Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The Dale House: Redefining Home

If you missed last week's three posts on The Dale House Project, you can catch up here through these links:

Got Plans After College?

Recognizing God

Lessons Learned

Here's another guest post, this one written by DHP training staff Cody Mitts.

After spending almost 5 months on staff at The Dale House Project, I began to realize that I was struggling to maintain the vision I had when I started here in June. June and September are exciting months at the Dale House because the new training staff move in and bring with them excitement, energy, and passion. We come to the Dale House because we have a heart for broken kids, and we have a vision and hope of seeing their lives changed.

A few months into the job and I started to realize that the romance of working here is beginning to wear off. Why am I so frustrated about my job? Frustrated with these kids? I begin to ask myself if I am making a difference. I feel as though all I ever do is argue with kids and it is hard to see if any impacts being made at all.

I spent a few years of my life attending college to earn a degree in youth ministry where I was taught how to prepare and deliver a great talk at a youth group, how to lead an effective bible study, and how to do good bible exegesis. This becomes my idea of what ministry should be, and yet I haven't led any bible studies at the Dale House with any residents, I haven't given any talks that changed lives. And the residents could care less what I know about the historical context of the Bible. So I have to ask myself, what is ministry at The Dale House Project?

I recently read Brennan Manning’s book “The Ragamuffin Gospel,” and began to look over some of his thoughts on ministry, asking God what ministry should really look like. Manning reminded me that Jesus calls his followers to “make your home in me, as I make mine in you” (John 15:4).

I began to think about what makes a home? When I think of home I think of a place where I am always welcome, safe, loved, and accepted. My home is a place where I can turn in a time of trouble and is filled with good memories from my childhood. Manning says that “Home is not a heavenly mansion in the afterlife but a safe place right in the midst of our anxious world” and “Home is that sacred place – external or internal – where we don’t have to be afraid; where we are confident of hospitality and love”.

Would the residents at the Dale House describe home in the same way as Manning and I? I looked at the file of a resident whose experience of home includes 19 different “homes” from the time he was 9 -14 years old. That’s 19 different relationships, house rules, beds to sleep in, and relationships to say good-bye to. From there he moved around 6 different placements within the department of youth corrections, which included escapes from jail and many nights sleeping out on the streets as a teenager. I find it hard to believe he would describe home with the same words that I would.

What does ministry look like with kids who have stories similar to this, some far worse and some less severe? I have come to realize that my ministry to the teenagers at the Dale House is providing them with a home where they feel loved, safe, and respected as a human being. For some of them, it is the first time in their lives where they have lived in a place where they are not going to be abused, neglected, or forgotten. It is also a place where they experience people who help them with homework, who care about where they go and who they spend their time with, and genuinely care about how their day went. They get to sit around a table and have a meal with people who love them, and receive that love without having earned it.

I may never share about Jesus in a sermon, or a bible study, but I get to share Jesus with a teenager by creating a home where they can be loved in a way they have never experienced. They get to come home everyday to a place where Jesus shows himself to them in the disguise of the men and women who love Him and have chosen to share their lives with them.
This is ministry of the Dale House.

If you are interested in finding out more about the possibility of working at the DHP (starting next June or September) you can call the DHP at 719-471-0642. They'd love to chat with you. You can also visit the Q&A section of the DHP website.

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