us. I planted the seed in your hearts, and Apollos watered it, but it was God who made it grow. It’s not important who does the planting, or who does the watering. What’s important is that God makes the seed grow. 1 Corinth. 3: 5b-7