By Josh Parkin, Le Mars City Life Teen Center Ministry Leader
Over the course of the last year, I’ve begun engaging in conversations with a young man named Elias who is a regular at the teen center. Elias has lived in foster care most of his life, and although I don’t know the entirety of his story, it’s clear that his life has been a struggle. He is the youngest of 5 siblings, all of whom were taken out of their mother’s home and placed in separate foster homes. The older 4 siblings have aged out of foster care and have reconnected with their mother. Elias is able to spend weekends with his mother and siblings but spends his weeks with his foster mother of 9 years. This is a deep source of loneliness and pain in his life.
He a smart kid, but the friends he’s chosen are a bad influence on him-the kind of kids that scoff at God and are all too easily influenced by our secular society. He mentioned to me a few months ago after a lesson I’d given that he doesn’t believe in hell. “Did you know that Jesus spoke often about hell?” I asked. “No”, he said, “but I don’t really read the Bible”. I explained gently to him that our knowledge about God needs to be based on scripture, not our own subjective feelings or thoughts. I could tell that the gears in his head were turning. In subsequent conversations since then, Elias has shown more curiosity about God. I keep encouraging him to ask more questions and to honestly seek out God. Matthew 7:7 says, “Ask and you shall receive. Seek and you shall find. Knock and the door will be opened.” Getting a kid like Elias to ask questions and to not be satisfied until you get the answers is a great place to start.
As we’ve become more comfortable talking with one another at the teen center and sharing our stories, Elias recently expressed a desire to sit down and talk with me privately about his life, his struggles and his fears. I’m looking forward to that talk. God has a plan for Elias, and if I, as well as my fellow volunteers, can be a small part of his Christian journey, then we are all truly blessed. This is the heart of what we are called to do, walking in authentic, Christ sharing relationships with kids like Elias.