Overcoming Fear and Doubt with Christ

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Teens Choose the Narrow Way: Overcoming Fear, Doubt, and Pain with Christ

Story by Kathy Symborski
Photos by Pamela Barahana-Carroll unless otherwise noted

At Narrow Way, a youth discipleship program at Calvary Chapel South Pittsburgh, PA, Christian students and leaders are being led by the Holy Spirit to overcome fear, doubt, or pain and to help others through their trials.

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Students are encouraged in the Word during an “All Night of Worship” at Narrow Way in June 2021. Narrow Way is a youth discipleship program at Calvary Chapel South Pittsburgh, PA. Applications for this summer are being accepted until June 1.

Kylie Thompson, a 19-year-old counselor for the June 2021 program, didn’t feel confident about her ability to lead teen girls under her care. Because she hadn’t grown up in church nor had been a Christian her whole life, fears of inadequacy about her lack of Bible knowledge overwhelmed her.

“I felt I was playing the game of catch-up when it came to not being good enough or learning what’s in the Bible. Those 10 days, I just felt everyone around me was so much wiser; it was obvious that God was pouring out of them, and I learned from them. But I was overwhelmed with feelings that I was just wrong or didn’t hit it just right when communicating with the girls,” Kylie admitted.

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Narrow Way participants line up in the form of a cross before the baptism ceremony. For 10 days, students are immersed in God’s Word, service projects, and worship.

Kylie felt stuck, frustrated that she wasn’t hearing God’s voice. She prayed with a staff member and asked God to show her that He was there and working through her. Then, one of her girls, who was shy, talked with Kylie about being unsure of “this whole God thing.”

Kylie continued, “I knew this meant I was going to have to speak truth into [the girl].” Kylie told God that He was going to have to speak through her because she couldn’t do it on her own. Then the girl poured out her whole life, confessed her sins, and wanted a relationship with Christ. “I had the cool opportunity to walk her through that,” Kylie said. She recognized that God had answered her prayer and showed how her life could be a witness to others. 

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Girls participate in Bible study and spiritual discipline exercises. Narrow Way Ministries director Beck Green described the birthing of the student ministry: “I was reading Scriptures about the gates of hell not prevailing, and I felt that the Lord wanted to take back His territory and establish His Church among the youth. When the Lord gets ahold of their hearts—before they make any decision about where they are going after high school—then they don’t have any obligations and can serve Him freely, not held down by anything.”

Discipling Christian Teenagers
Narrow Way is a 10-day discipleship program for youth ages 12 to 17, held each summer at CC South Pittsburgh. After morning devotions, students go to two 40- to 60-minute Bible workshops. After lunch, they work on service projects or have ‘Word and Worship’ sessions with a spiritual focus. Evenings are filled with fun activities like games or lip-sync battles. Around 9 p.m., students return to a Christian school to sleep. A one-day winter program is also held to water those spiritual seeds planted in the summer.

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Aleah Remengesau and Mikayla Diyanni encourage each other at Narrow Way in 2021. It’s a time when students, ages 12-17, spur each other on to grow in their faith.

“We planned for 45-50 attendees, and God sent 46 kids,” said Beck Green, Narrow Way Ministries director. “It’s so cool how He keeps providing, guiding, and giving us direction.” He described the birthing of Narrow Way. “I was reading Scriptures about the gates of hell not prevailing, and I felt that the Lord wanted to take back His territory and establish His Church among the youth. When the Lord gets ahold of their hearts—before they make any decision about where they are going after high school—then they don’t have any obligations and can serve Him freely, not held down by anything.”

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Student Noah Lucas receives an award at the conclusion of the discipleship program.

“On this rock I [Jesus] will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.” Matthew 16:18b

Beck affirmed that he knows and trusts the camp counselors. “I make sure they are responsible and spiritually mature to lead the kids.” Each counselor works with a junior counselor under 18, but is more mature than their peers. Including leadership, 46 kids had 20 counselors. “One staff for every 2.5 kids,” Beck said. “I like sharing that because it makes the parents feel more comfortable.”

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Hope Madrid and Savannah Swauger were among 46 students who grew in their faith through Bible workshops and service projects.

Overcoming Inadequacy
Kylie reflected, “Before I encountered Narrow Way, my sins seemed too great, that I was not good enough to walk with Christ. One Scripture that really helped me was 1 Samuel 12:20b, 22: “Do not fear. You have done all this wickedness; yet do not turn aside from following the LORD, but serve the LORD with all your heart. For the LORD will not forsake His people, for His great name’s sake, because it has pleased the LORD to make you His people.”

She added, “I know that I’m not perfect, so I want girls to know that it’s OK [if] they aren’t perfect …, it doesn’t disqualify them from a relationship with the Lord.”

