Posts tagged ‘quarterly newsletter’

December 2, 2019

Christmas for SYM Clients


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Merry Christmas!

   As the time to
share that greeting rolls around each year, I think of the 3,000+ clients our
ministry has served since we began in 2008. What kind of Christmases will they
have?
   Thanks especially
to social media these days, we know more of the answers. Some clients have
excelled, and they’ve written us. A few lives ended tragically. Other clients
intrigue us – they surface periodically to say “thanks” or share news, infusing
us like the episodes of an old-fashioned serial, complete with cliffhanger
endings.

   Such a continuing
story this year was shared by a client whose street name was “Powder”:

   2012-13, off and
on
– Powder attended a few of our events
back before we had our Drop-in Co-op, and he came to the 2013 Christmas party
at All Saints Episcopal. He was using drugs at the time, and he ran around with
friends using street names like Merce, Grinch and Bean.
   We hadn’t seen
Powder since 2013, then he resurfaced three years later with a Facebook
message:
   1 a.m., June 16,
2016
– “You probably won’t remember me. I
hung around for a little while in 2012-2013.  I remember speaking to you
multiple times at the Drop-in. I don’t know how many success stories you hear,
but I just wanted to let you know that I haven’t done dope in 2 1/2 years and I
just bought my own house in a suburb of Kansas City.”
   I checked into his
records and finally ran into an old photo that summoned memories. What I didn’t
know was how deeply we had changed the direction of this young man’s journey.
Powder and I had the following Facebook exchange, edited for space:
   Terry: “Well congratulations on all that! … I always love
hearing from people who are doing well. You’d be surprised (or maybe you
wouldn’t) to know that it’s a whole lot of people!
   Powder: “I was pretty nondescript and tried my best not to be
noticed.  If you don’t remember me that doesn’t hurt my feelings, I
remember you and the rest of the staff and how much the simple things y’all did
for me helped. It made me feel like an actual person.”
   Terry: “I know your face. I don’t yet recall your street name
Powder. I’m really glad we were able to love on you a bit and that it helped.
What made you decide to retire and get sober and all that?
   Powder: “I just got tired of living that way. I went to jail for
a few months, then a psych ward, and then a rehab program. After that I just
decided I wasn’t going to go back and live that way again, so I got into a
halfway house and got a job and all that.”
   Terry: “Cool. I’m glad. I assume it’s better for you? Doesn’t
have to be, but is faith a resource for you at this point?
   Powder: “I struggle with faith and spirituality. I have had a lot
of things happen, seen things and whatnot, but it just doesn’t seem to
“click.” I haven’t had the spiritual awakening or whatever you want
to call it.”
   Terry: “I’d say be patient with yourself and stay in touch with
that part of you that knows or wants there to be something bigger than us. It
doesn’t hurt to hang around people who are further along than you are, but not
to let them tell you what to think. Just to learn and see and feel how it is
for them. I’ll be praying for you in that regard. Any other way I can be
praying for you? Also, could I use your words to encourage others? I wouldn’t
use your name unless you want me to. Recovery is a long road and it’s great for
those who feel like it may never happen to them to hear from people like you
who were around quite a while but are recovering!”
   Powder: “Yeah sure, I appreciate all your help, past and
present.”
   Fast forward three
years, four months. I heard from him again:
   11:08 p.m., Oct.
5, 2019
— “Touching base again, Terry. I just
want to say again how helpful the Drop-in was to me at a time when I needed it
the most. I’m still sober, haven’t touched drugs or booze since January 10,
2014. I’m still bouncing around, but I’m in much better condition than I was
back then, physically and spiritually.
   “I have a skilled
trade. I’m a butcher. I work full-time and I can’t help but feel like I’ve left
that world behind. It’s for the best, but some of the happiest moments of my
life happened on the Drag. I’ve noticed that it’s almost like a class
graduating: people I knew ended up dead, in prison or clean, and a new
generation came to replace our spots.
   “Now I’m sitting
on the couch in a home that I ‘own’ and watching cable. I’m not in Missouri
anymore. but that’s where I learned to butcher, in a family-owned shop that was
looking for some help during deer season. I managed to leverage that into a
union full-time job at a grocery store. I’ve tried to settle down a couple
times and it just hasn’t worked out. I think I just enjoy being a rambler.
   “I’m still not
sure where I stand on my beliefs. I go back and forth a lot. I’d like to settle
down somewhere, That’s the big one. I want to continue this trend of “living a
normal life” without being too boring. Maybe I just need to find a hobby. I’ll
get back in touch with you again when I think about it.
   Terry: “How old are you now?”
   Powder: “I’m headed toward 27, I was 19-20 in Austin.”
   Terry: “You’re right on track. I find a lot of people who hit
the road for whatever reason start settling things at about 26 or so.”
   Powder: “That’s nice to hear, honestly. I had a lot of people ask
me when I was in high school  and “full of potential” what I wanted to do
with my life, and when I would say “ I don’t know,” I’d get the same long and boring
lecture about needing to do something important.
   “I wish someone
would’ve told me, or I would have known that it’s totally OK to make $35,000 a
year cutting meat and going fishing every day before work. I’m never gonna have
a lot of anything, but I have enough of the stuff I want and a plan for the
immediate future, which is to move someplace that has trout and moving water so
I can learn how to fly fish.
   “I just wish I
could’ve started on this path five years ago and not be struggling toward it
now. I suppose you know what they say about wishing in one hand and doing
something in the other. I just have to remember I’m not that old yet, and
there’s still time. Pleasure to have met you, Terry.”

