Last May I attended River Academy’s graduation ceremony and was so impressed with Sharon, our Valedictorian. She was engaging, confident, and authentic as she spoke about her challenges along with some achievements and those people who had made a positive impact on her while at Holston Home.
Afterwards, I couldn’t wait to congratulate her and share what the Lord had put on my heart while I listened and watched her presentation. I told Sharon that God had gifted her as a natural leader. I said that I didn’t know where she was in faith, but that if she would just stay close to Him, it would be amazing how He could use her. She thanked me graciously but quickly moved along to the other festivities with her fellow graduates.
A week or so went by and Sharon was assisting one of our youth ministers in the audio/visual booth at our Sunday chapel service. Becky had recently arrived at Holston Home and went to the altar to pray. Sharon didn’t know her yet but told our staff that she felt like she was supposed to go and pray with her, and so Sharon did just that! She went down front to where Becky was kneeling and, putting her hand on her shoulder, she prayed with her. Almost instantly, she hugged Sharon as tears rolled down her cheeks. It was a very sweet and tender moment, but we had no idea what the significance was until a few days later. In a weekly Bible study, Becky told the group that she had been struggling to believe that God was real and that even if He was real that He cared about her. She said that she had prayed, “God, if You are real and if You really care about me-show me! Send someone to pray with me.” Then she felt a hand on her shoulder, and she knew that God was there and that He did love her. Although she didn’t know Sharon that Sunday morning, she knew her now and was so grateful that God had sent her to show her His love.
Despite these mountaintop experiences, Sharon started to have a really hard time and began making some bad decisions. She was getting close to turning 18, and she didn’t have any family in her life. She felt like she wasn’t worthy of love, and she was trying to sabotage the relationships she had formed at Holston Home before we gave up on her too. Despite our best efforts to assure her of our love and commitment while also holding her accountable, she continued to spiral into a dark and hopeless mindset. She turned 18 and fully expected us to kick her out and let her learn the hard way.
Although Jesus teaches us to bring the children to Him, we do not read any passages that say grace runs out when a person becomes an adult. Aren’t you glad? We told Sharon that we were not giving up on her and that Holston Home was still her home if she chose to stay. This demonstration of unconditional love and acceptance was a game changer. Sharon started receiving love and dreaming about her future again. She took the ASVAB test for the military and performed very well on it. She decided to pursue the Navy as a Submarine Sonar Technician and will be graduating this May from basic training. We are so proud of her as we watch God’s promises coming to fulfillment.
Whether it is Becky, Sharon, you, me, or any of the kids at Holston Home, the enemy is always looking to cause us to doubt who God is and how He feels about us. Every child’s journey is unique, but it is such a blessing to see how He reveals Himself and sends His people to make His love known at just the right time and in just the right way. He used Sharon; He used Holston United Methodist Home for Children, and; He uses you as you pray for our youth and give so that we can minister to hurting children and young adults for the long haul. Thank you for hearing His voice like Sharon did so that more and more young people experience Jesus’ love and hope for their futures. I pray that even as you read this letter that you will know His love and concern for you and your family. Thank you again for your support of this ministry, and may God bless you!