6 years ago we had this crazy little idea, me and Adam.
It started out as a simple conversation: What if we started a youth center. I mean, these teenagers are just walking around town with nothing to do! They are going to end up getting into trouble, and who doesn’t need to know that someone cares about them?
Ok. Let’s do it!
And off we went.
We didn’t know any of the kids from town, really. But we just felt like these kids needed to know that there were adults who cared about them…not because it was their job. Not because they were getting paid. But just because God tells us to love, so we love. That’s it.
Slowly, we got to know the teenagers. A few here and a few there. We started recognizing faces around town and we started establishing ourselves in town as a place parents could trust their kids to be. Hundreds of teenagers have come through our doors. Each and every name goes on a spreadsheet just to make sure we sign them in each day in case they forget to check in with their parents! We feed them, listen to them, talk to them, laugh with them and play games with them. Here’s what has happened since the beginning.
We have loved these kids
All of them. No seriously. All of them.
Some of them give us a run for our money, but we even love them.
We are about to go on vacation to Florida for the week. And with that, comes the reminder that there are places besides Epping that we could live. We could live in a place that is warm all year round. A place where Adam could have a job tomorrow if he wanted. We could live in a place that has great Christian schools to choose from for the boys, and beautiful warm water beaches.
And this is the reason I’m mad at the teenagers from Epping.
Every time we think about doing anything else besides being here, the faces of these kids come into my head. You may think I’m crazy, but it’s for real. I can not leave these kids. I love them. Every one. Even the kids who used to hang with us every single day during middle school and now don’t even wave hello now that they’re in high school. Even the kids who complain about the snacks we give them, and the ones who have chosen to get in fights in front of our building. I can’t leave! I can’t leave and move to Florida, because I love these stinking teenagers too much!
So..this is for all my Epping teenagers,
If you have ever walked into the porch? I have prayed for you. I promise you that.
If you looked like you were having a bad day? I prayed for you.
If I’ve seen that things were tough through Facebook? I’ve prayed for you. Because I take my job seriously. No, I don’t get paid a penny for what I do, but I can’t help but think…Everyone needs at least one person to care about them. And many of you have awesome parents, but sometimes it needs to be someone besides your parents! Sometimes you can feel like your parents “have” to love you. But when it’s someone else? It’s different. So that is what I plan to do. (Although I will say that I have had to “hide” some of you on Facebook…sorry, but your language is a little bit atrocious.)
I am not gonna lie, some days you come in and I’m smiling at the kitchen door handing out snacks and I have had a really bad day. But I smile anyways. Because I want you to know something – people who love God always have a reason to smile. Lately, things have been hard for me to feel like I want to keep going because I have felt under-appreciated. Not by you, just by other people. But I will keep coming in no matter what. Sometimes you come in and I’ll hug you because I feel like you look like you need it. Some days I back away because it looks like you just want to be alone.
Either way, I am still going to be there for you.
Some of you will never really open up to me, and that’s ok. Because even though you don’t know it, I am asking God to do amazing things in your life. I pray for you even as you are sitting there texting on your phone, or listening to your music. I am asking God to show you how much value you have. How much He loves you, and that he has a plan and purpose for your life…because he does. And maybe no one else is praying that for you. You guys are all amazing. Amazing in different, crazy, unique ways. And I love that about you. I love that about God! That He made us all so different. So unique. Some of you have blue hair. Some of you wear clothes that I would never wear. Some of you have a harder life than I ever had. Some of you came in telling me all about fact that you wanted to become a satanist. Some of you have said you were wiccan, catholic, confused, agnostic, christian. Some of you told me about the fact that you were being bullied, or that you were failing a class, or that your grandfather died, or that you were mad at your parents.
I promise you these things: I will never judge you. But I will also never be afraid to tell you the truth. There IS absolute truth. And I will never shy away from telling you about it if you ask. Sometimes I think you need to hear if you did the wrong thing! It’s always because I want what’s best for you! I want you to know that I think you are way too smart to be smoking pot, and way too cool to be hanging around people who do! I want you to know that even though you feel like no one likes you, people do like you, and you have so much to offer. I want you to know that cutting yourself is not the answer, and finding someone you can talk to about your pain is so important. I want you to know that I have cried for some of you when I saw you walking alone on the street, or telling me that no one likes you. That breaks my heart. I want you to know that you are going to make it. I want you to know that there are some tv shows you just should not be watching, and there are some people on instagram you should not be following. I want you to know that God is real, and He wants a relationship with you. I want you to know that there is no shame in asking for help. And I want you to know that you can dream big and do amazing things with your life if you choose to. I want you to know that I believe in you and I will never stop praying for you. And I want you to know that I will be there to help you accomplish any dream you have ever had.
So thanks a lot guys. Thanks a lot. It’s because of you and your stinking awesomeness that I am going to have to continue living in a place that has long winters and short summers.
But really. I love you guys so so much. And I am grateful for the small part I get to play in your lives. You are amazing. Truly amazing.
Love, Rachelle. (aka – hey you, get me a snack 🙂 )