Sunday, July 8, 2012

three degrees of separation.

why i love efy. not for the friends you make, but the youth. it might be because at times I still feel like I am a giddy little teenager, or because I remember how hard it was to be in high school and have to try to live the standards while the rest of the world went the complete opposite direction.

being a counselor was the best job in the world. i remember walking down the sidewalk one day with my youth and thinking I would pay to do this and they were paying me. it was the best summer job in the world. I was just one degree away from the youth. I was a part of their life. I saw them change throughout the week. To hear them bare their testimony at the end of the week about what they had learned and what they now knew to be true was the most satisfying thing in the world, and would bring so much joy into my heart. I was there. I was making a difference in these youth's lives. My life had a purpose, it was validated. I was adding something to this big world.

meet year two. no longer am I a counselor, but a BC. I had major withdraws. I couldn't decide if I hated being a BC or if I liked it. There were things I liked. I liked being part of the BC team. I loved our meetings, and getting to know them better. I loved the added freedom, and learning how to plan a variety show or games night. but I missed the youth. a lot. but I still had my counselors, and I could see the difference I could make in their life. And as I made the effort I was able to meet certain youth and have some great conversations with them. My summer did not leave me with the same gratification as the year before, I didn't feel like I grew as much as I had as a counselor, and I didn't feel like I had made that big of a difference. A few months after EFY I got a letter from a participant thanking me for a conversation we had had, and suddenly it all seemed worth it. Even if it was just for her, the summer was a success.

meet year three. now i am not a counselor, or a BC. but now a coordinator. that is THREE degrees of separation from the reason I love EFY. THREE. It has been an amazing learning opportunity- don't get me wrong. I am learning a lot about parenting and marriage. however, I don't feel like what I do impacts the youth at all. True, I get to teach on Wednesday, and true, a few people will come up and thank me for what we talked about...but I dont see the change in their life. I dont know their story. I feel like any other person could fill my role and the program would run smoothly. Fix housing. Conduct a meeting. Make sure people are doing what they need to be doing. Make sure everything runs. Deal with problems. Its not too hard. (Okay, it has its moments, and can be very stressful..but it's mainly logistics.) I hate being so separated. James and I have talked about how being a coordinator is the loneliest job, and in many ways it is true.

this week though has been a tender mercy. those degrees of separation somehow dissipated.

example one. its tuesday night. i just sat through a counselors devotional. we sat talking about how they could more effectively teach and how their week was going, and other very important things like their dating history. As we sat there talking another counselor popped their head in, "Ellie, I need you." I ended things with the former counselor and followed this very concerned counselor. She took me to her youth, who was standing in the hall. "She wants to go home." Why? We talked. and talked. I watched as the clock signaled the start of the meeting I was supposed to help conduct, it seemed so trivial and unimportant as this precious girl sat in front of me. We talked about her life, she was a convert. We talked about why she wanted to go home. She didn't feel like she fit because she was shy. We sat and talked, we talked about her heavenly father's love for her. I talked. A LOT. and cried. i missed having youth of my own. She decided to stay, at least for one more day and promised she would tell me her conversion story the next day at lunch. I saw her at my lesson, she smiled. Her smile is the most beautiful thing in the world, and seemed to only come out every once in a while. Today. Today she was smiling ear to ear as she walked around the dance with a group of friends. Something had changed. She had stayed all week and was happy- I had made a difference and I could see it.

example two. i feel like the logistics make it possible to have a climate of revelation, but they are not what is most important. if something doesn't work out just right it wont ruin the growth of these youth. There are many parts of my week that feel like they have no impact on the youth and their spiritual growth. Meet the solutions table monday morning. This is James' least favorite part of the week. We were COMPLETELY full for boys. They had actually over-filled some spots and a counselor had to move out of his room and in with a BC to make space. There were 3 16-18 year old boys that wanted to come. They put their name on a list and kept their fingers crossed that someone would drop out. One of the women that had brought two of the boys came up to us- "I know this makes no difference, but both these boys come from really hard situations and could really use efy." She left and James and I turned to each other. We didn't care that it would give efy more money, or make our life a little tricker- we wanted these boys to be here. A few phone calls, a moved counselor, and new door tags later we had been able to get all three boys in. I saw two of the boys throughout the week and they said thank you and it was great to see them having a wonderful experience, but what made the summer worthwhile was Friday night after taking it home. On of the boys, who was a very "tough" looking guy (i think he could bench press me) came up to me after I dismissed their company. He looked at me and gave me a huge hug as he said thank you one last time. It was the most sincere thank you I have ever heard. He left and I just cried. My logistical, non-important position had made it possible for him to be here, I had made a difference. It made it all seem worth it. The lost social life, personal time, family bonding, anything close to a dating life. I would give it all up again to be there again, to meet Richard, and to make it so he could spend the week at efy.

I think Richard did more for me than I did for him. He put my summer back into perspective. He helped me remember what it is I love about EFY. It can change people, strengthen people... but its not the program that does that, the program gives them a place where they can feel the spirit and that is what changes them. Sitting in his groups testimony meeting on Thursday night, he said something that was for me- I grabbed my pen and jotted it down. "His love overpowers fear any day of the week." perfection.

1 comment:

  1. I'm so glad you're a coordinator, Ellie. You are amazing and do such a great job. The youth love you and you do an amazing job of helping everything run so smoothly.