Three Bowls of Chili
It was “Family Day”! The staff and volunteers had prepared the youth centre to receive many families from the community. From the Skate Park project to the renovated program rooms, everything was setup to play, laugh and have some quality time as families. Chili, that had been prepared in our almost renovated kitchen, was on the menu for the day. Tables and chairs were setup in the future café space. The smells and sounds of home soon filled the air. This renewed space was fulfilling its purpose. That day I had my bowl of chili with other families who enjoyed spending time together and building new memories.
The following night I was at Streetlight. What was on the menu, you might ask….chili! A new girl came out to the mobile youth centre and we soon learned that this was her first night on the streets. Her age ranged in her story from 15-17 and pieces of her journey were not lining up. It was obvious to the team that she was in distress with no identification, no clothes other than what she had on and no home to go to.
This young girl had been wandering downtown on Richmond Street for a few hours. Fortunately she was discovered by one of the teen moms who was coming to Streetlight that night. Once at the mobile centre, we were able to get her warmed up and I was able to spend my second bowl of chili with her as she shared her story. Lost, abandoned and alone, this child was the perfect candidate for a street predator. Fortunately she was brought to Streetlight where we were able to get her connected to London Women’s Community House who provided her with emergency shelter and effective support to begin to understand her new journey. I was thankful Streetlight was there as a safe place of refuge, hope and direction for this vulnerable young teen.
Then yesterday, a young woman’s screams coming from our youth centre’s parking lot came to my attention. When I went out, I found a mother and grandmother with their daughter/granddaughter, trying to support her as she was having withdrawals from her drugs. I encouraged the mother and grandmother to go into the youth centre while I talked with their daughter. It quickly became evident that this young woman was finding herself homeless, without friends and only wanting her next use of drugs.
She calmed down enough to come into my office to talk through her what her potential options and choices were. My third bowl of chili from the café was with this young woman as she shared some of her pains and frustrations with life. She told me how drugs had taken everything from her (friends, family and her two year old daughter). She felt worthless, abandoned and lost in a dark space that was quickly getting darker. Sadly her choice at the end was not a good one. She chose the streets over shelter and support. I watched as her mother and grandmother, broken by the state in which they saw their daughter/granddaughter, released their child as she desperately called “friends” to give her a place to stay.
My heart breaks that all our encounters with youth don’t have positive outcomes. Drugs and mental illness is robbing so many of our young people today. But our purpose is not to create a “happily ever after”, but rather to provide a voice of hope, reason and support in young people’s journeys. This third bowl of chili was a difficult one to swallow, but God allowed me to still communicate to this girl that He loved her, knows her intimately and still has a wonderful plan for her life. She seemed to understand that no matter how far she would go, she always had the power of choice and that God would never leave or forsake her…but He would never force her against her choices.
Would you pray for these youth that we work with every day? Pray that they would see how precious they are, that their individual life matters and that they would experience the presence and power of God’s love in their life. The more we journey with youth, the more we see their need to be connected with Jesus. We can offer help, but only Jesus provides hope!
Thank you for partnering with us.
(And please give your child, grandchild, niece or nephew a big hug.)