I never want to take for granted the good-will of our young people. Many are teenagers and it wouldn’t surprise me, nor appall me, if once in awhile, I saw a discrediting look, or a rolling-of-the eyes, or a resistance to roll up their sleeves and do some hard physical work. Yet what I see instead takes my breath away. Rather I see willingness to do whatever is asked, or I see their capacity to stretch to meet the new requirements of the situation, which may have seemed out of their comfort zone before, or I see their ability to tell jokes and laugh together in a way I had not sensed before, or I see a sensitivity to include others, like a young resident of the WIN shelter today in our activities, which seem “normal” to us, but are anything by normal to her.
Our young people are truly amazing, which makes the work of the church in some ways easier and in some ways more challenging. We’re starting with young people who have been taught to care for others, so that makes our “work” of engaging them in mission events easier, for their hearts are already headed that way. It makes our “work” of engaging them in mission events more challenging, for it means we need to invite them into hard situations, so they realize caring for others comes at a cost. Sometimes that cost is discomfort that the world isn’t as we wished it would be for all people.
Today our young people and accompanying adults went to the new Women-In-Need shelter, which is designed to provide safe refuge for victims of domestic violence and sexual abuse. I have been on the board of WIN and then active as a volunteer and active as a PA Advocate for victims of domestic violence and sexual abuse. It has been a time of intense learning and sorrow at the way others have been forced to live. I have learned a lot about life through this experience.
Our physical work today involved clearing sod from the garden area, assembling the raised beds, filling them with topsoil, and planting vegetables and herbs, either grown from our seedlings planted months ago and nurtured by the Hawkins family or provided by WIN. Our spiritual work may have involved asking the question why some people’s lives unfold this way and where God is in it all.
There were two stunning moments today for me. One was when one young resident (9 years old) came and joined us in the planting and fun. She laughed, planted plants and giggled over the jokes about the “creek” created by the overflow of the hose. She had a chance to have “normal” fun, a real treat to her, I suspect.
The other joy was one of the women in the shelter who came to help us plant. We asked her advice on where to plant the cucumbers, and she clearly knew her stuff. She offered good advice on where and how to put the plants together. I don’t know if we realized the value of asking her opinion, but I bet it meant the world to her. Most women who come to the shelter have no idea of who they are or of any value they have, so she clearly is making great progress. That’s to be celebrated.
Today was a great day of service. My heart is filled with gratitude that we are a church who makes this a priority and see it as a way to be formed in our faith.
Please see the photos below or view the photo gallery on our website: www.standrewsshippensbur.og.