I spent a lot of time with teenagers during my trip to Allendale. We had 42 people on our trip; I think seven of us were adults. I think the last time I was around so many teenagers for such an extended period of time, I was a teenager. (And because I know you're wondering - that was five years ago, almost six, OK, so that doesn't sound like much, but those are five to six pretty important years!) Honestly, I had forgotten how hard it is to be a teenager. The boys don't know how to act around the girls, the girls don't know how to act around the boys, and none of them know how to act around adults.
As for me? As an adult ... I didn't know how to act around them either. I had a lot of responsibility during this trip - driving teenagers 15 hours to Louisiana without losing them at rest stops, being a crew chief at the job site, and a lot of just being the only adult around a group of teens. I had a lot of learning and growing to do - I kinda had to learn how to be an adult. And that was hard. Trying to rein teens in when they were speaking badly of a friend; trying to actually look like I was in charge on the work site; breaking up a water fight (against the rules) and getting a snotty remark back from a teenage girl ... being an adult amidst so many teenagers was hard. Especially because I'm so short and don't even look like an adult!
But when I didn't have to exercise any "adult" authority and I had a chance just to spend casual time with the teens - it was a joy to get to know them and see them growing. A few girls were talking one day about what they wanted to do with their lives; one wants to become a nurse and open a home for unwed pregnant women. Another wants to work for NASA. Several other times I got to hear girls talk about what the People of Praise is doing and I was amazed at their passion for the Lord and his kingdom. And I got to meet a lot of hard workers. One of my absolute favorite moments of the trip was down at the paint-washing station, cleaning paintbrushes. Matt Brickweg (on staff at Allendale) was showing us how to clean the brushes correctly. He demonstrated on one side of a brush and then flipped it over for one of the teenage girls to clean the other side. She took the brush and scrubbed it and scrubbed it and would not rest til her side of the brush looked better than Matt's. All the other teens were excited to do it right too. I was surrounded by a bunch of teenagers doing their absolute best on one of the most tedious chores of the trip. Praise God.