“Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works.” -Hebrews 10:23-24
I feel like myself again.
We just got back from what is maybe my favorite weekend of the entire year—Lads to Leaders. All of the emotional and physical exhaustion that follows has set in hard, but I am so happy. This weekend was the last time I will ever be a participant in Lads, and I want to share everything that this program has meant to me.
For the last ten years, I have spent each Easter weekend at L2L convention, participating in Bible Bowl, speech, songs of praise, puppets, and celebrating the year-round work of my youth group and fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. I have made friends with the girls in my grade level as we have grown up competing together, not seeing each other as opponents but as sisters. I have made memories of nights with my favorite people, doing each other’s hair and makeup and cheering each other on. I have experienced God’s love through the smiling faces of moms who have encouraged and supported me just as much as they do their own daughters, and through the judges who have not been harsh, but rather kind.
The first time I went to Lads was in 3rd grade. I had no idea what I was in for, but it turned out to be one of the best times I’d ever had. All I knew then was that I loved to be with my friends and win trophies. What I didn’t know was how much God was working through Lads to make me grow.
My parents made shy little third grade me give a speech. I was mostly terrified, but I did it. A few years later, I led a song in girls songs of praise for the first time—something I thought I would never do. I kept doing speeches, and I kept leading songs, and though the nervousness was still there, I became more and more comfortable with getting up in front of people. And all of sudden, I realized that I enjoyed public speaking. Not only that, but I loved to speak about God. The last few years, I have been blessed with opportunities to speak at ladies classes and lead girls devotionals, and I love L2L because I never would have been able to speak in front of people without the practice and the encouragement that I received there.
Bible Bowl with its endless multiple choice seemed a little too much like school when I first started. But looking back, I am so grateful for how much this event has gotten me into God’s Word, with incredible teachers and persistent reason to dig into and learn from books of the Bible that were chosen each year.
At L2l, you will often hear the phrase, “Everyone is a winner.” This year, I was up on stage with people that I’ve grown close to just because of participating in Lads together, and we were all happy for and cheering for each other no matter what we placed. In my speech room, all eight of us girls took a group trip to the bathroom halfway through, all nerves and excitement, but together, connected in sisterhood rather than divided as competitors. My friends Rachel and Melanie are from Missouri and we see each other only once a year at Lads, but our friendship will last a lifetime. That is why Lads to Leaders matters. That is how everyone is a winner.
I wore a bracelet all last weekend that simply reads, “Blessed.” Each time I looked down at my wrist, I couldn’t think of a better way to sum up how much my heart was overflowing with the goodness and joy that God has given me through Lads to Leaders.
I will always treasure my years as a participant in the Lads to Leaders program. But now, being on the other side for the first time, I have started to see the ways Lads will continue to be a part of my life. I will come back to support the younger girls in my youth group who are still participating. I will be a judge and have the opportunity to share God’s love by encouraging young participants with kindness. And maybe someday, I will bring my own children to Lads to Leaders, and watch God work in them as they grow and experience the same joy from Lads as I did.
If you’ve never heard of Lads to Leaders, please learn about it. If you’ve never been, please go. It will change your life. Or rather, God will change your life through the opportunities and the people and the growth that make L2L so special.
Thank you, God, for blessing me with Lads to Leaders.
“O God, You have taught me from my youth; And to this day I declare Your wondrous works.” -Psalm 71:17