But, as I attempt to write year-end reports for our generous, faithful donors, I am bumping up against a bit of a wall. Not because we aren’t doing the work, or seeing God move, but because it is hard to quantify what I believe is a ministry of presence. Yes, I know that is a Christian buzzword right now, but let me explain.
With the long-term impact of a global pandemic, the meteoric rise of social media, and the very young age that humans are now handed an electronic device, we have rapidly become isolated. Much of our human interaction now takes place on a screen. Some even consider watching a video of someone else participating in an activity as if they themselves have now experienced that activity. Much of our screen time is not spent in conversation, but in observation.
Although we can expand our knowledge in this way, there is something very essential to our need as human beings that is missing. We were created to be in community with other human beings. If you explore the gospel accounts of Jesus’ ministry on earth, he spoke with people, he looked them in the eye, he asked them questions, he touched them. He was physically present.
So many of the children JCLC works with are craving face-to-face, physically present, safe interactions. Interactions where they are able to share their story; where someone can see the pain or fear in their eyes; where a hand of comfort can be placed on a shoulder; where someone actually asks them about themselves and listens to the response. There is a reason that Jesus left us with the promise of Matthew 28:20: “I am with you always, to the end of the age.” There is immense comfort in having someone walk alongside us and be physically present.
Mentoring and discipling boys and girls and their moms takes physical presence and time. A number of the kids that are part of our ministry have known us for more than 5 years, and are only now feeling safe enough to share what is really going on in their hearts, homes and minds. We have finally earned their trust after being there month after month, whether they responded or not, in good times and bad. For some of you, that time frame sounds extreme, as if we are wasting too much time to get to a place of impact. But, it is important to understand that children who have experienced trauma, neglect and abandonment learn at a very young age that humans cannot be trusted. They learn to survive on their own, to look out for number one, to never let anyone see behind the solid wall they have extracted around their hearts to keep from being hurt…again.
For these children, teens, and adults, I believe that a ministry of presence is the only way to establish a truly life-changing, healing, generational dysfunction-breaking relationship, where their eyes can be lifted up to see a vision of the future that looks drastically different than the reality of the present.