It really was “Worth It”

What does finding a needle in a haystack look like these days?

How 'bout having two NFL players who, along with their wives, tell a crowd of 500 teens and their parents that they chose sexuality purity as the route to making the covenant commitment of marriage?

That packs a pretty big punch—which gets even bigger when both couples explain that their commitment was marathon in nature - not sprint-like.  David and Kassidy Thomas (former Patriot, now part of the Super Bowl Champion New Orleans Saints) said that their courtship lasted six years—from their first date in high school to their marriage, which happened after they graduated from college—and that they strategically devised a plan that would help them honor this highly-valued commitment to sexual purity.  Six years!!  They were very practical as they explained their commitment to purity and the road they took to help them accomplish their goal.  They were truly inspiring!

David and Kassidy Thomas relate their story to a spellbound group.

But that wasn't the only needle!  Danny Woodhead (New England Patriots’ very popular and successful running back) and his wife Stacia also told their story, recounting eight years between their first date in high school to their post-college wedding.  They also successfully honored their commitment to sexual purity.  In a culture that has all but given up on the very archaic concept of marriage being the exclusive context for sexual activity, it was refreshing and hope-giving to hear these very cool young couples express why they had set that goal and how they accomplished it.  Both couples were convincing as they conveyed their belief that God's design really is good and that their decision for sexual purity was "worth it."

And those were only two of the stories of the day.  The maxed-out crowd which gathered at Calvary Christian Church in Lynnfield heard from a variety of voices, including those who had not been as successful in making God-honoring choices in the area of sexual purity.  All offered hope, encouragement, and challenge to trust God in the area of relationships and to pay attention to His instructions so that He could give them the very best.  The message of grace and forgiveness was also abundantly clear and universal in application.

"Love the diverse panel of speakers and their different life experiences."  
"I appreciated the realness of the speaker.  Their transparency made a tough subject safe to talk about . . .”

We brought Danny Oertli in from Parker, Colorado, to "fill in the gaps" and he was perfect.  He began playing 15 minutes before the conference officially began, which drew the crowd into the sanctuary, and he played a various points throughout the day.  It was a great decision to have him on the team and we were so thankful for the effort he expended to come for less than 24 hours.

Danny Oertli, always a favorite, got the crowd worshiping together and beautifully filled in the gaps of the day.

Barbara Steele again masterfully published all of the printed material connected with "Worth It."  She is amazing!

Kirsten Watson, whose husband Benjamin is also a former Patriot (now playing for the Cleveland Browns) launched the day by powerfully speaking to the subject, "You are worth it!"  What establishes our worth?  The deep and sacrificial love of God, expressed through the death and resurrection of Jesus.  His performance.  Not ours.  Each person, therefore, is worth being treated with honor, respect, and dignity in all areas of life . . . including our sexuality.  Kirsten was engaging and spot on and God used her to lay a great foundation for the day.  We desperately wanted those in attendance to understand that sexual purity is not about following a set of repressive rules, but about understanding the depth of God's love for us and responding to Him in obedience to His clear instructions. 

"Hearing that I am worth it made me aware that my family is worth fighting for.  Being there for them is worth it."  (parent)  

Kirsten Watson was our first plenary speaker and she did a great job of laying a foundation for the day as she spoke of the deep heart of love God the Father has for us, which establishes our being "worth" treated with honor and respect.
Paul, who did a phenomenal job emceeing the day, conducted five-minute interviews with those speakers who weren't doing a plenary session in between sessions and that was very effective.  His interview with our daughter Lisa was very powerful as she talked about some of the benefits of cooperating with God's plan for purity.  She related that the decision she and her college boyfriend made to have a non-physical relationship that lasted for almost two years prior to them moving on served them so well.  They had a blast while they dated—and no regrets when they stopped dating.

You could hear a pin drop in the room when she continued and said, "But the best part of it was when I met the woman he married several years later.  I could look her right in the eye and know that I had honored her in my relationship with the man who eventually became her husband, and that he had as well.  Though we didn't know her while we were dating, we had honored her."  What a great word.  It was very powerful.  It was also powerful to hear her say that though she never expected to be single at 28, and admittedly that was hard at times since she really does want to be married, her life is full and good and she feels deeply loved by God.  She said, "This I know: I would much rather have my very fulfilling life as a single woman than be married to the wrong person.  As of now, I haven't met the right person for me, so I'm content waiting."  What an important and profound word!

"Today showed me that God does care about my heart's desires."  (17-year-old female)

Lisa Friesen—a single, and an athletic trainer at James Madison University—spoke very important words about the goodness of God and His ways.
During the morning, workshops were offered covering a range of topics, and were led by our very qualified team.  Nate Parks, director of Camp Berea, led a workshop for the parents on understanding the culture in which they are raising their children.  Jess and Elizabeth Bousa, church planters from Grace de Havre, New Jersey, spoke on the perils of cyberspace, and Lisa Friesen spoke on establishing convictions now that will help you honor God in college.  Don Davis gave a word of hope as he spoke on freedom through forgiveness, and Kirsten Watson challenged teens to be prepared to stand up to the godless culture in very practical ways.  David and Kassidy Thomas spoke on why sticking to your commitment for purity is worth it, and Kate Wylie did a workshop on why it's important to not give up on God's design for marriage.  The broad spectrum of topics provided something for everyone.

Nate Parks spoke to the adults during the workshop block on the realities of today's culture.

God blessed us with a gorgeous spring day (not to be taken for granted in New England!) so lunch boxes became outdoor picnics for many.  Jim Martis (MJM Catering) once again did a masterful job with his capable team and over 500 were served efficiently and nutritiously in short order.

