Connecting Columbia Union Seventh-day Adventists

Teaching Boys to Trust Again

Teaching Boys to Trust Again

Story by Tompaul Wheeler

Pennsylvania Conference’s Grace Outlet church has taken on its own challenge—fostering connections with the male residents of the Children’s Home of Reading. Grace Outlet chose the center as a way to meet one of their main missions, to “connect the disconnected.” Church volunteers have a very simple goal, to spend quality time with teens that have lost their ability to trust and interact in healthy ways with adults.

“These teen boys have always been in relationships where they’re being used, and their stories are atrocious,” says Pastor Kris Eckenroth. “For our people to come in and want nothing from them and expect nothing from them, other than to be with them, is monumental for them.”

Though spending an hour-and-a-half each month playing Battleship or Monopoly with them may just sound like killing time, the church members have found it teaches intangible skills of fairness and grace. And, though the children’s home residents are teens, their emotional maturity is several years younger.

“What we’ve found out is we’re teaching these kids to play by the rules, how to win, how to lose and how to trust adults,” says Joe Saadi, ministry director. “Their experience is that anyone who wanted to interact with them had strings attached. They’re learning to re-trust adults that they’re close to.”

Grace Outlet’s ministry at the center has grown to include a monthly outing. “It kind of felt as if going there 90 minutes a month wasn’t enough,” Saadi says. “We really started to build some relationships with the kids.”

Saadi met with the home staff and they put together a list of safe excursions. “Earlier this year, we took them to a demolition derby. That was a riot. You can imagine a bunch of boys—they had the time of their lives,” he says. “We’re together for three or four hours at a time, we get to know each other, and that’s when they start to open up. There’s a mutual learning going on and relationship-building.”

Saadi says another goal of the program is to help them reestablish into society. A recent glimpse out of an upper-story window reminded him what makes their effort worth it. “I saw one of the kids who had graduated from the program walking in the street with a buddy of his. He was carrying a briefcase, going to work. It was the coolest thing to see. He was just like anybody else,” he shares.

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