The Disney movie "Lilo and Stitch" tells the fictional story of what happens when the lives of a little girl from Hawaii named Lilo and a small, bluish, furry alien named Stitch collide. At first glance the two couldn't be more opposite--Lilo, an elementary aged school girl with an affinity for Elvis, and Stitch, an alien science experiment with an appetite for destruction (Stay with me here! We're talking about a Disney movie written for kids here!).
But what the two quickly realize is they share a whole lot more in common than what first meets the eye: both Lilo and Stitch are looking for the comfort, togetherness, and love that only an "ohana" (the Hawaiian word for "family") can provide.
This past weekend about 50 high school students from our youth group went on a retreat to Panama City Beach, FL. It is a unique trip in that it's the only one we do like it all year long--not because we go to the beach, but because we don't take any first-time guests with us. One of the opportunities this kind of trip provides us is the opportunity to address our "ohana."
"Ohana" was our theme for the weekend. We zeroed in on one very basic, but very important idea: "what should we as the family of God be doing?" To answer this question, we focused on Acts 2:41-47, going back to the very first Christians in the Bible, the very first people that were baptized into Christ, the first "Ohana" of God. When they came up out of the water, what were they like? How did they behave? What did they do? After all, this ohana, this family, is the one we want to be like.
Acts 2:41-47 . . .
41 So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls. 42 And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. 43 And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. 44 And all who believed were together and had all things in common. 45 And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. 46 And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, 47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.
In our first devotional (or as I renamed them "devoceanals") we looked at how God's Ohana should be devoted. Verse 42 says they were devoted to the apostles' teaching (undoubtedly, those teachings inspired by the Holy Spirit would have composed much of our modern day New Testament), to fellowship, to breaking bread (depending on the context, this can mean sharing a meal or partaking the Lord's Supper), and to prayer. We made it a point this past weekend to be engaged in all four of those aspects.
Our second "devoceanal" zeroed in on verse 43, where we focused on the idea of how the family of God ought to have souls filled with awe. Students took their Bibles and journals and spent time on the beach meditating about how truly awesome our God is--how He has revealed Himself through us through creation, through other people, and through His plan for our lives. Later on that evening, the students all shared something from their heart about how the study impacted them. It was beautiful.
At our third devoceanal, we asked our students to pair up with people they didn't know very well to spend time devoted to praying with them (Acts 2:42). It was powerful and really cool seeing all of the unique pairs that were formed.
Sunday evening's devoceanal, number four was incredible. We sat on the beach and watched the sun set, singing songs like "How Great Thou Art" and "Have You Seen Jesus My Lord?" Ben McGreevy did a phenomenal job speaking about how the family of God should have all things in common (Acts 2:44).
We wrapped up the weekend with Acts 2:45-47, devoceanal number five. First, we broke up into groups and challenged our students to think about how God's ohana took care of each other, asking them to think about those in need back home and what they could do to meet those needs. Each group reported on a need they saw, as well as a plan on how to help meet that need. Finally, we closed out the study with verse 47. The verse is beautiful because in a nutshell, it represents what the church exists to do today: honor God, love our neighbor, and anticipate God giving the increase!
It was an amazing weekend to say the least! Special thanks to Laura Jenkins, Becca Bazile, Chris Lam, Alan Smith, Sandi Smith, Jonathan Walker, Janet Mann, Kathryn Yap, Cyndi Stephens, Stephanie Hines, Tony Torres, Josh Kirby, Stephanie Kirby, Jill Moles, and Stephen Moles for all of their hard work! To God be the glory!
The above article appeared in the Mt. Juliet Messenger on February 23, 2014