"Big Jim" Martis catered the day using lunch boxes, which worked beautifully for over 500 hungry conferees.

Some of his capable team included Lili Stobbe, Peter and Cassie Sammon, and Linda Tedford, who got the job done well and efficiently.

It was a perfect day for being outside . . . and the lunch boxes made it easy.

During lunch, many fans enjoyed being photographed with Danny Woodhead and the other NFL players in our midst, who also kindly autographed many folders.  Paul was a bit disappointed that no one asked for his autograph (or photograph, for that matter!)

The team really seemed to enjoy one another.  Here Kate Wylie, Thomas and Margaret Austin (Patriots’ practice squad), and Danny and Stacia Woodhead hang together.

After lunch, Kate Wylie, whose husband Paul was the silver medalist in men's figure skating in the 1992 Albertville Olympics, did our third plenary session.  In an extremely honest presentation, Kate talked about the "sliding scale" that is so often applied to God's standard for purity, and what it costs.  She talked about the hypocrisy of "technical virginity" which Christian singles often rationalize and settle for, and challenged the men to lead their relationship in a godly fashion.  She said that sadly, there was no difference in the way guys who called themselves Christians treated her compared to those who were outside the church.  Kate was very open in saying that part of the reason she was speaking at "Worth It" was because she felt no one had instructed her with clarity when she was a teenager regarding God's design for emotional and physical purity, and that the "just don't have baby-making sex" had not been enough to protect her from making regrettable decisions along the way.  Her talk was thought-provoking and poignant.  

Kate articulated why we do the "Worth It" conference for the family, rather than just for the teens, when she said that no one had instructed her on God's design for sexual purity. In our years of doing family ministries, we've seen what she's described far less in kids who have had parents who encouraged and instructed their teens in the area of sexual purity.   As a result, we've felt the need and the call to equip challenge parents along with their kids on the subject of purity for several reasons.  First, it's hard for parents to stay ahead of the curve in the ever-changing sexual landscape of our culture, so many erroneously believe that things aren't that different from when they were teen-agers, and second, most parents will default to passing on the same legacy of silence regarding sexuality they received from their parents.  The stakes are too high to not interrupt this pattern, so we're committed to making it a bit easier for parents by opening up discussion on these important topics.  Third, and most sobering, many parents have given in to the culture and given up believing and expecting that their teenagers could make God-honoring decisions regarding their sexuality in this "anything-goes" culture.  We want to refortify them as well as their kids.

"Almost speechless with praise and thanksgiving, I feel like my eyes were opened to see the ‘7,000 others who had not bowed the kneel to Baal.’ ” (a parent)

“I came here for my daughter, but am leaving excited for both of us."  (parent)

"Loved hearing these messages with my daughter.  I wish I had had an opportunity like this when I was a teen."  (parent)

Kate Wylie had everyone's attention as she talked about the perils of using a sliding scale when it comes to God's design for purity.

After peer group break-outs, during which time Paul and I spoke on parenting during the teen years, Don Davis, retired from the NFL in a Patriots’ uniform and now juggling a number of roles including itinerate speaker, PAO, and the PA of the NFL, wrapped up the day with a call to surrender.  Charismatic, dynamic, and gospel-centered, Don put it on the line.  He unloaded the "swag bag for Jesus" and talked about forgiveness, grace, and love.  Don's heart for the Lord was impossible to miss and when he challenged the crowd to say "yes" to Jesus, at least 40 stood to make a profession of faith.  It was a very sacred moment in the day.

"The best part of the day was when I accepted Christ."  (14-year-old female)

"God has been tugging on my arm for a few years to pull me back.  Today He gave me a yank.  Thank you so much."  (female)

Don Davis kept it going by giving a very powerful call to commitment during the last plenary session.  He had everyone's ear and God used him to reached many hearts.

But that wasn't all.  Paul interviewed Danny and Stacia Woodhead, whose story inspired all.  Their hearts for the Lord are so sincere and they faithfully honored each other throughout their 8-year courtship.  What a hope-giving model!  We were so thankful they were willing to come and be used so powerfully.

Paul interviews Danny and Stacia Woodhead as the "Worth It" conference drew to a close.

But that still wasn't all.  The whole team, including Brian and very pregnant Heather Dietz, gathered on the stage for the open question and answer time, and though we were unable to answer all the questions, quite a number were fielded.  That was followed by a time for commitment, and while Danny played his guitar in the background, Paul challenged the youth to consider committing themselves to purity, and confirming the commitment by signing a pledge card.  He encouraged them not to sign it if they weren't ready to do so.

"I made a commitment that sticking with my convictions is worth it."  (16-year-old male)

The teaching team listens as Kirsten Watson answers a question.

Paul throws in some thoughts on one of the questions.

As Danny plays, the conferees consider making a commitment to purity.

It was all over at 4 pm.  The place cleared out pretty quickly and the wonderful volunteers broke it down and cleaned it up.  Though tired by this point, everyone felt quite energized by what had happened that day.  It was clear that God had done a great work among us that would have deep impact beyond the day.  We all agreed that all of our efforts had been "worth it" and that by God's grace, all those there that day left knowing that God's heart for them is deep and His plans for them are good.

“This was such a great way to spend my Saturday.  I learned so much and gained so much strength that I'm certain I can make it.”  (17-year-old female)

“My 15-year-old went from being ‘sullen and not wanting to come, to being happy, apologetic, and saying 'Too bad more kids from our church arent here.’ ”

The remnant—after all the attendees were long gone, we caught this group for one final picture.  How blessed we are to be surrounded by them!

And, from a 13-year-old, "This day was totally awesome!  And tons of fun, too!"
We'll let her have the final word.