By: Juliana Moore.
In the summer of 1994, John Brashier was Wilshire’s new youth minister. I was involved in the singles ministry and had just started graduate school, and I think Brashier was just desperate to find people who had free time in the summer to go to Youth Camp. So, he asked if I could go, and I said yes.
That yes led to almost 20 years of working and hanging out with the youth of Wilshire Baptist Church. I went on to teach 7th grade Sunday School for almost two decades. I went on almost every retreat, led multiple Disciple Nows, chaperoned multiple choir tours and went to youth camp for, I think, 18 consecutive years. At some point, there was a beautiful transition from John Brashier to Darren DeMent. When I “graduated” from working with the youth, my mom made me a T-shirt quilt of Wilshire Student Ministry shirts so I’ll always have a way to recall these treasured years and people.
I can tell you so many memories and stories of the most amazing kiddos who went through our youth group. I can give you a list of our kids, yes, they will always be kids to me, who are now adults and doing absolutely fantastic things in the world. I can also tell you of kids who didn’t grow up to be adults, and kids who still struggle, and who I pray for every single day. I can tell you memories and stories of celebration and elation, but I can also tell you memories and stories of heartache and pain and holding the hands of teens through the loss of parents (through death or divorce) and the loss of friendships and young love. Adolescence is both beautiful and hard, y’all.
But this needs to be about my memories. I need to tell you how the events and kids represented on this quilt helped God mold an awkward 20-something into the hopefully somewhat less awkward 50-something I am today. This quilt reminds me of the youth group that encouraged and surrounded me when I embraced my extreme fear of heights and did a high ropes course. This quilt reminds me of the youth group that loved and encouraged me each time I got so overwhelmed with my juvenile detention kids and my CPS kids and provided me with renewed hope for the world. This quilt reminds me of the youth and youth parents who laid hands on me at my deacon ordination. This quilt not only reminds me of the kids, but of the longstanding adult relationships I made with people who loved and worked alongside me with the Wilshire youth. These are relationships and friendships that have stood the test of time and are everlasting.
At its heart, this quilt is a memory of love. The youth group sings an old Victoria Williams song, and the refrain is “you are loved, you are loved, you are really, really, really loved.” I always told my 7th graders that my goal at the end of the year was for them to truly believe that God loves them and so do I. This quilt serves as one big reminder to me that God is love and so is Wilshire.