Posts Tagged ‘teenagers’

Marathon, by Mandy Lail

September 4, 2009

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.

Advertisements

Food for a Day, by Matt Cooper

June 9, 2009

If you have a family you likely know the reality of living on a budget.  You know how much you spend on utilities, on gasoline, and how much you’ll spend on groceries for the month.  But have you ever figured out how much money it takes to feed yourself or each of your children for one day?

Here in Back2Back’s Hope Program, we too of course live on a budget.  As teen home parents of the James House my wife, Julie, and I have the challenging job of feeding eight teenage boys.  With the budget we’re allotted each month, we can spend about $4 (US) a day on each of our boys for their food.  If you have teenage boys…you know THEY CAN EAT, and you know that $4 suddenly doesn’t sound like very much money.  Our boys like to eat, and they like to eat a lot, but with as much as they enjoy eating, it certainly does not mean that they are always grateful for what we have to eat, nor do they always appreciate the value of what it is they’re consuming.

Recently, after a series of days filled with what I felt to be insensitive comments about what there was to eat and drink in the house, and after a general disrespect for some of our kitchen rules I decided it was time for a lesson.

So, just before bedtime I set all eight boys down for a few quick comments about respect for authority, and gratefulness for what we have – and then I handed them each $4.  I explained that they could use any of their personal money they wanted, but that for the next 24 hours this was all we were contributing towards their food.  I graciously gave them the option of eating at school, at local street vendors, at 7-Eleven, or wherever they pleased – but if they wanted to eat the food in our house they would have to “buy it” from us.  The looks on their faces were priceless – they all immediately “got it”.  I almost think I could have stopped the lesson right there, and had them hand their money back in…but I think they would have missed a large part of the lesson.  The next 24 hours were no doubt long for them as they had to think about budgeting, and stretching their $4 to make it last all the way through dinner – but I honestly think the larger lesson was on gratefulness and appreciation.  A lesson I hope and pray they will remember for the rest of their lives.

Marcos with his $4 for the day

Marcos with his $4 for the day