I have the best job in the world. No seriously, I do.
I get a privileged front row seat to some of high school’s brightest and darkest moments, and have the opportunity on a weekly basis to shine some light into young people’s lives as they navigate their teenage years as best they can. I love being able to walk into a school and have no idea what my day could turn out like. Here is one possible scenario for you – this is why we do what we do. Breakfast time! Do you know what happens when half a school skips or misses breakfast? Chaos. You end up starting the day sluggish, tired, irritable, and distracted. It’s amazing what a pancake can do to your morning! On average, we serve around 75 students a pancake breakfast once a week, leaving heaps of time to connect with students and build relationships first thing in the morning. Some kids are happy to talk, other are more inclined to run off with a whole box of pop-tarts… no worries – they’re getting fed! Each morning during roll call, selected students get to work on their reading and comprehension skills, so in I go to listen and encourage! The first time I went in to do this, my heart broke as I heard this girl trying to read, stumbling on a word, and begin mumbling things like “I’m dumb”, or “I’ll never be good at anything”. Girls, I want to get real with you for a minute… there is a very real spiritual battle taking place in the playground and classrooms every day, and it starts right here. In the lies they hear and believe about themselves and the lies they tell others. When all you hear is discouragement from others, your own thoughts tend to follow suit. If you believe that you’re worthless, dumb, useless, good for nothing, then why would you try at all? As a Chaplain, I get to bring LIGHT to this moment. Giving her hope by reminding her that she’s been made with a unique set of skills, and that she has a future where the things she’s good at are celebrated. You’d be surprised with how often one word of encouragement can lead to a person telling you everything going on in their world. Sometimes all people are looking for is a listening ear from someone who genuinely cares about them, their life, and their dreams. Then the bell goes, and it’s time for class. From this point, my day can be so wonderfully unpredictable. I could spend it in meetings with students or teachers, hanging with some seniors on a free period, encouraging students to be IN class (rather than out), sitting in class with a student, or dreaming up something extra-curricular to get involved in! Connecting with staff and students can be tricky when they spend a lot of their day in class, so recess and lunch are ideal times to get to know people for who they are. I’ve been invited into dance practices, talked about books and movies, and had some really interesting conversations around religion, beliefs, and where people stand with God. There are so many people looking for answers to the “big questions”, and it’s such an honor to be a part of their journey in seeking something bigger than themselves. My role as a Chaplain is not to preach, or to even mention Jesus unless I’m asked. I simply meet people where they’re at. By bringing hope, compassion and encouragement into the school, students have seen something that they want more of, and are reaching out to find where it’s coming from (psssst, that’s God!).It’s from this place of seeking that I’ve seen people eager to come to Oikos and Church after being invited by another student. We’re beginning to see young girls embraced by church family, and raising their hands singing about God’s goodness on a Friday night! They’re beginning to catch hold of something so much bigger than themselves.God is go good! Some days I can’t believe that this is my job – it really feels too good to be true. Someone pinch me!