A twist in the story
“Coming to The Encounter changed my perspective on life almost completely ...”
In each person’s life, there are turning points or twists in the story. A life might be headed in one direction, traveling on a path that will most certainly cause pain and destruction, only to change course and go a better way.
I recently had the opportunity to sit down with a young woman named Jessica and listen to her story. As she shared with me about the difference coming to The Encounter had made in her life, she looked at me and said, “It’s a place I need to be ... I feel wanted at The Encounter.”
You see, for Jessica, it wasn’t always that way. We first met her when she was 16 years old at a New Year’s Eve overnight event The Encounter hosts each year.
“When I first came to The Encounter, I didn’t have anyone to talk to,” Jessica said. “I couldn’t go to my mom or best friend because I didn’t feel like they would listen.”
As our staff members recalled meeting Jessica for the first time, Amy, our program director, said: “At first glance she seemed really happy, but as we started getting to know her more, we could see that she had a lot of sadness to her.”
As is our goal with any young person, our staff members and volunteers made an effort to build a meaningful relationship with Jessica and let her know that she was valued and cared about as an individual. She began to make a strong connection with one of our regular volunteers named Katie.
“I really felt like she was there for me from the beginning. She listened to me. Something inside me was saying, ‘You can tell her what’s going on,’” Jessica said. “And having (the people here) pray for you and be there for you, it made me feel like God was there for me.”
As our staff members began to talk with Jessica about faith, we discovered that she had grown up in a Catholic church but had stopped attending after completing the church’s confirmation program.
“I didn’t really know what to do after that, so I stopped going for a couple of years,” she said.
She began attending one of The Encounter’s skate church programs each week, and her conversations with Katie began to frequently involve faith. Katie had also offered to take Jessica to church on the weekends. So, after some time, Jessica began attending church with Katie on Sundays.
“I was kind of that kid who came in not knowing what to do and where to go,” Jessica said. “Struggling with faith, struggling with my friends and family, I was helped. I feel like I was saved. If I had never come to The Encounter, I don’t know where I’d be. Coming to The Encounter and not having faith forced on me really brought my faith out. It made me realize where my faith lies. If I’d never come to The Encounter, my faith in God would probably be gone.”
Like it did for Jessica, The Encounter can serve as a place for young people to find a sense of belonging, people who truly care for them and ultimately a life-giving relationship with Jesus Christ. It never gets old seeing young men and women like Jessica come in our doors and slowly begin opening up and finding new life through Christ.
When I asked Katie to describe how seeing where Jessica is at today makes her feel, she said: “First seeing her coming and asking the questions. Then seeing her questions asked with more depth. Seeing her trust us. And now, seeing her at church on Sundays. There aren’t really any words to describe how awesome it is, seeing a young person fall in love with who Jesus is.”
If you’d like to hear more of Jessica’s story, visit www.headofthelakesyfc.com to view a video.