Three kids walk into a tent… and what happens?
Introductions. Small talk. Life stories. Laughter. Pain… a lot of it.
Then… prayer? Tears? Life change? That’s not supposed to happen at one of the country’s largest secular music festivals, is it?
Well, that was the order of events when three young teenage guys walked into the Heartsupport tent in Denver, Colorado on August 3rd – the last day of the 20th year of Vans Warped Tour.
I was volunteering with Heartsupport for the second time during this year’s Warped Tour. My first time was in Indianapolis, an incredible day that drained me spiritually, physically, mentally, and emotionally. The second time was different. Denver was the last stop on this year’s tour, and the bands and organizations that travel with Warped Tour all summer long were simply ready for the tour to be over. The energy seemed low in the morning, and I was wondering whether our team of HS volunteers would get to have any cool conversations with attendees.
God doesn’t work based on our energy, though. When we’re at the end of our ropes and ready to take a break, He isn’t.
Heartsupport’s goal on Warped Tour is to strike up conversations with attendees who walk by the tent, explaining the non-profit organization to them and providing immediate hope, encouragement, and prayer to them about any struggles they’re currently facing.
This is where three kids walk into a tent. It was mid-morning, and I had already been able to pray for a few people. I was feeling energized. I don’t know how the devil was feeling, but his sorry self was heading for yet another defeat after a kid named Devon wandered to the front of the HS tent.
Devon, flanked by two friends, listened as I explained the organization to them. “Heartsupport is an online community where music fans like you and me can go to get the support they need to overcome struggles like addictions, abuse, self-harm, suicide, and more. What do you think about that?”
“That’s pretty cool,” said the three kids. It was a start.
Like most people who came into the tent, they weren’t ready for what I was about to ask them.
“Is there anything in your lives that’s not going so hot right now, that could be better?”
They didn’t say a whole lot. I kept digging. The kid in the middle – his name was Devon – spoke up.
“I’m looking for a place to live,” he said. “My house got washed out in the flood.” He was being honest now. “I’m living with my dad. He used to be a meth addict.”
As if that wasn’t a crazy enough story, he kept going.
“My mom has tried to commit suicide in the past. I was recently hit by a car. I’m still here though. I’m good.”
This kid was what, 16 years old? His life has pretty much been hell on earth… but I saw something in him. He had a glimmer of hope. He clearly needed encouragement, but he was a strong kid. At this point, I knew I needed to share my personal belief in Jesus Christ with this kid. I asked the three guys what they believed. The kid on the right said “I’m in a Christian band.” The other two kids, Devon included, said they didn’t follow any religion and just preferred stay out of it.
I then shared about the hope I have in Jesus Christ. I told them how I believe that hope can be received by anyone. I could tell that talking about God was foreign to these kids, but I kept sharing. I encouraged Devon. “You’re so strong, man. Many people would have given up by now. You’re still fighting.”
I asked if I could pray for him. “It’s your call, man. If you want to, go ahead.” That’s a yes.
The four of us got into a huddle. I prayed, speaking encouragement and life to Devon. I couldn’t help but open my eyes and attempt to read what was going on in his mind and heart as I prayed… but after the prayer was done, he made it completely clear what was going on. He wiped away tears from under his sunglasses.
“No one has EVER done that for me before,” he said. “I’m not usually into that kind of thing, but that was different.” He hugged me tightly. That was different… that was different. Those words from his mouth were sweet sounds of hope to my ears. “Thank you,” he said repeatedly. “Thank you so much.”
“That wasn’t me,” I said, fighting back my own tears at this point. “That was Him. That’s just a taste of the love I feel from my Father. Every day, when I wake up, I have purpose because of Him. That’s where I find my hope. That wasn’t me.”
As Devon walked away, my heart rejoiced. That kid had truly just felt the love of Jesus… and it wasn’t me or Heartsupport that allowed him to feel that love. It was Jesus himself. And that’s the beauty of the God I serve. When a kid walks into a random tent at a secular music festival – in the midst of droves of darkness – and walks out feeling the love of the Creator of the universe, there’s only one party responsible: the Creator himself. There’s only one party capable: the Creator himself. Darkness to light; pain to hope. God is responsible for the spreading of hope and the changing of hearts. He saturates every part of the process; He therefore rightfully deserves all the glory.
That was different. Because God is different. He doesn’t operate on our terms; he doesn’t work according to the energy we have left. His glory is unfading, despite the limits we attempt to place on it.
Devon, if you’re somewhere reading this, that was Him.