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Building Upon a Foundation of Relationships

When a new year starts in the life of my family, one thing we do is sit down, during a mealtime, and reflect on all of the important events in the life of our family from the year that has just passed. These events are good, bad, painful, joyful, all that we identify as important.

As I reflected this month on Outreach, and all that happens here, I’m faced with the amazing moment that Outreach has existed for twenty years! So many youth have come and gone since Outreach’s beginning.  One of the youth, with whom I work, has been receiving support and assistance from Outreach since the summer of 2010.  Terrence has made some great progress!

One of our core values is relationship; to love, know and be known by one another, and God. Often, I think we take for granted that relationship, on any level, is taking place here and that it’s not necessarily something that requires a lot of skill.  However, what we have found is relationship is one of the most difficult aspects of our ministry; that is, if we are looking at relationship from God’s perspective.

To truly know someone, and to be known by them, is actually quite a lengthy experience. Individuals who have a relatively healthy emotional upbringing still have to go through the healthy steps of developing a relationship.  Strong, true friendships don’t take place quickly or easily.  Once they are established, however, they can last a lifetime.

For many of our youth, their beginning years started in very dysfunctional and sometimes very abusive relationships. People that should have been trusted, such as a mother and father, are often the source of the greatest pain they have experienced.  To start out life, on their own, as an adult and develop trust with another adult is not an easy task.  Being in relationship for ten years might be required for some individuals to finally let go of control and entrust themselves to another.

Terrence is one of those individuals that has taken a long time to develop trust. Since this has been such a challenging task – to trust someone – making progress in life has been slowed significantly.  Think about how trust issues impact your life.  Some of you have the experience of going to a medical professional and believing that what he/she says is true about the medical diagnosis and treatment you need.  You leave the office following that medical professional’s advice. If you have never had a trusting relationship with an adult, you are less likely to go to a doctor or dentist for quite a long time.

Some of you furthered your education and have entrusted parts of who you are to the professor/instructor of that class, writing and sharing about aspects of who you are and what you believe. This action of attending school requires trust.  Your effectiveness and productiveness in all aspects of life requires a trust level to exist between people.  Some of our youth even have difficult talking to anyone at a desk, at school or any kind of organization or service.

Terrence has found it very difficult to trust anyone. Even at Outreach, case managers have come and gone.  With the change in staffing over the years, Terrence has learned not to really open up his heart to a staff completely.  My work with Terrence, during 2015, was a challenging journey of stepping more into his heart and life and providing the chance for him to trust me.  Sometimes these steps include me sharing honestly with Terrence and his reaction of anger at what I’ve shared.  He expressed honestly how he felt but only when pressed on.

In 2015, Terrence took the chance to trust me as I led him to a program, called Youth Build, that enables a young adult to complete his/her high school equivalency. Simultaneously, the students are taught construction skills and will eventually receive a certification in construction if they complete the training.  Thus far, Terrence received his high school equivalency and is nearing completion of the construction training part of the program.  He has received high grades on all of his construction tests.

At Outreach, the case managers have been so proud of Terrence. His willingness to take a risk with this employment program began with his willingness to trust me and what I shared about this program.  There was an interview process and he was grilled fairly intensely during this interview.  I sat right behind him and listened.  At one point, Youth Build staff asked who mentored him and who he trusted.  He shared that he trusted me, his case manager, and was willing to share more about what this meant.  I’m so grateful that all of the work investing in our relationship not only has benefited his ability to trust another person, it has also aided him in taking steps to stabilize and improve his life.  I’m grateful also for all of the staff that have invested in Terrence prior to my arriving.  Their groundwork provided a foundation for me to build upon. Through learning how to love God’s way, we have the privilege of walking alongside these youth and watch them blossom in every way.

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