The first semester of the Terrell Trade Skill Learning Center is coming to a close. We’ve poured our time, talent, and treasure into the lives of the young men attending this program. I had the immense privilege of participating in the end of the semester interviews of four of the young men. I’m not sure my words can adequately describe this moment in my life. You’d have to meet the men yourselves. You’d have to see them. Shake their hands. Hear the words from their mouths.
My background is so very different from theirs. They know the ghetto. They have experience with gangs. They understand life on the street. They know pain and suffering and poverty like I’ll never know.
Yet they yearn for more. They want a future. They want to better themselves. 23 year old Eric looks at two men aged 55 and 62. He says, “Where I come from you don’t see many men your age living… and doin’ good.”
And my mind reels… You don’t see many 60 year old men living? Where do you come from? Some third world country? No, I know you live half an hour from my own home. Where are your men? Where’s your dad? Who’s your role model? How are you going to learn to be a man? Who’s going to teach you to be a daddy to the baby you’re expecting in five short months?
And suddenly I know that I am incomprehensibly blessed. No matter what I struggle with today it is nothing compared to what these young men have experienced day in and day out all of their lives. And here they are. Putting their feet on the floor every morning. Deciding they want more. Not that they deserve more, not that they’ve even seen what “more” looks like, not that they know what this “more” is. But they want it. And they are learning to trust that we might be able to help them get there.
Mike, slouched in his seat with his hoodie pulled up, looking at the floor and fiddling with his feet, is really quite eloquent. He says it best. “When I first came here I couldn’t picture myself in an environment like this. I was angry. But I committed myself to being a part, to learn what I can, and not to distract others. I did what I said I would and I’ve come to like it. I have a feel for being here, for wanting to be here. I think the people here are good people. They make me feel welcome, a family feeling, you know what I mean? It makes me want to get up in the morning and come out here. You see our different backgrounds. You can’t really understand them, you know what I mean? But you work with us. Everyone’s patient.”
We’re throwing our heart and soul into these young lives and we might be the first people they’ve ever known to do that. But they’re doing even more. They’re learning to trust. The relationships they’ve known in the past haven’t helped them learn that. And once they dare to trust, their whole world will change. They will have the opportunity to learn and grow and dream of a bright future. They will have the chance to make something of themselves. They will be men. And their little boys will have role models worth looking up to.
Thank God for people with visions who are willing to step out in faith and act upon them.
-Julie Wettach, Mission Worker