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EVERYBODY! Out of the Van!

 —  September 30, 2013 — 11 Comments

Larry said he was going to punch Josh in the face.

That was right after Josh called Larry a fat idiot.

Moments before that, of course, Larry had announced to everyone in the van that Josh had “Zero taste in music.”

Josh, as usual, had given Larry that ammunition by asking to hear some “old school” MxPx again.

It was day 7 of a 10-day missions trip—on the road across five states. My wife and I had somehow packed ourselves and 10 students into a 12-passenger van that barely held together and had no air conditioning.

Let me say that again: teenagers packed into a van for several days in a row without air conditioning… in July.

Larry really was going to get violent with Josh. I could feel the tension growing as one of the high school girls went into her own happy space and began repeating, “PLEASE! PLEASE! PLEASE!”

I had enough.

We exited the highway and pulled into a gas station parking lot. All I said was, “EVERYBODY! OUT OF THE VAN!”

I didn’t have a plan. I only had frustration.

So I prayed. It sounds cliché, I know…but I prayed.

Somehow in that moment God broke my heart for what had happened.

I began weeping and even had to wait a few minutes before I could even come out and face the students.

I asked, “What are we arguing over? How we’re going to save lost people? The right way to reach a friend we know who feels his life is over? What we should do about what’s happening in some of your families? NO! WE’RE ARGUING OVER MUSIC! And honestly…I can’t think of anything else I can say other than to point that out. When you’re ready to get back in the van and remember why we’re on this trip, I’ll be in there waiting.”

Eventually they did. An awkward silence took over the evening as we made our way to where we were staying for the night. By morning, three of the girls on the trip who hated conflict made sure everyone apologized to my wife and me.

roadrtripThe trip eventually concluded, and God did use that time in all of our lives. I’ll never forget that moment of exiting the van, though. It’s even stayed with me as I get into my own side squabbles in church stuff that I think matters, but really doesn’t.

When we go on trips, I now tell teenagers, “Just so you know, around day 3 or 4 on this trip you’re going to really dislike someone else for dumb reasons. Try to keep that in mind, and let’s remember why we all signed up to be here.”

Sometimes the greatest thing we can do in a conflict is enlarge the Story of what we’re supposed to be wrestling over versus the noise that really doesn’t matter.

Thank you for loving students!




Tony Myles

Tony Myles

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Tony Myles is a youth ministry veteran, author, speaker, volunteer youth worker and lead pastor of Connection Church in Medina, Ohio... and he really likes smoothies.

11 responses to EVERYBODY! Out of the Van!

  1. lauren surprenant October 1, 2013 at 10:19 am

    Good stuff as usual, Tony! Thanks for sharing your wisdom

  2. I think I have my own “Get out of the van” moments. Thanks for the reminder :)

  3. THAT IS AN EXCELLENT STORY! And a very good point. Sometimes we need that reminder and we can get caught up in the feathery stuff. The devil will distract us with things like that and keep our eyes off the main prize. Thanks for sharing.

  4. Great article! It made me smile and remember when my husband and I took our youth group on a 36 hour van trip to New Mexico from Pennsylvania. We ended up with “volleyball style” seat rotations on the way home so their would be equality with seating. Even us youth leaders took our turn in the very bumpy uncomfortable back seat. Needless to say we all have a different perspective on road trips!

  5. Great post here. Those moments where “enough is enough” happen – and Christ-centered responses are what we need to give to refocus the youth and the leaders.
    I have twin teenage boys in my high school group right now, and as brothers and twins they are strategic in pushing each others’ buttons. I had to separate them in the van on our summer mission trip this year because they were getting into it with each other – in front of our mission trip staff persons, no less! I sternly said, “Enough! You will be changing seats at our next stop” and followed through with it – the storm immediately calmed between them. I received a comment from one of the college staff at the end of the week about my leadership on the trip and referenced how I dealt with this situation. He mentioned how I took a “motherly” aspect to leading my group and how I was loving and compassionate at times and stern and firm at other times. There is always someone watching us and our example and those moments where we handle something with God’s grace or not sure stick with us to improve how we handle future situations. (We kept that new seating arrangement for the rest of the trip, too!) :)

    • Tony Myles

      That’s a great catch… sometimes kids need a parental figure who may handle things in the way a mom or dad should. They may not even get that at home. (Speaking of twins in the youth group, keep an eye out for my post next Tuesday. You’ll identify with it.)

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