Our staff met David in the lunchroom at a local high school. He was angry, loud, rude and verbally abusive. One of our staff would literally come back to the office in tears after her encounters with David. Not because her feelings were hurt but because she could see how much pain he was in and it broke her heart. In conversations with teachers, we found out that we did not just catch David on his bad days. This was his attitude and behavior every day. One teacher in describing David used the word “scary.” When a teacher uses that word you take notice. We didn’t know it at the time but David dealt with self-injury. He used physical pain to mask the emotional pain he felt. David was in a dark place. After several months of attempting to build a friendship with David, he finally came to one of our Campus Life clubs.
David says the first thing that surprised him was that students and staff “actually acted as if they were glad to see him.” The second thing he remembered was that when the program began “the students spoke while the adults listened.” By adults, he meant our Campus Life staff. And he said because they listened when they finally did speak “their words had power.” What a great description of our ministry. At Campus Life, David found a place where he could share his thoughts, frustrations and even at times his anger. He found people who would truly listen and call him out when his behavior was unacceptable. He found a safe place. He found friends in the Campus Life staff and began to trust them with the most difficult parts of his story. These people that he began to trust also shared with him what their lives were all about. And, as he could understand it, they believed that Jesus had changed their lives. He certainly could see a difference in them. So when the invitation was given one evening to trust Jesus he did so with his whole heart. He desperately wanted the forgiveness that Jesus had to offer. This commitment changed everything. David’s heart changed. He graduated high school. He received a degree from the University, got married and is now a great dad and husband. David says that God used the Campus Life staff who just wouldn’t give up on him. They listened to him even as he tried to drive them away. And through it all he found Christ. Overwhelmed by God’s love David became a “new creation.”
Today Tuscaloosa Youth For Christ is involved in Christ-sharing relationships with hundreds of youth. These youth will go on to influence their families, work places, churches and communities in ways we can’t fully imagine. It is only God who can transform the human heart in such a dramatic way. But God has chosen to use our partnership to take the powerful truth of His Son to the youth of our community. On behalf of David and so many others, thank you for your investment in our teenagers.