Finding joy in Jesus

| one of the many wonderful things about Voices of Youth is getting the opportunity to share a testimony with those who come to our concerts. here is mine |

Hi, my name is Emily Gallihugh, and this is my fifth year with Voices of Youth, and my third year as college staff. While college staff may not be anything new to me, it is definitely a different experience each time around. This year, my focus is on them, the youth. As college staff and future coordinator, I recognize that this trip isn’t about me, or the adults, it’s about each and every youth who came here with one purpose: to serve others in His name. When I walked into VOY 2015 orientation, yes, I was terrified. I was nervous that I wouldn’t be taken seriously and that the youth wouldn’t feel as if they could build a strong connection with me. But when I walked into VOY 2015 orientation, I had one goal in mind: to make sure that each and every youth was not only finding their passion for mission and service, but also finding themselves, their voices, and their confidence.

I want to introduce you to someone. Her name is Madelynn, and she is the youngest member on the trip. I have the joy and pleasure of standing next to Madelynn each and every night and listening to those beautiful second soprano harmonies come out of her. Ever since day one, I’ve been impressed with her. She is the only second soprano not on college staff, so whenever we 3 would have to leave rehearsal, Madelynn would carry the part strongly by herself. I remember one of the first days; I heard her humming some solo lines quietly. I asked her if she was going to try out for one of the solos and she told me she was very hesitant about it, that she didn’t really like singing in front of groups. Today, she stands right here, belting out “Brother” for all of you to enjoy. And each time she does, it sends goosebumps down my spine.

I’ve watched Madelynn grow over this trip. Yes, I may not have one particular moment to tell you about, but each and every time she sings, or plays that ukulele, I watch her, and I watch her do it with such confidence and a smile on her face. She is finding her voice, not only in this song, but in herself. Madelynn isn’t the only example. As these youth have served the Big Man in New York and throughout this trip, I’ve watched them step out of their shell, realizing that the best mission work is the mission of presence. Yes, mission work can be demolition, rebuilding, anything in between. It can be visiting elderly people or young children. But, you see, mission work is so much bigger than that. My favorite bible verse in the world is 1 John 3:18, which is “Dear children, let us not love with words or in tongue, but in actions and in truth.” Mission isn’t the words that you say or the ideas we talk about. Mission work is each and every little decision we make, each and every small glimpse of God you show. By opening your heart to someone, you allow His love to enter both your heart and theirs. These youth are mission to me. Being here, watching them find their passion for Christ and their passion for making a difference is what I am passionate about. Call me crazy, but I live each day with a motto in mind. It is “live with joy and live to be you.” Watching Madelynn, and watching the other youth find joy in Jesus and realize that the best person they can be is themselves is truly inspiring.

Voices of Youth is about spreading His love wherever we go, but the incredible thing about our mission is that it is us that ends up impacted just as much as we impact those around us. I’ve spent the last few months as my life begins to transition out of college and into the real world confused, lost, and wondering if there was actually a way for me to make a difference in this world. I’ve realized, there is. Because each difference, no matter how big or how small, is a difference indeed. Hopefully, I’ve made a difference in Madelynn’s life. Hopefully, I’ve made a difference in the 20 other lives on this trip. And hopefully, because of this, the youth here can now see how simple it is to serve those around them, to actually change the world.

Thank you.

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