rejection on your resume
The team at NCOH Youth are usually ignored, constantly pestered, regularly shouted at, and deeply loved by the young people they serve.
Over four days on camp with this little community, I marvelled at both the heartbreaking stories of the campers, and the determined resilience of the leaders. Volunteer youth workers who sacrifice their time, resources, and often their dignity, for the sake of loving the kids of Daveron Park.
And the fruit looks different. Incredibly, we saw young people pray for one another, one that I know of made a decision to follow Jesus, and another was given a Bible - but the most common fruit is seeing development of things like kindness, or community, or perseverance, or even the humility of asking for help - and all of these things happen in the context of the leaders being present with the kids. That presence might look like turning up to the weekly drop-in centre and cooking for them, or giving haircuts, or making art - usually it means the hard work of initiating conversation, and sometimes it has involved having the kids staying in their homes when things are too difficult for them to stay with family. One of the leaders has recently made the decision with his wife and two young sons to foster one of the girls - it's been hard, but they know that God is in the midst of the mission He's called them to.
I did a lot of listening over the week - and there was a common thread. As I listened to the hearts of the leaders - who oscillated from utter frustration to complete devotion with the kids - there was a recurring theme in their stories: rejection.
Here, in the midst of one of the most integral mission spaces that I've been a part of in my own country, I was hearing stories of:
- previous church positions that were removed from them, or
- lack of inclusion in mainstream faith communities, or
- slowly becoming isolated because of their growing fanaticism, or
- questioning the status quo from frustration and not being listened to.
All of them revealed some sort of experience in church that made them feel like they didn't belong - or were perhaps even viewed by others as a misfit.
Some of them confessed that they could have handled things better, but here they were where no mainstream church dares to go - seeing God work in ways that others only dream of.
Each one of them seemed to have 'rejection' as part of their resume.
And it makes me wonder whether rejection is somehow a pre-requisite for genuine mission.
I reckon Jesus might know a thing or two about that.