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December 5, 2018

Merry Christmas


We thrive because our identity is deeply rooted in God’s calling to serve street-dependent young adults, and because we are clear about what we do and what we don’t do. We want to see our clients become more stable and more sober, to reconnect with God and find a faith home! — Terry
We strive to be known
as trusted, inspiring, empowering and fresh!
This is the 40th time I’ve written this quarterly newsletter. Our first was December 2008! Over the years, more than 5,000 clients have helped us learn exactly who God shaped us to be.
I was speaking with Bam this past week. I knew him 15 years ago when I first started volunteering with homeless young adults. “I didn’t know what to do about you,” he recalled. “You just showed up. And you didn’t go away like so many other people in my life.” Bam now manages 11 local fast food restaurants. “It took me about a year to decide to trust you,” he said. “You would just come alongside and get involved. But you always wanted to help.”

I couldn’t have been more surprised when Bam called me up many years ago to share that he had become a Christian, let go of his anger issues and ended his criminal and drug involvement. I am very proud of him. As I showed him around the Drop-in this past week, he remarked, “It’s so easy here to see what you care about. You care about us.”

Over the 10 years, I have struggled with identity, personally and as a ministry. We thrive, I think, because that identity is deeply rooted in God’s calling to serve street-dependent young adults, and because we are clear about what we do and what we don’t do. We want to see our clients become more stable and more sober, to reconnect with God and find a faith home.

I was chatting on Facebook with another client this week. Justine was no more than 18 when we served her a few years ago. She loved drugs and was highly unpredictable. She traveled around but would come visit us, sometimes a few days and sometimes a few months. She participated in our outreach, our Bible study, our prayer time, as well as just hanging out and talking. “I’m sober now,” she wrote me. “I had to straighten up for my child … a beautiful baby girl 9 months old. I just wanted to let you know.” She continued, “Things are about to fall apart. I’ve separated from my husband, but we’re working on it. I live with my brother and go to church. I’ll make it.” So now we are praying for her.

We’re real, relevant and fun. These three things provide a unique way of helping, letting clients know why we care, and letting them know we believe in them.

I had a tough conversation this week with Marty. He got into two fights inside our space this past week, and he broke some things. “So what was going on with you?” I asked. He pointed the finger at others but then asked, “So, can I come in now?” I shook my head. “I’ll be happy to get you anything you need and bring it out here, but until you can own some responsibility for what happened, I’ll have to say no.” He left angry. He’s got a mega-chip on his shoulder from a pretty rough upbringing. He’s up and down with drugs. But he wants better and he tells us about it. We know he’ll get there. We’re praying for the chance to continue our discussion. We know he can turn into a Bam or a Justine in time, discovering his own story of healing and restoration.

We will be trustworthy for Marty. It means being tough at times but consistent. We will be inspiring. We know he can overcome all of this with help from God. We will be empowering. We won’t tell him what he needs but will wait patiently and support him as he finds his way. And we will continue to find new and fresh ways to engage with Marty so that the conversation continues.

In ten years we have grown to become a great team doing amazing things. We have four wonderful associate missionaries and Drop-in workers dedicated to being present for our clients. We have two interns. We have 275 supporters. We have hundreds more volunteers, a thousand prayer warriors, and many thousands of readers and followers. Thank you for being a part of this ministry for Bam and Justine and Marty! I pray you have a very joyous and meaningful Christmas!
Terry Cole

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October 12, 2018

Is Reconciliation Worth It?


