Adding value, fulfilling dreams and some praises and prayers

Adding value – that’s something that I tend to view most activities through that lens.  I guess it comes from my training in Lean Manufacturing.  Mostly, I blame or credit one of my bosses, Tom, for ingraining this into my brain.  But yes, if I do something, I am asking myself, how is this adding value to the customer, whether that customer is my wife, a local church, my children, anyone.  Adding value, it’s kind of a daily mantra.

Fulfilling Dreams – This is more of a life goal.  I deeply desire to fulfill dreams. I want to help Amy realize her dreams, help our kids fulfill their dreams no matter what.  I desire for the Lord to shape our family’s dreams and then chart our course to reach those.

Deeply, I feel the same way about our mission teams and ministry partners.  How can help form a partnership that adds value and fulfills dreams?  When I led a team the last week of September into early October, I was able to witness that first hand.

About 3 years ago, a small group went to the Youth Hostel, a home for at-risk youth.  These youth are “criminals” those who have broken the law (non-violently), or have horrible behavior problems.  This small group didn’t care.

They loved.

They invested.

They were broken.

The thing about the Hostel is that groups don’t go there often.  If any group goes at all, it’s a fly in / fly out.  No group invests a week in the teens there.  I mean they are hardened, they are hard, they are offensive, ministry is dirty.

This group didn’t care.  They ministered and then they came back. They were interested in adding value to these students / teens’ lives.

The following year, I had the opportunity to lead them and we did “science” at the Hostel.  Students / teens who didn’t ever engage in school were captivated by baking soda and vinegar, mentos and coke and dropping eggs from balconies!  For one week of the year, they LOVED school!  Walls were broken, relationships formed and continued.  The teens who are “bad” felt valued, meaningful to society, and loved.  Value added.

This year I had the opportunity to go back with the same team.  As we got there, I saw a gentlemen was on lock down.  It turns out that he ran away, got everyone in trouble and then 9 of the residents thought they would teach him a lesson.  They jumped him in his bunk and beat him up. As I sat down with this resident in “lock-down”, I saw the bruising on the side of his face. I saw his jaw broken.  I saw him spit out broken pieces of teeth.  And I was mad.  Shamefully, I thought to myself these teens don’t deserve to have this team serve them.  These teens are beyond help.

But in that moment, the Lord reminded me that grace and mercy is available for those who desire it.  It was my job, literally, to facilitate these ambassadors of the gospel to shower the residents at the Youth Hostel with God’s love.  It’s true that they don’t deserve it but neither do you and I. We continued ministering.

This time our plan was two fold:

  1. Guys – work on the chicken coop (see last blog post for the finished product)
  2. Girls – work on reading and art – teaching about Fables, short-stories, scary stories and parables.

We got there on Sunday and I noticed a familiar face, only this face was from the orphanage not the Hostel.  I did a double-take, a triple-take and then our eyes met.  She then ran away.  It turns out she did something at the Orphanage to be placed at the Hostel.  I was crushed….again.

Anyway, we entered through the getting to know you stage on Day 1 and had a great day of “ministry” on Day 2.  Day 3 the students challenged us.  Disrespect was abounding and they weren’t “interested” in what we were doing.  We were almost to our breaking point, frustrated with the idea of adding value.  Did we add any value or just beat our heads against the wall?

That night in our meeting, we shared an idea.  Value doesn’t necessarily come during the day that you are doing activity; value may be added to these teens when you show them when we come back following a difficult day.  We may have reached a breaking point; we may have been frustrated.  However, one thing was for sure.  We were coming back.  The thing about God’s love is there is no breaking point.  He is always there forgiving, loving, restoring.  Our team did the same thing.

We went in Day 4 and poured out more of ourselves on the youth.  By this time, some of the guys from the Hostel started to get more interested in the chicken coop and our construction crew of 5 grew to 10.  All of a sudden we had guys yearning to be guys; yearning (and at times fighting) to drill, saw, hammer, in short be a guy that works hard.   And it was awesome!  Guys were taking younger ones under their wing, getting them set up with a tool belt and screw-gun and letting them go!  The look of joy was priceless!  Adding value, fulfilling dreams….

But that was only 1/2 of the activity.  

While that was going on, the women on our team, teaching stories, were allowing and encouraging the remaining students to express themselves through art.   We used drawing, painting, and play-dough to paint scenery, portraits, or model anything they wanted.  It was risky endeavor, especially given how “difficult” the student can be.  But the artistic ability began to shine brightly.  All of a sudden students who we couldn’t get to do anything with reading were spending HOURS on art.  The craziest thing happened each afternoon as the art supplies came out, so did laughter, so did conversation, so did joy.  As value was added to these students’ days through art, barriers to the gospel fell away.

On our final day, all the guys and new helpers stopped construction and everyone including the officers at the Youth Hostel went to an art show of the students’ art from the week.  These hardened “criminals” with joy in their eyes grabbed our team’s hands and showed us “their work.”

“Sir this is mine” “Miss come see what I did”  Smiles, laughter, joy, pride swelled.  Value added, dreams fulfilled.  All in a week of ministry.

We had to leave for the week from the Hostel with this team but as they were leaving there were extra-long hugs. There were a lot of tears, both from the teens at the Hostel and the team members leaving.  There was one other thing, a look of certainty, the look of a promise.  A promise to return, to add value, to help fulfill dreams, to come back next year.  I can’t wait to see this happen!

Learning how to use a screw gun

Learning how to use a screw gun

Art show welcome sign

Art show welcome sign

some of the art from the students

some of the art from the students

working on their portraits

working on their portraits

ownership, working hard, learning value

ownership, working hard, learning value

conversations over Play-dough. Christ's love through art!

conversations over Play-dough. Christ’s love through art!

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