Anna Cameron is nearing the end of her freshman year at Wheaton College, a Christian school in the Chicago suburb of Wheaton, Illinois. Her hometown is Mount Bethel, Pennsylvania. Anna presented the following testimony to her home congregation, Mount Bethel Lutheran Brethren Church, shortly before her high school graduation.

My name is Anna Cameron, and in a few months I will be graduating from high school. I was reluctant to speak this morning because I never thought of myself as having a “big” story. I have always known of Jesus, the love of God, and his Son’s suffering for my redemption and forgiveness.

But my story, like all of our stories as God’s children is a remarkably big story—it’s a story of the amazing blessing of growing up in a Christian home. Mine is not a perfect family—very crazy at times!—but a family that is under God’s amazing grace. And my story is also a story of this church. I grew up here, between these walls. I was baptized on this platform as an infant, along with my brothers. As a three-year-old, at a Christmas Eve service, I threw up on my dad’s shoulder and had to be rushed out of the service. I ran the halls as a little girl, and year by year moved my way through the Sunday School classrooms. I played games on the grass out front. As an eighth-grader I stood right here, and recited all the Scripture I had memorized for Confirmation Sunday. And I sort of joined youth group years before I was old enough. We had many youth group events at our house, and sometimes it was annoying to have a house full of older students. In fact, my brother started to refer to our house as a youth hostel.

All of my closest friends throughout high school have been kids I’ve known through youth group. I met my youth pastor, Andrew, when he was just out of college, and I watched as he dated and then married his now wife, Gwen, and now watch as they start their own family.

This is my family. I’ve seen amazing things: I’ve witnessed high school students come to winter weekend at Tuscarora, and I’ve seen God change their lives with his saving love. I’ve seen the dramatic transformation that comes with understanding God’s forgiveness for the first time. Just as one example, I saw one of my best friends, Kylee, go from knowing absolutely nothing about God to wanting to follow and love God. Her transformation is just one of the things that showed me how powerful the Holy Spirit really is.

But, I’ve also seen difficult things… There are so many distractions that Satan uses to cause us to stumble. I’ve watched those who drifted away from Christ and the Church. I’ve seen the painful consequences that come with living a life in rebellion to who God has called us to be.

So it is a big story. I have realized that God’s story is always a big story. As God’s children, because of Jesus’ sacrifice, we are all brothers and sisters. This makes us family. And like my home family, we in the church family sometimes look crazy and act crazy. But we always need to support, love, and forgive each other.

I am thankful for this church—for all of you who have helped me see who Jesus is; I’m thankful for Pastor Chris and Pastor Dan for teaching me; thankful for Andrew and Gwen who let me see what it looks like to fall in love with each other and to see the love they have for teens; thankful to my parents for committing to raising me in this church; thankful for my grandparents who made similar decisions many years ago with their children; and thankful for all my friends who loved me and held me accountable.

In the fall I will be leaving for Wheaton College. As excited as I am about going to Wheaton, I will miss this church, miss my friends from youth group, and miss my church family. I am sent off, still a sinner, but a sinner who knows who Christ is, knows his love for me, and knows that he calls me to live for him. In closing, I’m going to share a portion of an essay that I wrote for a college application. The question was, “Which of your various activities in high school was the most significant?”

This is my response: My involvement with youth group has undoubtedly had the most significance in my life throughout high school. While many of my other activities offered social, academic and personal growth, the church youth group relationships with not only my peers, but the leaders of the youth ministry, continue to provide a Christ-centered foundation to my life. I strongly believe that surrounding myself with people who share my love for God will encourage me in my own walk with God. Proverbs 27:17 states, “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” Our heavenly Father calls us to build relationships with one another to strengthen our faith. As I was growing up in public school, very few of my peers were believers. Spending time with the leaders and teens in various youth group activities became so important to all of us. We grew up together, facing many of the same struggles, and enjoying many of the same accomplishments. Our lives became intertwined, and our relationships deepened, as we held each other accountable, encouraged each other, and walked together through our teenage years. I am forever grateful to have enjoyed this amazing blessing.

Anna Cameron is a member of Mount Bethel Lutheran Brethren Church in Mount Bethel, Pennsylvania. She is currently a freshman at Wheaton College in Wheaton, Illinois.

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