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Young men in Caleb Mercado’s dorm listen intently to a teaching during Narrow Way. God worked in life-changing ways throughout the program.

Hope, Help, and Healing
Beck said that the program is not denominationally exclusive and that students come from all over the country. “We had one kid who almost didn’t come because he struggled with anxiety and depression, but we watched him get healed, grow, come out of his shell, and he’s now coming to our youth group.”

That young man is 16-year-old Dylan Franks, who has experienced family loss, the death of friends, and church break-ups. “It felt like I was looking at a basketball game where all the seats in the bleachers are filled with people; then I look, and all these seats are empty,” Dylan explained. “It causes you to feel so alone, depressed. I didn’t recognize who I was anymore; I didn’t act like myself and was questioning who I even was.” 

                  

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He was invited to come to the summer program. “I was nervous … and almost didn’t stay after the first day,” Dylan related. “I decided it might be good for me to try to make friends. When the guys in my room asked me to share my testimony, I wondered, Why me out of all these guys in the room? But the Lord said to share, so I told them what I was going through and why I was there, hoping to grow closer to God. Then all these guys began to open up because they realized they weren’t the only ones dealing with this stuff!”

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Morgan Pizzuti and Cai Green lead Narrow Way participants in worshipping the Lord.

Dylan revealed other ways God worked, from finding a friend who became a prayer partner, to a specific message about holding onto hate, and even unexpected godly counsel about a private relationship issue. Dylan’s biggest breakthrough came as he heard the song “Who You Say I Am” during worship. He recalled, “It repeats, ‘I’m a child of God, yes I am,’ but that’s what it took to make me realize that … I am a child of God, and I didn’t have to look any further. It was a big life-changer for me!”

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Narrow Way students enjoy the final banquet speeches.

Dylan marveled at God’s transformative power, watching another youth—who didn’t even know why he was there—give his life to Christ. That youth would then wake up every morning for devotions, prayer, and worship. “I would have missed out on so much [if I hadn’t gone],” Dylan admitted. Before Narrow Way, reading the Bible was just like reading a book. “But now those words jump right off the page at me. When I go to the Word over something like depression or anxiety, the Lord just punches me right in the face with Scripture! One is Psalm 56:4-9, specifically verse 9, where it says, When I cry out to You, then my enemies will turn back; this I know, because God is for me. I don’t have to worry or have fears in my life, because when I cry out to God, those things will turn back, because He is for me!”

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Alex Massey obeys the call to get baptized. Beck Green (right) exclaimed, “I believe our ministry trains people to be disciples, followers of Jesus Christ, so we are definitely fulfilling the Great Commission!”

Dylan recognizes that the power of Christ is made known during our trials. “God doesn’t take away all our problems at once,” he said. “He knows if we don’t have to rely on Him, we would rely more on ourselves. So, 2 Corinthians 12:9b has become my favorite verse: ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.’”

The Great Commission
Although Counselor Kylie still has many questions about her calling, her career, and college, she is certain of God’s faithfulness in her life. Currently a Young Life leader, she is attending Messiah University. Since Narrow Way, her focus has been on ministering to her family. “My family [members] are not Christians, so I have the mindset that I need to be a disciple [to] all nations, which means loving my family. I want them to know the Lord, so … I have to be the light and serve them.”

Beck’s greatest desire is to follow Jesus’ instructions in Matthew 28:19a: “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations.” He concluded, “I believe our ministry trains people to be disciples, followers of Jesus Christ, so we are definitely fulfilling the Great Commission!”

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” John 14:6

                  

Applications for Summer 2022
Applications for this summer’s program, July 8-17, are still open and due by June 1; for more information and to apply online, visit Narrow Way Ministries' website at nwm.calvarysouthpitt.com.

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Narrow Way staff members pray a blessing over departing students at the closing ceremony.

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Beck Green hugs Trevor Massey, who has just been baptized at Narrow Way. Photo by Micah Martin

 

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Beck Green prays before he baptizes participants from Narrow Way. Photo by Micah Martin

 

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Besides Bible study, worship is an important aspect of Narrow Way; here, a young woman honors God with worship during a service. Photo by Micah Martin

 

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Underneath the shadow of the cross, Narrow Way students study God’s Word. Photo by Micah Martin

                  

More information about Narrow Way Ministries and the Summer 2022 program can be found at nwm.calvarysouthpitt.com.

                  

(To learn more about U-Turn for Christ, visit their website)

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All verses above are quoted from the New King James Version, unless otherwise noted.

© 2022 Calvary Chapel Magazine (CCM). All rights reserved. Articles or photographs may not be reproduced without the written permission of CCM. All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.® Used by permission.