Marathon, by Mandy Lail

This summer, I was often asked by mission trip guests, “What does a typical day look like in a Teen Home of the Hope Program?”

Wow, the best answer is actually…  “There is no typical day – each one is a new adventure!” As you can imagine, it’s semi-controlled chaos in a teen home on our Back2Back Mexico campus.  Days are full with households ranging in size from seven to sixteen! There are endless responsibilities and conversations for managing meals, chores, curfews, school enrollment, studying for exams, school supplies, friends, jobs and everything else that comes with raising teens (and staff kiddos, as well).

Cooking dinner with the boys

Cooking dinner with the boys

As a Teen Home parent, I often feel winded, like I just finished a sprint, but in reality it’s more of a marathon.  Many days will not hold a visible pivotal ministry moment.  Many days feel more like a chaotic dash of the never ending “stuff” to be done. But the precious reality of this ministry is the invested time – living life together.  Because we are here day in and day out, because we can be found in the kitchen or upstairs at all hours, because we sit and eat with them, because we are here…over time many of these students will allow us entrance into their tangle.

The lives of our teens are a tangle of old wounds, dysfunctional family connections, hopes and dreams for the future, and worries about the present.  It’s a mighty tangle.  But the beauty is that when we choose to entangle ourselves into their daily tangle, many begin to allow us more and more entrance into their lives.  And then, in those unplanned and unpredictable moments of living life together, God just might allow us to speak His truth to them and they just might listen.

This summer felt like a daily sprint with our summer schedule of visiting short-term mission groups and end-of-the-year activity at school for our boys.  I ended each day exhausted and often overwhelmed.  But now that it has passed, God has graciously reminded me that He was at work the whole time.  In the midst of that constant dash, I shared the gospel with Pablo late one night.  I spoke truth to Marcos about who he is and what God wants for him, after an issue at school.  I had a difficult but necessary conversation with Mario about his behavior and choices in life. I had multiple conversations with Homero about his decisions and who God has made him to be.  And I was able to answer Gabriel that yes, indeed, I would love to be the mother he never had.

None of these were planned moments. They happened in the car, at the kitchen table, and sitting at the lake, all because we have chosen to entangle ourselves in their tangles.  Up close, it feels like a sprint.  It’s tiring; it’s intense; and sometimes, even maddening.  But when we can step back and look at it like a marathon, it’s nothing short of miraculous.

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