Thursday, October 29, 2009

It's good to be got

I'm no genious.  In fact I'm far from it.

I have felt like I have had nothiing to offer this week.  I'm tired.  So tired that the starbucks barista told me I needed an extra shot of esspresso in my drink this morning just by looking at me. I'm edgy.  I dont have my normal patience or resolve.  This was evidenced by how I snapped at the customer service counter over a $10 mischarge.  I'm not impressed with myself.  Quite the opposite really.

Yet is this week I have heard from several youth that they find that:

I understand
I am someone they look up to
I am helpful when I say nothing

When people see that level of good when I'm at my worst I am reminded that nothing good comes out of me unless it is from God.  It also helps me to understand where these kids are at and how they want to be treated.  Today I went to the school and sat in the hallway with a group of youth and I hardley said three words the whole time.  Then I sat in starbucks and had a youth share all of her trials and stresses with me and I barely said a thing in return.  Yet she continued....happy to have someone finally listen.

So I may be disappointed in myself but I am impressed with God. 

Monday, October 26, 2009

disabled hearts.

I have rewritten this post at least a dozen times.  My thoughts keep halting. Maybe the problem is that I am trying to be profound and insightful when really I am just as confused about certain issues as the youth going through them.  I was thinking specifically into the whole realm of self injury called cutting.  After years of youth work I genuinely have stopped feeling surprise when someone reveals that they cut themselves.  I moved from that into trying to find a solution that can fix this problem.  Now that I've seen the futile mission that is I have moved again into a new place: understanding.

When I encounter a person that cuts I will often ask them why they cut.  I thought maybe I could offer some helpful guidelines as to how they could cease the behavior.  The fact of the matter is that most people answer with the words, "I don't know."  At first I thought that these were the answers of people that were trying to avoid my questions, but I am beginning to genuinely believe the answer. The real understanding came not through study of the many resources and professional psychological explanations of the issue but rather through an intense look at my self.

I was having a bad week.  As my emotions and stresses rose I found myself stalling in thought.  I know that these "trance-like" states were happening because I would suddenly come back into the fullness of my reality.  In that moment of intensity between those to states I found myself with an overwhelming urge to fall back on some of my own harmful coping mechanisms.  As the days when by I found those feelings would linger longer and longer.  It took a good friend in whom I could confide in that helped to snap my focus back into place.

Life is intense for many of these youth and they rarely see a moment of reprieve. Combined with a technological saturated world of ipods, cell phones, instant messaging, and facebook (by the way email is way out of date by now) they fewer and fewer moments when they will have genuine stillness in their lives.  In fact I find they are almost afraid of it.  The intensity rises and the overwhelming situations and emotions blend themselves into a bland feeling of nothingness.  Suddenly the desire and longing to feel anything becomes overwhelming and the scissors will dance along their skin.  For a fleeting moment the pain is something that can be treated.  Then they are betrayed by feelings of guilt and shame.

It has the earmarks of an addiction.  There is no solution to attack this wide spread problem.  Cutters are not projects.  They are people who need some health, someone who will listen to them and not freak out at their behavior.  That will not look at their cut marks with disgust cut recognize that the blood on their arms is actually their heart on their sleeves.  Address their hearts, not the marks their arms.

Thats the best I've got. Hopefully it makes some sense.

Monday, October 19, 2009

The power of team

I cannot do this work alone.  I know that for a fact because I used to.  I have been blessed by great people that have come alongside me over the years.  Now I cannot imagine doing this work without them.  I can imagine going back to being the only youth pastor in a church, it just doesn't make sense to try to go it alone.  The past few weeks have been hectic and I have had to back out of a few events due to my schedule throwing up everywhere.  However I know that the work continues in my absence.  That is something that wasn't true a few years ago.  It is a good feeling to know that everything doesn't depend on one set of shoulders.

this is my team:

Derian Julihn

Derian is a good friend.  We knew each other in Bible College, but it wasn't until we both started work at Youth Unlimited that we really started to bond.  We have traveled similar roads and understand each other really well.  Often we can communicate without words.  When I am weak he is strong. He is known among the youth as the "ass-kicker" because of his direct style of cutting to the truth.  I look forward to many more years of ministry together.

Shauna Brown

Shauna is a woman of great passion.  I continue to be impressed how she lives out her faith in the midst of some pretty terrible situations that we encounter.  I see her and I get a glimpse of what Jesus was like talking with people.

Kris Knutsen

Kris is the Zombie loving, science fiction, comic book wizard that carry an aura of raw life that is often filtered out by most civilized Christian youth workers.  I think that is why I love him so much and I think that is why the youth love him as well.

Carmen Rempel

Carmen is a dear friend that has been involved with Langley Youth Unlimited with me the longest.  Starting as an intern she has walked with me through the many changes and challenges of our work.  I love having her around on the late night crisis calls.  I also had the honor of performing her wedding. yeah we're tight.

I dont have the time to tell you about all those I consider part of my team but dont get paid for it including Tyler, Brad, & April.  It is an amazing crew.  I love them all.

CHRISTIAN? - Via Derian Julihn

This is a blog entry from my co-worker Derian.  I too have walked closely with the young person he is talking about.  This story warmed my heart and encouraged me.  I had to share it.


