Thank you for this blog. I feel like a lot of the things I felt for years after being involved with Teen Mania in the mid 90’s are now validated.
I remember my first Acquire the Fire. It was actually held in our church (it used to be that small!). I was a new Christian and loved every second of it. I remember going with a team to our local mall and attempting to convert people as they shopped. I was embarrassed but I knew that God wanted me to do this. Sigh.
I decided to go to Ecuador the next summer. Oh my gosh, I was so excited. I raised $4,300 dollars and went to Miami for training and then on to Quito. Ron Luce flew down with us on the plane and I kept taking pictures of him.
The trip was both horrible and wonderful. It was wonderful to see a new country and to be so focused on Christ. But there were other really hard parts to my trip.
First, the first night that we were assigned our teams, our TL prayed for me in front of everyone asking God to reassure me that, “No, she won’t be sent home, God…I know she is afraid of that.” Oh, wow. I was so embarrassed. I wasn’t afraid of being “Bon Voyaged” (they now call it being “dismissed”) but I felt like I needed to agree with her in order to be spiritual.
That summer, TM sent thousands of missionaries all over the world and had only five missionaries sent home. Two of them were on my team of thirty. One boy, Josh, was sent home because of his attitude. The other girl, Pat, was sent home because she was deemed to be flirting with the Brazilian cycling team that was staying in our hotel. Both of these episodes were really horrible and the devastation in my friends wasn’t hard to see. But, at the same time, I had to trust that it was the right thing. I didn’t want to question the leadership.
Another team with us in Quito had a really bad bus crash on a Village trip. The kids were stranded in the jungle for five hours, had to drink rancid water, and some of the kids were injured. One of my friends hurt her neck in the crash and had to wear a brace for the remainder of the trip. This was all very exciting, of course, because we knew that we were facing demonic opposition. Other events were also exciting – like the time our team performed our drama in an all-male prison. I was resurrected in the drama so I had to be placed on the floor. Unfortunately, the floor was filthy – there was about an inch of urine on it. I remember the feeling of being placed in the urine. I didn’t want to feel upset, though, because I wanted more of Jesus. This was the way for that to happen, right?
The last thing that happened that shook my faith was our witnessing. Our day trips got more and more haphazard until finally our team would load up on the bus and drive until the Team Leaders found a place to stop. We’d perform our drama and, of course, most of the watching Ecuadorians got saved. I remember being really confused because we would get these people saved but then drive away. What was going to happen to them? How were they going to get discipled since we rarely followed up with a local church? It was the first time in my budding faith that I had to really wrestle with tough questions about the church, salvation, and other tricky theological ideas.
I know my story is pretty tame compared to what I’ve read on the blog. But a lot of it resonates with me because I remember the whole mindset of Teen Mania and how much it confused me as a young Christian.