Wednesday, April 26, 2006

finding family

Just down the road from us is a locked-down K-12 boarding school, called Tutela. It’s not a boarding school for privileged kids who don’t fit into their parent’s lifestyles. It’s a school for kids whose parents aren’t fit to raise them. It’s a place of refuge for kids who have been neglected, abused, or abandoned. Tutela is a kind of home for hundreds of kids who have never really experienced anything that resembles a true home.

I’ve often described NieuCommunities as a place where we gather young leaders around us to show them how to create home—spiritual home—for those who can’t seem to find it in all the normal places. If we fail to do that, then we have failed to meet one of the primal needs of humanity. And so, as I travel from site to site, I look for signs…signs that our communities of faith and training have also become spiritual homes; places of refuge and hope; places to encounter God and to dream again. Last Sunday night I saw one of those signs.

As she sometimes does, last Sunday afternoon Laurie drove over to Tutela to pick-up a van load of teenage girls and bring them to our weekly BBQ and time of spiritual reflection. To be honest, bringing these girls to our gathering is not as easy as it sounds. First, you have to become trusted enough by the administration of the school to take them off the secured campus. And second, most of these kids struggle to even know how to behave out in the “normal” world. Like a lot of young people I meet today—whether privileged or abandoned, black or white, American or South African—they have trouble experiencing the very thing they long for…home.But Laurie is awesome with these girls.

She is tender and nurturing. She walks them around the property and through our home to help them feel more comfortable in this new and strange environment. She brings them into the kitchen with her to help prepare the community dinner that they will join. She introduces them to all our staff and to all our guests, and she gently walks them through the evening’s experience.

As our weekly gathering was coming to a close, one of the girls voiced these words in an attempt to summarize what she was experiencing; “Everybody here feels like family.” It was a simple statement, but it was one of those signs of effectiveness I look for. In those few words Meloney both betrayed her heart’s deep desire and signaled that we had created what we had hoped for

May each of us, and all our communities of faith, become the kind of families in which people will experience a deep and satisfying sense of being at home and being at peace.