September 1, 2009
Dear Family and Friends,
My eyes were supposed to be closed, but I can never resist the temptation to look around when the speaker asks everyone to close their eyes and raise their hand, “If…. This time I justified my sneakiness by reasoning that our youth were the ones responding and we needed to know the answer to better help them.
It was the last night at Jr. High Camp where youth from several World Impact ministries spent the end of their summer learning about trusting in the firm foundation of Christ and allowing Him to build new things in their lives. The statement they were responding to this time was “Raise your hands if you have been told that you are worth nothing or that you wouldn’t amount to anything.” Hands went up all around the room.
Then the speaker asked those students to come to the front of the room and the camp counselors to come pray over them. The sound of metal chairs scratching on the concrete floor filled the room as broken and timid youth walked forward. There was a solemn pain in the air that seemed palpable as I stood up front, for the second night in a row, with a Jr. High girl holding tightly to me. This night the arms wrapped around my waist were those of a young girl from the World Impact Dallas ministry. The youngest of all brothers, she was scrappy and full of attitude. Tonight, however, I could see past the protective walls she had built and saw a little girl trying to survive the pain and lies that made up her experience with life.
As I looked around the room I saw another young man with a reputation for clowning around leaning against the wall, staring straight ahead as slow tears tracked his cheeks, a counselor adamantly speaking truth over him. Yet another boy, a sweet, tenderhearted boy, had his head buried in the speaker’s chest crying.
A deep river of pain had been tapped into and even as we finished our prayers and closed out the session, many of the kids continued to cry, needing someone to help share the burden of their heavy tears and to fill their ears with whispers of hope.
It was one of the most beautiful and heartbreaking moments I have experienced. Their weary and tear-stained faces spoke of the abuse, neglect, rejection, and lies these youth have known, but even as I saw brokenness I was taken by the beauty and purpose written on their faces. And I wished so much that somehow they could see their faces just as I saw them then, surely only an imperfect version of Christ’s view of them.
As long as Andrew and I have been here in St. Louis we have witnessed things for which we have no answer in and of ourselves: Why do so many of these kids have to experience abuse? Why are people’s family members senselessly killed? Why do some have to experience the hardships of poverty?
I was reminded that week at camp that no words I can say will make right what those kids have experienced, but a willingness to see people as Christ sees them and to simply hold them and speak new words to them, words of life and of hope, can be life-changing. It was not by accident one of their memory verses that week was Jeremiah 29:11, because our God is a God of healing and of new beginnings, and He is a God who lovingly looks on each of us saying, “For I know the plans I have for you… plans for wholeness and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” Pray for these youth, and for our neighbors, that they would experience the healing of our heavenly Father and come to know their worth and purpose in His Kingdom.
For His Kingdom, Andrew & Adria Medlen