If we were to choose just one word to describe the work of the Teen Ministry director, the word ‘invest’ comes to mind. The day-to-day schedule may vary greatly. However, the hours that fill our work weeks are full of in-person connections: private mentoring with our participants, assisting in the referrals of community services for participants and their families, and pouring our love out to our participants in whatever way they need.
Being a trauma-informed program, we understand that there is a story behind every person: their thoughts, their beliefs, and their actions. What has their survival looked like? That being said, success and progress look different than what may be considered successful in another environment. There is such beauty in the privilege of being able to walk alongside our participants and support their growth in life and in Christ.
Last week, in the Juvenile Detention Center, we were blessed with one of these beautiful moments.
But this visit was unique, as it took place through a jail cell door. A teen boy - we will call him J - landed himself in some trouble. J is not a stranger to trouble, but this charge worried him more than any of the others.
Greeted with a face expressing a mixture of joy, shame, and confusion, as well as a welcoming gesture to sit nearer, we each found ourselves on the concrete floor - hips kissing the cold steel door, facing one another where meal trays are typically passed through. Instead, it was words of fear and of hope, of frustration and of understanding, of anger and of wisdom. There were tears, there were compassionate smiles, and there were love and trust.
J was scared. He was forced to sit in the weight of his actions. The negative voices in his head were deafening, and the consequences were heavy. J was angry. How can a “friend” betray his to-a-fault loyalty? J felt hopeless. After being a victim of the loss of many loved ones from a life of crime, J knows this lifestyle is a slippery slope.
The beauty lies in the rock bottom. We talked about life and the plan God has created just for each and every one of us. God knows our end and gives us a purpose long before we were in our mother’s womb. How beautiful it is to see our situations and circumstances as a means to seek God, to find God, and to bring us closer to Our Creator! What if this rock bottom is really a fresh start, a redirection, a rebirth?
With little hope, feeling left behind and wearing tangible defeat, we prayed. We prayed for strength, we prayed that Christ may make His presence known, and we prayed that God would give J the courage to brave his next chapter. Above all, we prayed that God would show J how loved he is, and that he isn’t alone.
Where others see trouble, we see the treasure, and a precious Child of God, seeking hope. We can do just that. The deep investment in our participants allows us to pour out the love of Christ and His Living Hope into their hearts each and every day.
Annie Kieffer, Refuge Site Director