Telling Testimonials: Students lead annual Good Friday service

On Good Friday, 14 students from the combined high school ministry of Orchard Hill Church and Nazareth Lutheran led a meaningful night full of personal testimonies and worship. Seniors Elizabeth Relph and Ethan Hayes, both shared their testimonies, and drove powerful words into their audience. Relph said that, “The Holy Spirit was definitely present in the room on Friday. It’s so hard to explain, but even closing your eyes and listening to the lyrics of the music gave me the goosebumps. The room was filled with voices from all different towns, churches and ages. That is what made the experience so incredible. People from all over the Cedar Valley were there for a specific reason — to praise God and be in community with other believers. Truly a powerful concept.”

Relph shared her perspective on why the service had been chosen to be student-led.

“I think having a student-led service has so many benefits. First off, it gets other high schoolers involved and gets a wide variety of people to attend, which is really cool to see. Also, it sends the message that you don’t have to be an adult to have independent faith or have life changing things happen to you. God works everywhere and in everyone. So I think seeing the youth so involved is inspiring to adults and other kids as well.”

Relph struggled landing her favorite part of the night, so she gave up saying things were simply, “phenomenal.” Clearly, Relph’s life is focused on something bigger than her purpose.

“I can’t even imagine my life without a purpose. Every decision I make is centered around God, and for that guidance, I couldn’t be more grateful. My faith is the driving force of my conscience, and I can honestly say that it’s kept me on a really good path throughout high school. I can distinguish between right and wrong, and I definitely understand the importance of forgiveness and relationships.”

Hayes brought an equally inspiring story to the table, as God worked through him in a completely different story.

“My entire life I had placed the game of baseball over God. I was so focused on playing Division I baseball, I had started to ‘worship’ it in a sense. I talked about how during my junior year I had convinced myself I was ‘D1 Bound,’ so I blew everything else off. I even had a few walk on offers to schools, but then in the fall of my senior year, I hurt my shoulder, and at the point all of my walk on offers were pulled, and all schools interested in me had dropped their interests. For awhile in the fall, I struggled to find my identity in myself, questioning what I valued, what I was living for and what my purpose was in life. After struggling for awhile, my mom and small group leaders helped me realize that my true identity was in Christ, and that my entire life I had been living for baseball and not for God.”

Now that Hayes is rooted in this new identity, he shared the impact it has had.

“Now I find myself much happier and joyful. I also find myself seeing things as gifts from God, and I find myself asking more questions to my small group leaders, and I have more of a desire to learn more about God and his love for us as imperfect humans.”

There is a ripple effect to one’s own conviction and change of heart, proven through Hayes younger sister, Emily. Sophomore Emily Hayes was there that night, and she explained the experience of watching other people’s stories unfold.

“Student-led is so powerful. The people that are sharing their testimonies and stories are our peers. We see them every day and to realize that they go through the same struggles that we are. People put down that barrier that is sometimes put up during school to show how God is working in their life. When I watched my brother share I was in tears. All I could think was ‘Praise, Jesus.’ God worked in such a mysterious way, and Ethan inspires me to grow in my faith every day. The most meaningful part of the night was when Ethan shared.”

Relph had one more thing to add.

“I’d just like to add that I know sometimes church talk or Christian talk sounds kind of intimidating or crazy. I understand what it sounds like from a non-Christian’s point of view … a bunch of nonsense, but for people that don’t believe or even have a different faith, I just want to explain how even just a little bit of Jesus makes me feel — because sometimes people have experienced it, and they just can’t identify it. My God has a habit of making me overwhelmed with joy, like right after reading a letter from a friend telling you how much they love and appreciate you. That’s pretty much what it feels like most of the time. Like when you notice that you’ve been grinning from ear to ear for no reason and get kind of embarrassed because people will think you’re crazy. You know, when you smile and laugh at a text and then remember other people can see you. Except there isn’t a text, it’s just thinking about a God that’s got my back that gets me like that. That’s my God.”

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