We are proud that we have a safe place and that we have trust, but I am most proud that we reconcile with almost everyone! — Terry
Recalling a time when
an angry confrontation
turned to reconciliation
We sat face-to-face in an uncomfortable silence. Robert was not responding to me as he stared at his phone. We were going to have a falling out for sure.
In our Drop-in Center, safety is our number one requirement, as it creates the foundation on which we build trust. We provide many physical relief items: food, drink, clothing, toiletries, self-care aids, etc. Those are important, to be sure, but the very moment safety comes into question, nothing else matters. Many of our clients will flash back to times — perhaps recent times — when safety was in peril. Those moments are never good.
We don’t have a lot of rules, but NO SMOKING is one of them. Vaping isn’t new, and it’s never been a problem, but for some reason we recently had clients who, unlike past occasional vapers, left huge clouds of smoke behind. It raised concerns among staff and other clients, so we banned vaping as we did all smoking. Unfortunately, the decision wasn’t popular.
One client couldn’t follow the rule, so I had to ask him to leave. A heated exchange escalated as other clients joined in, including Robert. Eventually, everyone else left, leaving Robert and me sitting face-to-face, and it was obvious he wasn’t moving or talking.
 
I began to reevaluate. I recognized what I believed were signs of PTSD. I backed off and waited, but I didn’t disengage. Finally, Robert warned me: “I’m going to explode, and that won’t be good for you.” I responded with, “You can explode if you need to. I’m here and not going anywhere.” After some time, he was finally able to stand up and leave the center. He didn’t say anything more, but his body language told me he was very angry.
We are in the business of reconciliation. It’s not unusual for someone to be angry with me, but when the anger lingers, it’s a hindrance to ministry. We seek reconciliation. We seek healing. We seek to be better than before.
Robert returned the next day and asked to talk. He apologized. I apologized for letting things get more personal and directed at him more than necessary. We talked about his PTSD and his coping mechanisms. The incident and its reconciliation changed him from someone who was shy and rarely shared to someone who is much more engaged.
This incident isn’t unique. Holding people accountable, sharing difficult news, standing up to a bully who doesn’t like your view — none of this is popular, but it’s the stuff real relationships are made of.
While we offer relief, we are in a ministry of offering hope and long-term relationships to young adults who often have never had such relationships with reliable adults. It’s not easy. Healing and restoration occur in the ebb and flow of these relationships. We are proud that we have a safe place and that we have trust, but I am most proud that we reconcile with almost everyone. Of the 5,000 people we have served in the past 10 years, only two have yet to reconcile with us – and we continue to reach out to both as often as we can.
One day we believe it will happen. And God’s goodness will flow into that breach, and wonderful results will follow!

Terry Cole

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March 30, 2018

Happy Easter


A special Easter message from Street Youth Ministry!
.
Thank you
for making
this possible!
We were gathered for prayer time in what had been a slow day when Will walked in, bypassing the couches and heading straight to the kitchen. He didn’t look up or say hello.

We prayed on, inviting clients to respond to questions like “God is what? I am grateful for what? I feel closer to God when?” It’s part of how we help our spiritual — but not terribly religious — young adults begin to reconnect with God. The answers aren’t always “nice,” but they come from the heart — maybe the gut. We repeat and honor each and every one without judgment.

After the young man filled his plate, he sat a lunch table, still apart from our prayer group, still avoiding eye contact. I was leading the prayer concert, so I invited Will to answer one of our questions. He didn’t respond, but he did look up. I could see something different in his eyes — perhaps he was high, perhaps he was in trouble. Without a response, I couldn’t tell. I continued with those assembled, asking, “What do you want God to do next in your life?” Suddenly, Will blurted: “I want him to leave me alone!” Then he corrected himself: “No, I don’t really want that…”

We’ve known Will for quite a while. He’s one of those “difficult youth.” Honestly, the sight of him coming in the door in early 2016 meant my staff had to re-deploy resources to handle him. We had to ask him to leave many times because he just couldn’t behave safely. Lately, he’s been doing great — reconciled with his father, held a job for a while, begun to realize he can’t keep doing what he’s been doing.

Will began to tell his story: “I was at Church Under the Bridge Sunday. I wanted to eat. They started preaching and singing, and I just started crying. I don’t know why. I couldn’t stop. I tried, but I couldn’t. Some people noticed and they came over. They wanted to pray with me. I told them no. But I wanted it, I just didn’t want to put my stuff out there in front of everyone. So I’m here…”

Having broken the ice, Will began to participate and share answers. He walked over and joined the group. The clients shared what they want God to do in their lives, talked about friends and family, and lifted up our neighborhood and the city of Austin in prayer.

When we finished, I asked Will if this had been good. He said “Yes.” I asked if he understood what happened to him the previous Sunday. He responded without hesitation: “It was the Holy Spirit. The Spirit is moving within me. I don’t know exactly what to do, but I know that’s what it is. Something is changing.”

