July turned to Susan and told her face-to-face, “You were always there for me, throughout everything, and not everybody was. Your encouragement kept me going when I wanted to give up and your compassion let me know that I could tell you anything.”
Katie* was and is a troubled young woman. All of her life’s “demons” have yet to be exorcised, but at the very least, the reality of how much her Youth Mentoring friend has meant to her over the last 10 years is finally sinking in. As we conversed about nothing and everything, the most poignant sentence she spoke to me was regarding Lois and her husband. Her exact words were, “If it wasn't for LIYM, I'd be dead.”
He wanted to thank John for the ministry of Youth Mentoring and the life changing effect it had on his life. He is currently enrolled in Culinary Institute and has a promising future. He is happy and well adjusted and has had a good life with many happy memories, which he credits to his Youth Mentoring match. He related that he has a brother who did not get matched with a Youth Mentoring volunteer and unfortunately, that brother has been in and out of trouble for years, is not happy and has no plan for a future.
I think that if we sense a “tug on our conscience” to do something that God’s word or Jesus’ life agree with, then God may literally be telling us to do it. This distinction is very important. I believe that the reason many people get a “tug on their conscience” and then put the idea aside because of busyness, fear or finances is that they do not attribute the thought to a direction from God.
Shandra is a kid who stands out in a crowd of her peers and to them, it is as if she carries a sign that reads, “Pick on me.” She is sweet and talkative with a positive outlook on life, but she just doesn’t “fit in”. The subject of friends is conspicuously absent from the conversations between Beverly and Shandra. There is an aunt she loves, mom and grandma, but no friends to talk about. School is simply a lonely place for her. This is an at risk kid in the making.
I pulled up to the front of *Bridget’s house. She was sitting outside on the stoop waiting for me to arrive. She turned and yelled through the door to her older sister, announcing that she was leaving. She was running to the car before I could even open my door. We were off to the circus. It wasn’t just any circus, it was the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus and she was so excited!
Thankfully, the Lord has called Sherry*, Layell’s pen pal mentor, to read her letters, to pray and plead her case before the Lord, to ask Him for the words and then respond to Layell in love in her next letter. This scene is played out over and over again on a weekly basis as the love of Christ extends into the state prison system to young men and women who may otherwise never have the opportunity to hear about Jesus.
Sandy is a tough one. She just does not fit in any of our other programs. She does not fit in youth group or Sunday school. Believe me, we have tried. But she does not fit. We even cast her as Mary in last month’s play. At the first service, she forgot her line, got embarrassed and while running off, she pushed between the wise man and the speaker stand. The speaker came crashing down onto the communion table.
Eight-year-old Courtney* is the oldest of four girls in her family. As with most of our Youth Mentoring kids, Courtney and her three younger sisters are being raised by a single mother. Her parents divorced about two years ago and that was the beginning of Courtney’s challenges. As a result of her depression, anger, hurt and fear over the divorce, Courtney started down a road of overt defiance at home and at school, which caused her grades and peer relationships to dramatically shift in the wrong direction.
Denzel had been referred twice, by two different agencies. The first was a nurse at a local hospital where he had been evaluated after saying for the second time that he wanted to kill himself. Can you imagine, I had no one to match him to. Months later, while still on the waiting list, he was referred again by a counselor who described Denzel as a bright, artistic child who likes to read out loud, loves math, and is desperate for one to one attention. I was told that his single mother of five is working and is understandably, overwhelmed. Denzel was also described as being ADHD, having no friends and getting in fights in school. Christian Mentors.