When I was in high school, I had friends who tutored out of their apartments with the O’Keefe Family Center where I was introduced to BCM as a partner organization. My family started to volunteer with VBS and Bible Clubs because the kids we were tutoring would attend Bible Club. After finishing college, I joined BCM as a VBS volunteer, then interned at VBS, worked in development and eventually ended up directing and developing Leaders in Training (LiT), the new high school program.
One of my favorite memories during my time at BCM was getting to see LiT students connect with one another on one of our weekend retreats. Even when it was difficult, students chose to share their experiences of hurt and ways they wanted
to see God at work in their lives. It was hard to hear the ways our students were hurting or felt like God wasn’t listening, but a couple of our students pointed out that God was at work through LiT and was able to use difficulties to help us grow. They initiated a time of affirming one another and the whole team. It was a special and encouraging time for the group.
Recently, I’ve been seeing God at work through LiT students and their desire to engage with difficult topics. Before COVID, students asked to learn about self care, and it's been incredible to see them return to this topic and encourage one another during this pandemic. Even as parents lost work and students experienced significant loss and change as schools closed, students requested to learn about the Black Lives Matter movement, mass incarceration and racism. In navigating cultural differences between students and volunteers in the past, the LiT community has been able to provide safe spaces for students to process and acknowledge their experiences of racism. Through listening to volunteer perspectives and making space to share their own, our students have helped the program acknowledge the real hurt and trauma racism has caused. This has helped deepen relationships at LiT and has challenged our group to learn more about systemic racism and actively work towards a goal of anti-racism.
Through all of these conversations and challenges, our students have continued to support and affirm one another, as well as myself and their volunteers. On days when it’s been easy to be discouraged, our students have pointed out ways God is present in LiT and in their relationships and growth. In all of the ups and downs, it’s been such a blessing to be a part of building this community with volunteers and students. They’ve made affirming and listening to one another a value for themselves, and seeing our students model this love and care gives me a lot of hope for what God will do next.