What doesn't go on in the life of a teenager? What is consistent for a teenager? The heart of a teenager is strong and fragile. It's crazy and serious. It's hardened and then softened. It's private and yet vulnerable. It's wild and timid. It's angry and forgiving. It's hopeless and hopeful. It's hormonal and more hormonal. It's scared and worried. It's carefree and desiring to belong. It's confused and confident. It's happy and sad. It's smart and ... not so smart. The heart of a teenager is fulfilled and sometimes lonely.
I am a mom of four teenagers and this is the only year I can claim the title of "Having Four Teens". We live under one roof, except when our 19 year old is at college. But when she's home, the floors are bouncing and the walls are echoing with noise.
My kids have friends from all areas of their lives. Some I sort of know, while others are as dear to me as my own kids. I have been a youth leader for the past several years. Last winter my
co-leader and I had an opportunity to stretch a handful of girls by taking them on a prayer walk around the Iowa State Capitol building and then to a children's hospital in Des Moines. Afterwards we sang worship songs, decorated mugs, and devoured cookies. It's hard to believe these girls I hold dear to my heart will be graduating from high school in less than a year and moving on to the next phase of their lives…taking my heart with them. For four years I transported a van load of high school acapella singers throughout the Des Moines metro to deliver singing valentines, averaging 100 miles each year. What a joy to hear them warming up in four part harmony. And what humility to pray and cry with them after they sang over a teenage boy suffering from a traumatic brain injury. I love to chaperone missions trips, school events, or anything that needs a parent volunteer. I had the opportunity to be a part of a national teen conference last summer. We spent the week worshipping God, studying the Bible, and participating in community projects with 5,000 other Christian teens. I currently am part of Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA), a ministry which reaches out to teens and young adults. Twice a month, we promote and conduct outreach meetings known as "huddles' at Valley High School in West Des Moines. I pray and I pray as I realize there are athletes who are hearing about God for the first time. Or maybe that night is the only time they experience reading the Bible. When I give teens a ride home, I'm known for burning lots of fuel as we share about life and pray into the late night hours. I've learned sleepovers are the best opportunities to gather a captive audience and share life's victories and concerns over a fresh batch of popcorn.
I think I love teenagers so much because I remember too well the heart of a teen. The ups and downs, the drama and pain. I truly empathize with what they are going through. I want to help them fight through the hard times and give them life long tools they can use to battle for truth and have victory over the lies which can so easily bring them down. It's especially hard for those who desire to follow Christ in a culture where it's no longer popular to do so. Those who are trying to live in the world and not be of the world need to be showered with TRUTH in order to drown out the lies.
As I continue to find ways to connect with teenagers, I was recently presented with a unique opportunity to help make a difference in teens lives from around the globe! Through a long process of events, I'm now a local coordinator for an organization which connects foreign exchange students with U.S. families and schools. In this new venture, it's my privilege to find loving families who are willing to host a foreign exchange student in their homes. This past school year, a 17 year old boy from the Czech Republic was hosted by the Gernant family of West Des Moines. He attended Valley High School and also became a part of the Valley Church family. He was immersed in American culture but mostly from a Christian perspective thanks to the Gernant family and countless friends and mentors from Valley Church. I'm truly thankful he was able to experience the love of Jesus in such a personal way. God reflected His grace, love and compassion through a bunch of Iowans to a young man from the Czech Republic right here in our own backyard! I hope and pray he holds onto what he has learned and experienced and shares it with his family and friends back at home.
I want to help other teens from around the world experience what this young man did, but I need your help in doing so. Please contact me if you feel lead to host a student for 2 semesters, 1 semester or even a couple weeks in the summer. You can reach me at Jill@relonline.com