I just returned from “See You At The Pole.” It’s a national annual Christian event where young people with a love for Christ gather around their school’s flagpole to celebrate Christ in the public square and pray for God’s blessing upon the new school year. I was assigned to work at LaSalle High School this year. Some of you will remember that LaSalle High School was destroyed in a tornado in November of 2004. The students on the North end of the parish still meet in the old Holloway garment factory on Highway 165 in Olla. Soon, they will have a school of their own again, but it’s taken so long to find funding for the project in this poor area of Louisiana. The children did not even have a flagpole to gather around. Someone had brought a small flag and set it on our table. I served for this event with Reverend David McGuffee, pastor of Pine Hill Baptist Church in Olla. Pastor McGuffee, a man passionate about the Word of God, is a big, burly man who would put a scare into you if you met him in an alley somewhere. He is actually one of the sweetest men I’ve ever met. Another young man from my church, Dwayne Carter, joined me to help reach out to these young people as teens from around America joined together to call upon God to bless their schools.
I was amazed at the turnout from the student population. By my calculations, the entire student body was present. Often, at events like this, where people make a stand for their faith, attendance can be sparse. These young people, tested by the aftermath of the tornado and adjusting to school in a garment building, displayed a very special spirit of camaraderie. We joked with them. We picked on them. We served them. I was as blessed as any of them. We poured orange juice and milk into Styrofoam cups as the students grabbed donuts, milling about as another day of school began at LaSalle High. The makeshift breakfast was provided by the Northwest LaSalle Ministerial Alliance as a way of telling them we appreciate each and every one. Young people want to feel that adults are listening to them and consider their thoughts and words important.
Perhaps the most touching moment for me was when the moment of prayer arrived. I’ve worked with youth most of my ministry. Perhaps one of the most universal truths about youth is they are very uncomfortable praying publicly. I was wondering just how to handle getting someone to lead this student-lead prayer when, suddenly, a young man with a Mohawk hair cut stepped up between Pastor McGuffee and me. I was about to ask him if he wanted a donut or something when he asked the students to bow their heads. This young man, who I would have imagined to be a thug upon first impressions, proceeded to speak a flowing prayer of a quality I would expect among pastors. He articulated fluently in the spirit of passionate prayer as the student body of LaSalle High School gathered around a tiny flag sitting on a table, surrounded in donuts and juice. When he was through, I looked up at him in amazement. My friend, Dwayne, gawked with his mouth wide open. I could think of nothing to say so I reached out and hugged the young man, trying to avoid getting his hair in my eyes.
This generation is hard to get a handle on sometimes. But they are reaching out to God like never before. Today, an entire school, obscure to the view of America, made a statement to God, to the adults on hand, and their fellow students. We love Christ. We love one another. And we are going to make a difference in this world.