"Thank you so much for your talks this week! I wanted to let you know that God used you in mighty ways this week in my life and through many others as well. I really loved your drawing and illustration of [the tree of life]! It really brought the concept to life."
-Madeline, High School Student from Summer Camp
"Thank you for what you did for me. I felt so separated from God and I didn't know what to do. Now, I enjoy reading my Bible and am just so much happier now. Thank you so much."
-Audrey, Middle School Student from Summer Camp
"My name is Aisley and I'm a freshman in high school. I've always grown up in a Christian home and "accepted Christ" when I was ten. I say that lightly because itw as more like I prayed the prayer and kept on living life. At the time I was home-schooled but I went into public school in seventh grade. During the beginning of that year I really gave into the influence of the world and began to turn away from God. He just didn't seem like the best way to go. I had convinced myself that what the world had to offer was a lot better than what God had for me. By the end of that year I had completely turned away from God. Not only that, I had pushed Him away. I could feel him telling me that what I was doing was wrong but I didn't care. I wanted to do what I wanted to do. I began to find my identity in things like sports, friends, and - most of all - guys. But it was never enough. I always had an empty feeling and nothing I was doing would fill it.
The summer after seventh grade I did things like Back Yard Bible Clubs with my church and a missions trip to Ukraine. I was constantly hearing God's word but part of me was still ignoring it. In eighth grade it was still the same. I began searching for something to put my identity in but nothing seemed to fit. Towards the end of that year I started to realize that maybe God was the way to go. So I tried to add God into the mix of my old life. That wasn't working. Then, that next summer at Training Camp for Back Yark Bible Clubs (Impact), Matt Smith spoke on Philippians 3 and surrendering our lives to Christ. He was saying that in order to live our lives for Christ and in Christ we had to give our whole life to Christ.
As I was thinking about it I didn't understand that after all I had done, Christ would still want me back. It didn't make any sense. But then after reading a few other passages in the Bible I realized that Jesus doesn't require us to be perfect. I may have pushed God away but He had never gone anywhere. He had been there all along and He was only waiting with open arms for me to come back. But then came the hard part. Letting go. Paul said, "For His sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish...". So I was supposed to just give up my whole life and everything I knew? And not only that, I had to count it as rubbish? It didn't make sense. How could God expect me to just give it all up? I'd be left with nothing. But then I read the rest of the verse where Paul says "...in order that I may gain Christ and be found in Him...".
Now I was starting to put the pieces together. Yes, I had to give up my whole life and everything I knew. But that wasn't it. All of that was to be replaced by a new life in and for Christ. The thought seemed easy at first but doing it wasn't. I was terrified of letting go. I knew that what God had in store for me was going to be so much better but I still didn't believe it. After Matt's talk on the last night I talked with one of my dearest friends who prayed with me. Then I decided that I was going to do it. I gave my life to Christ that summer and it was to this day the best thing I have ever done.
I now understand what Paul meant when he says that he counted it all as rubbish. Looking back at my old life compared to what I have in Christ I see now that what I had truly is rubbish. I will admit that life isn't easy and I do still go through bad times. But knowing that I am not living my life but am simply allowing Christ to live through me, it's easier to see a way out of things. It's like Matt said, the path to dependence is almost always through brokenness. He is totally right. But that's not where it ends. Christ doesn't just take away our life and leave us there. He takes upon himself the burden of our empty lives and replaces it with the "surpassing gain" of knowing Him. And I can promise you that it really is worth it!"
-Aisley, High School Student
“Matt connected very well with my students as well as the youth workers. Everyone LOVED the fact that he was totally devoted to the weekend AND that he was physically involved in ALL that we did! The strongest aspect of Matt's involvement during the weekend was his willingness to be one on one and involved with kids doing everything! The material was also very amazing."
-Jeff Burns, Youth Pastor at Heights Baptist Church Temple, TX
“It was such a joy to be part of the weekend. Our theme was Freedom, and with Matt and Dani's leadership for the weekend I was truly free to just be with the youth and minister to them without having to worry about all the details that Matt & Dani took care of. Matt is able to deliver a message that has scriptural depth, but also one that the kids can understand and will latch on to. As a youth minister I could not say enough good things about what Matt and Dani did for our youth."
-Jeff Stegall, Youth Pastor at First United Methodist Church Temple, TX
“I got a lot out of what you said and especially the small group sessions. I realized that I need to put more thought into where I find my identity, and not let the world tell me what I need to be. I think that what was discussed made a lot of people, myself included, rethink a few things about their lives and who we are. I hope to see you again soon."
-Judson, High School Student