“Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity.” – 1 Timothy 4:12
by Krista Bordelon
A large part of the battle for parents, mentors, pastors and teachers when it comes to raising up the next generation is how easy it is for the older generations to discount the younger ones, to lump them all under a label that is “less than” what we once were ourselves because of the challenges they are facing.
Perhaps that’s the way it’s been since the beginning of time, but losing sight of what this next generation is capable of, choosing to see them all as “lost” rather than seeing what it is they are actually doing, is the biggest mistake we could make.
For every horror story we see when we turn on the news or open a paper, there are many more stories of young, godly teenagers willing to be a light in their world. When we take the time to listen, their stories and experiences truly are exceptional witnesses. In fact, they are the generation that will be raising up the next. So the question we should all be asking is: What can we do to encourage them in their faith?
Rachel Seidel, a graduating senior at Central High School and Central’s Student of the Year, is one of those girls who has always exuded strength, grace, and godliness. Born and raised in Baton Rouge, she has been a lifelong member of Istrouma Baptist Church. She describes her life as one in which God was always a major aspect; so becoming saved at the age of seven was not really a surprise. However in 2007, Rachel’s youngest brother, Sam, suffered a near fatal drowning accident in the family pool that left him unable to walk or talk.
“That was when I realized it wasn’t going to be easy, that Christianity wasn’t going to be about how I was when things were good, but how I was when things were really, really hard,” she explained. A couple of years later while attending camp with her church youth group during her 6th grade year, Rachel was baptized in the ocean at Panama where she decided to rededicate her life.
“It wasn’t that the first time didn’t matter, but there was something so powerful about this [second] time,” she said. “It was a decision that I had made completely for myself, not because someone told me I should, or because that’s what everyone was doing. I was growing up, and it became my decision.”
Rachel had attended private school at St. Luke’s until her freshmen year, when she made the difficult decision to switch to the Central Public School System where her mother, Kahne Seidel, is a teacher.
“I was really nervous, I had no idea what to expect. All of my friends that I had grown up with were going to be continuing in private schools. I was going to a public school, and I wasn’t going to know anyone.” Rachel continued, “I knew it was going to be overwhelming, I was coming from a class of 17 people. To say moving to Central was just a transition is an understatement for sure.”
In fact, Rachel was really nervous about how she was even going to make the transition, so she spoke with her youth minister, Mark Cole.
“I told him that I was really scared to even share my faith in this new environment,” Rachel said. “His advice to me was, ‘The more you do it, the more comfortable you will be.’”
Rachel’s number one piece of advice for students is, “Be wise with whom you choose to hang out with. Find the right group of people because they determine if your experience will be positive or if it will be negative.” As simple as it sounds, she explains how that had the biggest impact on her life and her witness throughout high school.
“I chose to hang around with people who would go to people’s houses to swim instead of going to people’s houses to drink,” Rachel explained. She was also involved in soccer, cheer and continued to remain heavily involved in her church’s youth ministry. She had many good, strong mentors in place, as well as a good relationship with her parents to help keep her strong in her walk even if she was now attending a school without the Christian influence she had once had.
“I can see how it would have been very easy for me to stray away without all of that,” she said. “I had to have people holding me accountable.”
“Teachers may not be able to tell you with their words about Jesus, but it was easy to tell who is a Christian, and that was comforting,” she shared. In fact, it’s something Rachel has talked about a lot with her mom since Kahne teaches 11th grade.
“You just show them through your actions instead of being able to stand up and share your testimony. You give them grace and help when they need it,” her mom said. Rachel said teachers would sponsor Bible Studies with local pastors, so you always knew who would be supportive of you in your Christian walk.
Something as small as buying donuts for a before school meeting left a big impact. Even if they couldn’t talk to you about it, it was nice having them there, but it was still a hard transition when coming from a setting with weekly chapel and standard Bible classes.
“It was good though, I found that I was able to grow up.” There is a mutual respect among those with different beliefs,” she said. “You learn to appreciate other beliefs but learn to stay strong in your own. In fact, it taught me a lot about why I believe what I believe by seeing what it is others believe. It was more like the real world.”
Rachel’s biggest “faith tester” came when her grandmother, Peggy Kendrick, was hit by a car while walking to a Central High football game during Rachel’s senior year.
“That was definitely a major curveball for my life. I was super close to my grandmother, she was my spiritual role model,” she explained. “It’s so difficult to wrap my head around why. She had such a strong faith, and it was hard to understand why God would allow that to happen to her.”
Rachel continued, “There are times in life where it is very hard to be thankful, but I am thankful that I don’t have to go through these times alone. God has provided us with the most incredible support system. My friends, my teachers, my church, the whole community has been so supportive.” In fact, Rachel’s senior prom was a bitter sweet moment as it was both a celebration of what was to come and also a remembrance of her beloved MiMi who passed away early that morning.
Rachel’s support system was in full force, wearing ribbons on their wrists in honor of their friend’s family. It’s proof that Rachel truly took her own advice to heart and found the right group of people.
Navigating the school setting in a godly manner is becoming more and more difficult for teens in today’s world, and we need to be aware of the challenges they are facing, but perhaps we don’t give them enough credit in how they will be able to handle it all and still remain strong. All-in-all Rachel says she is ready to begin her new season of life as an LSU Tiger in the fall.
“I feel very prepared. It doesn’t feel nearly as overwhelming to me as the transition did my
freshman year of high school.”
She added, “My prayer continues to be that I can be in this world, but not of it, and I feel like I will be able to continue to do that thanks to all of those who have shown me how.