Our perfect friend, Lydia, wrote a guest blog for us about what she does and how we ended up being supremely blessed by the kids she works with at a school for teenagers, who have been through things no human should ever have to go through. Being with the girls Lydia works with ended up being some of the best days of ministry we have had on this entire trip. Being able to see past the hurt in their eyes and love these girls for who they really are was simply a beautiful privilege. Check it out:
“I work at a therapeutic boarding school for troubled teens. I get to walk daily with kids who have faced incredible pain and trauma in their short lives. Every day is a challenge. You never know what each day has in store when it comes to the kids we help. I have learned patience and grace in a whole new way while working as a mentor to these kids. In one given day, you can go from a child cursing at you, wanting to physically fight you, to experiencing the beauty of reconciliation and laughter.
We practice something called TIC , Trauma Informed Care, in our facility. The idea is that we recognize the trauma a child has experienced and how it effects their behaviors. When we see behaviors we have learned to “lean in” and to just be present. We don’t try to fix or change, we just “be” because often a behavior is connected to a heart cry. It’s incredible how a kid can go from yelling and throwing objects out of anger to sitting and laughing with you just by you allowing them to feel whatever they are feeling and not try to fix them. I have seen an escalated kid go from extreme anger to laughter just by offering a snack. The snack was more than just some pretzels, it was a message saying, “your needs will be met, and therefore you are cared for.” If you are cared for then you are safe. If you trust that you are safe you can begin to control the emotions you are experiencing.
Something that took me awhile to understand is that in providing consequences you provide safety. For a long time I wanted to be the “fun” mentor. I gained trust with kids through playful interaction and consistency in being there even when they are escalated. But what I did not realize is that part of building trust is showing that you are safe even when a kid is not acting safe. Showing a kid you will keep them safe through a consequence is a weird concept at first. They’re angry at you. They cuss you out. A few hours later you somehow have a stronger bond than you did before. Why? Because there’s safety in consequence. Sometimes a kids behavior is a cry for someone to keep them safe. I have seen kids physically escalate and know that what they really need to know is that they cannot keep themselves safe and they are asking in the only way they know how for someone to help them. The goal is to teach them how to regulate their emotions and communicate their needs in a healthy way. They can learn to cope with their anger, anxiety, and depression by utilizing the tools they are learning.
This job has taught me so much about the heart of the Father. I have learned what it means to “borrow His peace” through the way I see the kids borrow mine. My response is to come directly from the security and peace I have in Christ. And when they reject it, there is grace and forgiveness. I am blown away daily in how I see Jesus use me to love His children. There’s days when I want to run away and hide because it seems too hard. I am often reminded that it is not my own strength that I rely on.
A huge factor for our kids is that they have learned that they cannot trust adults. It is hard for them to make healthy attachments in general, let alone with people older than them. Jess, Josh, and Derek came through Kansas City to spend a few days with my family and I. During their stay, they were able to visit my job and minister to the girls that I work with. I saw something incredible happen that can only be explained because of Jesus. I watched these kids immediately develop trust with these three adults that they had never met before. They wanted to spend time with them, learn from them, and hear their stories. They didn’t have to preach at them they just sat with them. They listened. They offered empathy and kindness that has had a lasting effect on the kids to this day. They connected with the kids by meeting them exactly where they were.
Josh, Derek, and Jess spent maybe 4 hours collectively with these kids and I am still seeing the ripple affect of what God did during that time. Derek was able to give away some of his keys to a few of the girls, as well as hand written letters. The girls still wear the necklaces as reminders of the truth spoken over them that they are precious daughters of God. Josh and Jess connected with the girls over music and writing. I saw God use them to speak truth and life and the conversations they started are still continuing because God is good.
The truth is that God can use anyone. When we are willing to walk in the authority He has given us, we will see mountains move. We will see cold and broken hearts healed.”
[For safety reasons, we could not include the name or pictures of the school or girls, so here is a picture of the three of us with Lydia outside downtown Kansas City. Lydia is the girl in the middle of the picture.]