When Carlie walks into Youth World, the level of joy shoots up ten notches. Except not this particular day. Her typical sweet, joyful demeanor was replaced with anxiety and exhaustion. Carlie had a long day at school and her mind was rehearsing the words her teacher said in class. “If you don’t learn how to spell these words you are going to be embarrassed”. Carlie did not feel like her teacher believed in her, so she did not believe in herself. Without significant voices speaking powerful, positive words over her, Carlie expected to fail. She sat down in the Youth World library with Ms. Blessed, intimidated by the difficulty of learning to spell her vocabulary words. But the encouraging Ms. Blessed was not going to let that be her story.
Ms. Blessed was determined for Carlie to know that she is capable of succeeding in school. Every day Carlie courageously would show up and Ms. Blessed would help her with her spelling and would speak identity-affirming words over her. Most importantly, Ms. Blessed gave her permission to dream of a world where she would not face the embarrassment of “failure.” Ms. Blessed pushed her to recalibrate her expectations to see herself as intelligent, knowing that she could expect to succeed.
After three weeks of Ms. Blessed investing in the mind and soul of Carlie, Ms. Blessed asked Carlie how her test went, and she told us with a wide, wrinkly smile that she passed and was not embarrassed! The impact Ms. Blessed had on Carlie goes beyond a good grade on one quiz. The attentiveness of Ms. Blessed was able to change the negative narratives in Carlie’s mind. Carlie now knows the value of consistency. Carlie now knows that she is able to demand better for her life. Carlie now knows that there are people who see her and believe in her. Carlie is now able to see the incredible ways God has created her.
Here at Youth World, we often talk about nourishing hungry bellies. But our kids’ hunger is far more pervasive than an empty stomach. Every kid who walks in is hungry for their soul to be nourished. They cry out for someone to tell them that they are intelligent, valuable, and have a big future. Stories like Carlie’s are not isolated examples. They are a reality for every kid who walks through our doors and gets to experience the love of Jesus at our after-school club. Our kids walk out at the end of the day with a full belly, a nourished mind, and an encouraged soul.