Life Changed For Jessica
She barely said hello. Jessica was out of her element and it was obvious she was uncomfortable. She and her sister had just been dropped off by their step-dad for our Camp 48 weekend. As other students were talking, laughing and rough-housing, Jessica just stood in the corner. I attempted several conversations and encouraged our staff to do the same. But she appeared uninterested in engaging with the group. As the first evening passed and the next day began nothing seemed to change. Jessica and her sister could always be found on the edges of the group.
After a long day at camp I had slipped outside to enjoy a few minutes of calm and settled onto the grass to soak up the sun. In the distance I saw Jessica slowly walking back towards the main building. She was alone and it appeared she was in no hurry to reach our home base. I had given Jessica the opportunity to get comfortable over the past 24 hours and felt now was the time to push the conversation forward. As she passed me on the way to the building I made a comment about how this was way better than school. That brought a smile and a response. She stopped and I asked her how school was going. She said it was “okay.” I then discovered she and her sister were new at their high school. After answering my question Jessica sat down on the grass. This was progress.
With a few more questions I had uncovered much of Jessica’s story. How long her mom and step-dad had been
together. All the places she had ever lived. What she hoped to do after high school. With each question and answer her eyes brightened. Have you ever been engaged in a conversation you knew was food for a hungry soul? I couldn’t shake the idea that our conversation was just that for Jessica. How many weeks, months or even years had she gone hoping to share her story and yet no one seemed available to listen. Most high school friends are too hungry themselves to be able to feed another. And Jessica’s shyness did nothing but make such a conversation even more remote. Twenty minutes passed and she was still talking. Not wanting to push too far I suggested we head inside to see what everyone else was doing. I entered the building and made my way across the gym and into the kitchen. Jessica was right on my heels. In the kitchen I brought another staff into our conversation. Jessica listened, talked, and laughed. Wow, what a change. Then the big moment arrived. Would she leave the security of our conversation and risk engaging with the other students? You could see the decision she was wrestling with on her face. And then she was off. She headed straight for a table of students. The other kids reacted as if she was a long lost friend who had just arrived home. She was home.
It’s not often we see such a fast and dramatic change in a life. But kids are starved for what we offer. Many are dying for friendships with peers and caring adults who will ask questions and listen. Some appear to be much different from Jessica. They have tons of friends and are always the center of attention. But we have discovered that most are just as hungry. Thank you for sharing food with kids whose hearts are starved. That night Jessica heard the Good News of a life-giving God that wants to give her even more. Please pray for Jessica as she wrestles with all God has for her.
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