I had no idea what it was like to grow up in a single-parent household, wonder if our fridge would have groceries, be afraid to walk to school and watch my mom work 3 jobs to take care of me and my siblings.
When I was 24 years old, I joined a bible study started by a colleague at my office. I had recently become a Christian and didn’t know what to do next. Through some of her friends, I was invited to volunteer with HFY at an event where their church was participating (I can’t remember which). Even though I felt intimidated about being around a bunch of teens (I remembered what it was like to be a teen and I was NOT always easy to be around), God put something on my heart to return to HFY and volunteer again, on my own. Each time I went, I felt nervous that I wouldn’t be able to offer the kids anything or know what I was doing. I was a new Christian and had so much junk still in my life, who was I to be an example to kids? Not to mention, I was from a middle class, suburban family, I had two, married parents and going to college was something I knew I’d do since I was young. I had all my material needs met. I never worried about my safety. We were so different. I had no idea what it was like to grow up in a single-parent household, wonder if our fridge would have groceries, be afraid to walk to school and watch my mom work 3 jobs to take care of me and my siblings. These were the things that the resilient kids I met were dealing with, daily. But, somehow, I trusted God to make me valuable to the organization and to give me a purpose in His plan for the kids.
I participated in Jesus N the Hood and Friday Night get-togethers. I ran a small group with the most amazing girls who I picked up from their homes so they could make it to HFY events. I went swimming with the kids and had beach days in Galveston. I helped kids with their homework, played games, chaperoned Christian rap concerts and helped set up and clean up at events. HFY was a very young organization when I joined. Wendy Dewlan was running it on a tiny budget while being a wife (and later, mom) and I’m pretty sure, holding a job. It was apparent that God was Wendy’s business partner, running the organization to serve the communities that needed to see His face.
I lived out in Richmond, TX, at the time. I often drove the 40 mile drive home crying because of the stories my girls would share in small group. I didn’t understand how God could let these girls bear the things they had been through. I would pray and ask Him, Why, Lord? Then He would say, “Be still and know that I am God…Trust in the Lord with ALL your heart and lean NOT on your own understanding.” And I rested, knowing that He loved those girls and all of the kids he brought to HFY. He gave them HFY as a refuge to know Him, to feel His love, to learn something they didn’t know. And He brought me and all of the volunteers there to be his hands and heart.
One night, one of the girls I gave a ride to from her foster home, shared her story of abuse that hit me so hard, I decided, “I have to do something that will make me more prepared to help these girls.” It wasn’t instant, but that was the night that God put it on my heart that I WOULD do something different, and He would show me how.
I ended up leaving HFY because of my work schedule. But, God directed me later to quit my corporate job and go to graduate school to become a Marriage and Family Therapist. He equipped me to understand how to give hope and encouragement to those for whom it seems lost. He has given me a great gift of insight so that I can see what is really going on in marriages, families and individual’s lives so that I can intervene on God’s behalf, allowing Him to help them through me. I trust that He brings me the clients who need me and the word He has to give them in our time together. And I know of this all started when He was teaching me to do these things while I was at HFY. I was just a willing child of God, saying, “Father, I can’t do this. But, You can! So show me.”
God gave HFY to the kids of Houston, so that they might see His love through the volunteers who step up, in all of their anxiety and inadequacy, and give their time and love, knowing that God will show them how to do it. It is intimidating to do something new, especially when you don’t know how. But, the value for those you serve and the growth you receive from God in those moments…unparalleled!
I hope I touched the lives of the kids at HFY, even if no one remembers me or my name. It was never about me. It was about Jesus. Meeting Him there at the Friday Fun Nights and at the beach and during summer camp. He is the greatest gift we can give anyone and we do that best when we get out of His way and say, “It’s all you, Lord. Just show me how to show them You.” Like the Jeremy Camp song says, “I need the world to see that it’s Christ in me.” He knows those kids and He knows the volunteers. He knows what He’s doing when He brings them together. We just have to let Him.