This is Part 2 of the blog post “Looking Back and Moving Forward.” If you missed Part 1, you can find it here.
In the prior post, I shared the ways in which the Lord has given us a heart for young men and women — specifically those who come from hard places — who are approaching adulthood or who have already entered adulthood. I shared some of the many obstacles that they face and areas of struggle as they move out of children’s homes and move toward becoming independent. I am intrigued by how often we use that word — independent — without really considering the true meaning. It is an interesting concept. In this context, the Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines independent as, “not requiring or relying on others.” Is this really our ultimate goal, our measure of success? In thinking about our own children, do we really hope that they never need to rely on others’ help?
I would argue that this concept is actually contrary to the way in which we have been designed—contrary to God’s very nature. In Genesis 1, we see our triune God (God who eternally exists in perfect community with himself—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) present in the creation of humanity: “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness…” (Gen. 1:26). In the very next chapter, we see God exclaim, “It is not good for the man to be alone.” (Gen. 2:18). Keep in mind that this is still before sin entered the world; the idea that humans need one another is part of God’s design — not a consequence of the fall. In fact, up until this point in the story we see that everything that God declares about his creation is “good.” Yet, the existence of man without any type of community is “not good.”
We like to talk the talk of independence in the United States. We think about the idea of our children becoming independent as the moment when they move out of our home — either to attend college or to being working and providing for themselves. But are they really independent? I am willing to bet that everyone reading this has known an 18-year-old at some point in their life (or, perhaps, many 18-year-olds). I am also willing to bet that whoever comes to your mind was not ready to be independent — completely self-reliant; needing nothing from anyone. Perhaps this is just a game of semantics. We all know that when we talk about independence, we aren’t cutting ties from our children. We all know what we really mean.
Semantics or not, I believe that this is a conversation worth having—especially as we talk about working with at-risk populations who may not have a natural community or support structure as they move into adulthood. All of the structures that so many of us take for granted in our own communities simply aren’t there for these young men and women. What was just a theoretical conversation on semantics suddenly becomes a terrifying and isolating reality for some of the most vulnerable among us. They wonder what they are doing wrong—why “success” seems so evasive to them. They ask themselves why they seem to struggle so much more to live independently as they compare themselves to their peers.
I would posit that we need to substitute independent for interdependent: “dependent upon one another; mutually dependent” (Merriam-Webster). If we are inherently relational beings, created to live in community, then perhaps we should redefine the way we talk about mature, successful adults. Perhaps we should talk about maturing from a place of dependence, “I am completely reliant on others, with nothing to give,” to a place of interdependence, “I have needs, and I must rely on others to help me meet those needs. At the same time, I have much to offer, and I can play an active role in meeting my own needs as well as helping others around me.”
This is our aim as we partner with Paths of Hope and United World Mission here in Peru. Our mission statement reads, “Guide and support young adults to discover and pursue the purposes of God.” How do we get there? It is not by telling them that they need to be independent. It is by walking alongside them in relationship, living out what a life of interdependence looks like.
It is hard to believe that we are coming up on six months since we moved back to Peru! Time is flying, and I am excited to briefly share some of the projects that we are working on thus far. Our projects each fall into one of two categories:
First, we are working with young adults who are or who will soon be moving into adulthood — either graduating from a children’s home or coming from another high-risk situation. As such, we are building relationships with local churches who are wanting to partner in this endeavor. Our desire is to act as a catalyst between local churches and at-risk youth in their community. We hope to be able to enter into conversation with local churches about how we might be able to support them in a vision to reach at-risk youth and families around them, and we are in the process of developing different components of this ministry (mentoring, life skills classes, educational support, counseling, etc.). We are excited to say that we have identified our first church partner, and we are working with their leaders to launch a mentoring ministry for at-risk high schoolers in a local public school in the next couple of months! Additionally, we are working with a local girls’ home toward the same end.
Leading a training on the Biblical basis for mentoring and God’s heart for the most vulnerable among us.
Billy and Linda discussing next steps after a meeting with administration at a local public school.
Secondly, we are working on the preventative side. Our desire is to see a system change such that families are strengthened to be the community and support system that their children need. In cases where children simply cannot return to their family, we want to build other communities of support by better equipping staff at children’s homes along with working toward equipping potential foster families or adoptive families. We are excited that we are already involved in multiple projects along this front:
– Billy is now partnering with a local ministry, called the Shalom Center, to provide therapy to clients. Shalom specifically targets lower income families who have children with chronic disabilities—both physical and intellectual, and provides occupational therapy, physical therapy, and speech therapy services, in addition to counseling services.
Participating in the beginning of the year parents meeting at the Shalom Center.
– We are partnering with a local organization, Kids Alive, as we work to develop a program to connect families who come to them in the midst of crisis to members of local church congregations who are willing to serve as a supportive community to the struggling families. We are currently working to train church members to serve as mentors to these families.
– We are also partnering with Health Bridges International to develop and implement a staff training curriculum that is evidence based and rooted in best practices for the two children’s homes in their care: Girasoles Cusco and Girasoles Ica. These are two of the homes that Kate and I have been involved with for many years, and we are thrilled to be able to continue our relationship with them!
If you have made it this far, know that we so appreciate your interest in our ministry. We can accomplish nothing without constant prayer and support from people like you!
If you are interested in partnering financially, you can do so in two ways:
1. You can sign up online on our United World Mission profile, or
2. If you prefer to give by mail, please open and print this form. Then fill it out and mail it to the address provided.
Regardless of whether you are able to partner with us financially, we so appreciate your continued prayers for this new ministry.
This is the first time that we have been charged with building something from the ground up as opposed to joining a ministry that is already up and running. The task feels daunting at times, yet we are also excited to have the opportunity to build something in accordance with the vision that God has placed on our hearts!
– Billy and Kate
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