If you have been reading my Twitter feed or my Facebook statuses, you probably know that now on top of being a full-time student and part-time youth minister, I also now put in 32 hours at a girls’ shelter every week. This shelter is a transitional living setting for teenage girls who have a range of issues, with most being mildly mentally retarded (“low functioning”) and having anger/aggression issues. They have either been taken away from their families, or their families have given them up to the foster system. Most have assault charges, many from the shelter workers, and many from their family (siblings, parents, grandparents, you name it). This is a tough job. I’ve been having nightmares about these girls. They are for the most part as sweet as can be, but they get mad from the smallest (and seemingly strangest) triggers. And when they get mad, they are likely to get physical. It’s a difficult job.
I’m passionate about teenagers and youth ministry, that is no secret. I am working in a church, and I love it. The problem I have had in church work is that I’m not dealing with “real” issues it seems sometimes. When I left St. Louis, I knew eventually I wanted to do inner-city ministry. I want to work with people whose lives have been traumatized by drugs, alcohol, promiscuity, and abandonment. These are issues that I know about. I was needing something more than these “perfect kids” (which I am thankful for at times–makes my job easy! ;)). This job gives me girls that, although aren’t in the “inner-city” area, have the same kinds of issues.
But they kind of scare me, something that I didn’t really think would happen. I suppose it’s because if a girl with anger/aggression issues gave me a dirty look, the old me in STL could intimidate her back. She cursed at me, she could get it back. She fought me, I could fight her back. But that’s the old Heather, a Heather who wasn’t concerned about how to help these girls, but how to not get my butt kicked. So I’m fearful–how do I communicate with these girls, get them not to fight me, and spread the love of Jesus Christ to them all at the same time?
We saw the movie “Green Lantern” together last week, and the movie had a great message that I didn’t realize until now–we are to operate from will, not fear. Will should be the guiding fuel for everything we do, not fear. Fear is the tool of the enemy; the enemy uses fear to attack us. We should be using our innermost desires to guide our actions. For these girls, they want to be loved. They’re fearful that they can’t so they operate from that fear. If they operated from their will, they wouldn’t really use harsh words. They would do everything they can to help others, to be kind, to be fair, and to be everything that Christ was and is.
Another thing that really spoke to me is the song “I Signed up to Die” by Christian rapper Thi’sl. This song is about missionaries–whether local or abroad. I was reminded that I am a missionary to these girls. My responsibility is to be Christ to them, because they have never seen him and have no clue what Jesus was about. And what if they attack me? What if they hurt me? I signed up for this. They need someone who is fearless of them, someone who is there out of love. Love that can ONLY come from the Father.
Live such good lives so that when they speak against you as doing wrong, they’ll see your good deeds and glorify God. 1 Peter 2:12 (Heather Standard Version)
This is what I need right now. They think I’m wronging them every time I discipline them or restrict them from doing things that they want. But when they speak against me as hating them, they’ll realize that everything I do for them is for their own good, and out of Love. Reminds me of how we cry out to God, “God, why do you hate me? What did I do wrong?” Yet God has never left our side, never forsaken us; always had our best interest at heart, an interest that desires for us to be like Him. That’s my responsibility with these girls.