27 Mar Ashley
For our staff, I believe that having perseverance is the cornerstone of the Crossing Educational Center experience. Without it, there is no way we can achieve what we set out to do. We are focused on graduating our students and preparing them for a successful college experience. We are determined to show them the way by positively changing the way they think and teaching them to guard their hearts through God.
Ashley is a beneficiary of this mission.
Three years ago, Ashley was a porcupine in a balloon factory. Engaging her on any level was a delicate process. She was hard-hearted and volatile. She bore her pain like an ox bears his yoke. She had been hurt, abused, and misguided. It seemed like there was a flashing neon light hovering over her head with the words.
“I’m hurting and lost…someone please come find me.”
She didn’t trust us. She didn’t trust anyone. Opening up is not an option for someone who doesn’t trust and she didn’t open up for months. She could share her opinions, but she didn’t share her pain. A Crossing teacher knows that when our students start to feel prompted, and are moved to share their pain, then there is hope for healing.
This hope is cultivated by perseverance.Without perseverance, hope will die.
Ashley represents every student that will challenge us to really think about how selfless the youth workers mission is. We have to persevere. And that means dying to ourselves.
We must die to our preconceived ideas of how a student should act and respond to love, our emotional responses to adverse situations, and our need to see results when planting seeds in the lives of our students.
Our thoughts, hearts, ideas, emotions, and needs have to be entrusted to God, the sustainer of life and protector of our hearts.
An individual effort versus a collective effort of persevering with a student is like the difference between using a chisel versus a bulldozer to tear down a wall. A collective perseverance is what it took to tear down the walls of lies and mistrust around Ashley’s heart.
In family time, she shared with peers her struggles of being a single mom. She was brutally honest about her belief that there was no God. In front of our eyes, she wrestled with the frustration and disappointment of giving herself to an unproductive relationship with her boyfriend. Her horror stories of being raped and abused moved some to tears. She shared stories of her and her family’s drug abuse. Time and time again, she wanted to quit. In fact, she did quit—a few times.
Ashley opened her chest and displayed the scars on her heart.
During this time, our staff reached out to her —- we invited her to church and Bible studies. We had countless private conversations about life and not giving up. She ate dinner with us. We gave our money and resources in her times of need. One of our staff members even got her nails done.
We planted seeds.
We made an investment.
For two years, we tilled the soil of Ashley’s heart. Many times you lose connection with the students over the summer, and you don’t know what God is doing in that students life, but when Ashley returned from summer break, her face shined like the sun.
She talked about how great she felt because she had found the strength to cut ties with her boyfriend after years of emotional abuse. With a smile on her face, she talked about being on her journey to find God and the current vehicle she was doing this through was a local church. She honored me by asking me to be her son’s God-Father —I cried. She was a ball of joy. She was invigorated about life and about starting the new school year. That same joy overwhelmed her at one point during that night to which her eyes started to well up with tears during a conversation with us.
She said, “I don’t know what is happening to me. I have never felt this way before. I don’t know…but I know I love you guys.”
She was listening to her heart and her heart was singing a beautiful song—the song of a heart that was once lost, but had been found.
It was a song of hope.
A song orchestrated by perseverance, one note at a time.
“Perseverance is not a long race;
it is many short races, one after the other.”
(Walter Elliott, The Spiritual Life)
*Excerpt from Come Find Me: Hearing the Cry of the Crossing Student