So today in Starbucks I sat down with a young lady and chatted about many things. Eventually our conversation got around to her spiritual journey. I was shocked to hear her talk about considering in the future getting baptized.

You see when I first met her God wasn't even on the radar. She probably would've have considered herself an atheist or at best an agnostic. Then one day she fractured her vertebrae (she had the x-ray to prove it.) She asked us to pray for her back, so we did. Two days later she had a second set of x-rays showing her back was healed. That scared her, who was this cosmic being and what did he want from her?

Months later, she proclaimed to me that she now believed in the existence of God. How did she come to that conclusion? Well, she had spent the weekend locked in her room avoiding her drunk/high dad and step-mom. Having ample time to think, she realized that she believed her dad would get better some day, even though she had no evidence to back that belief up. She also realized there was more evidence for the existence of a God then for her alcoholic dad to get better. Thus she decided she could believe in a God. I told her that one day she was just gonna wake up and realize she had become a follower of Jesus. She laugh in agreement.

Today we began to unpack what she actually believed about God. As I asked her about God and Jesus and Sin, I realized that she did in fact believe the basic tenants of the Christian faith. She believes that Jesus is God, that he died on the cross for our sins and rose again, that she is a sinner in need of savior.

Her current struggle with God is one we all face daily... CONTROL. She is wrestling with giving Jesus leadership over her life. She recognizes the enormity of that choice and it's consequences and she's not ready yet. I told her that when she was ready to give Jesus control then she was ready to get baptized.

I have had a huge smile on my face all day. I can not believe how far she has come in her journey.

Another great day at Starbucks :)

The rack...

Last night I received a text message from a young lady asking if she could vent.  I was in the middle of packing our house for our move next saturday so I told her that she could write as much as she wanted but because I was busy I wouldn't be able to respond.

When I got back to my phone I had fifteen messages from her. I could sense her anguish increasing with each word.  She described multiple situations that alone could be enough to send someone over the edge of sanity.  In her last message she wrote that she was finished until I responded.

I struggled with what I should write.  Comfort seemed trite.  Hope seemed bizarre.  Advice seemed disparaging.  I prayed asking the almighty to speak through me.  Then I wrote and the only words that came to mind:

"It is like you are being put through the torture device that pulls each of your limbs in a different direction.  You're being ripped apart."

I didn't know how that would be received, but awhile later I got a message from her telling me my message was the exact thing she needed to hear.  Just to know that someone understood.  I was thankful I had prayed about it first.  Who knows what sort of things I would have come up with if left to my own imagination.  God always knows the right things to say.  In this case I was just the messenger.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

My girl

Tonight i had the honor of putting my daughter to bed. She just got a new tooth today and is feeling a bit bummed out from the experience. That combined with just being plain tuckered out made her one snugly kid tonight. It was as if she melted into my chest. I started to cry as i thought about all the youth that i work with that have a longing and deep desire to melt into their daddy's arms but never get the chance. Either he is not around or he is not safe. I know I am not the perfect father. Far from it but as I sat there looking into my daughters eyes as she was hurting i wept. Firstly because it was a special moment with my girl but secondly because i was mourning the injustice of those who have dads but are still fatherless.

i just don't understand this messed up world sometimes...
Danny Ferguson
Langley Area Director
Greater Vancouver YFC / Youth Unlimited

I love being married to April

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

October to October

We stood on the bank of the river on the cold crisp October morning. A young man and one of my closest friends and fellow youth workers stood beside me.  We called the attention of the crowd of youth around and we listened as this young man shared the story of his life over the past year.

See it was on a cold night last October when he was at his lowest. To him life was darker than the night time sky around us.  No hope in life.  There were no smiles.  The words were filled with the hurt that was contained within him.

This October I look at him as he is sharing.  His words are filled with hope.  He is telling jokes.  He is beaming.  His smile threatens to split his face.

What changed?  I can safely tell you that it wasn't me that changed him.  I was there beside him in both Octobers - but I was not the thing that changed him.  I carry no capacity to change anyone.  What happened to him was a baptism of fire.  Life threatened to end him and he would have given in had it not been for someone willing to sacrifice himself for this young man. His name is Jesus.

You may not believe in God or that Jesus died on the cross and died in our place.  But for this young man it become more than just a story - it became reality.  That fueled change of heart.  I loved the words he said right before we waded into the water.

"I'm a Christian - Deal with it!"

We then baptized him as a symbol of the reality that had already changed his life. 
I was honored to be along for the ride.

Monday, October 5, 2009


I'm not sure how to describe today.  It was a fine day.  Sunny.  Warm for October.  But there was something in the air that just made my heart bleed.  Like this picture says Today was something that didnt arise - it was thrown up.

I had a young person reveal the details around their mothers death.  They tell few people because they get cliche answers all the time.

I had someone point me in the direction of a teen that had a bad weekend.  The sort where the details make you sick to think about.  This kid deserves more.  I wish the pain could just go awy for them.  When I asked what I could do - they looked at the frapichino I bought for them and said with a smile:  You can buy me starbucks.

I had a young friend describe the possition they are in between past hurts and doing whats right.  Their solution?  Crawl under a rock.

In the midst of family troubles and dealing with past hurts this kid in the 11th grade realized today that life is out of control.  If they try to fix things they dont work out if they do nothing they feel like they dont care.

Whats up with today?