That’s where we left it. Will has a difficult struggle ahead. But we continue to organize our ministry life so we can be there for him, on his best days or his worst. It’s a pattern we see all the time. It takes years, but these awesome people recover their identities in God, in Christ, and in the world. It’s a privilege to behold.

Thank you for making it possible!

Terry Cole

‘I don’t make
 the bad choices
 I used to!’
John John was a very difficult client in 2015 — always getting into fights, frequently high and belligerent. We had to exclude him from service several times. He was banned or excluded from service for longer periods of time at other places.

John John left home right after high school and got involved with organized trouble immediately. Now, however, he’s sober, working and housed. “I have almost a whole paycheck saved,” he said recently. “That’s more than I’ve ever saved in my life. And now when tough things happen, I don’t make the bad choices I used to. I’m growing up and have learned to cope better. Thank you so much for sticking with me!”

We now are talking about John John’s future and what path to learning and growth he wants to take. We are proud of John John!

A bonanza of ‘swag’!
 Volunteers from the local sales staff of Salesforce.com donated “swag” left over from trade shows and events. They shipped it from California, assembled it into gift sets and delivered them to three organizations, including hundreds of backpacks and blankets to SYM!
Request manna bag instructions

via Blogger https://ift.tt/2J9yBHS

March 30, 2018

Happy Easter


A special Easter message from Street Youth Ministry!
.
Thank you
for making
this possible!
We were gathered for prayer time in what had been a slow day when Will walked in, bypassing the couches and heading straight to the kitchen. He didn’t look up or say hello.

We prayed on, inviting clients to respond to questions like “God is what? I am grateful for what? I feel closer to God when?” It’s part of how we help our spiritual — but not terribly religious — young adults begin to reconnect with God. The answers aren’t always “nice,” but they come from the heart — maybe the gut. We repeat and honor each and every one without judgment.

After the young man filled his plate, he sat a lunch table, still apart from our prayer group, still avoiding eye contact. I was leading the prayer concert, so I invited Will to answer one of our questions. He didn’t respond, but he did look up. I could see something different in his eyes — perhaps he was high, perhaps he was in trouble. Without a response, I couldn’t tell. I continued with those assembled, asking, “What do you want God to do next in your life?” Suddenly, Will blurted: “I want him to leave me alone!” Then he corrected himself: “No, I don’t really want that…”

We’ve known Will for quite a while. He’s one of those “difficult youth.” Honestly, the sight of him coming in the door in early 2016 meant my staff had to re-deploy resources to handle him. We had to ask him to leave many times because he just couldn’t behave safely. Lately, he’s been doing great — reconciled with his father, held a job for a while, begun to realize he can’t keep doing what he’s been doing.

Will began to tell his story: “I was at Church Under the Bridge Sunday. I wanted to eat. They started preaching and singing, and I just started crying. I don’t know why. I couldn’t stop. I tried, but I couldn’t. Some people noticed and they came over. They wanted to pray with me. I told them no. But I wanted it, I just didn’t want to put my stuff out there in front of everyone. So I’m here…”

Having broken the ice, Will began to participate and share answers. He walked over and joined the group. The clients shared what they want God to do in their lives, talked about friends and family, and lifted up our neighborhood and the city of Austin in prayer.

When we finished, I asked Will if this had been good. He said “Yes.” I asked if he understood what happened to him the previous Sunday. He responded without hesitation: “It was the Holy Spirit. The Spirit is moving within me. I don’t know exactly what to do, but I know that’s what it is. Something is changing.”

That’s where we left it. Will has a difficult struggle ahead. But we continue to organize our ministry life so we can be there for him, on his best days or his worst. It’s a pattern we see all the time. It takes years, but these awesome people recover their identities in God, in Christ, and in the world. It’s a privilege to behold.

Thank you for making it possible!

Terry Cole

‘I don’t make
 the bad choices
 I used to!’
John John was a very difficult client in 2015 — always getting into fights, frequently high and belligerent. We had to exclude him from service several times. He was banned or excluded from service for longer periods of time at other places.

John John left home right after high school and got involved with organized trouble immediately. Now, however, he’s sober, working and housed. “I have almost a whole paycheck saved,” he said recently. “That’s more than I’ve ever saved in my life. And now when tough things happen, I don’t make the bad choices I used to. I’m growing up and have learned to cope better. Thank you so much for sticking with me!”

We now are talking about John John’s future and what path to learning and growth he wants to take. We are proud of John John!

A bonanza of ‘swag’!
 Volunteers from the local sales staff of Salesforce.com donated “swag” left over from trade shows and events. They shipped it from California, assembled it into gift sets and delivered them to three organizations, including hundreds of backpacks and blankets to SYM!
Request manna bag instructions

via Blogger https://ift.tt/2J9yBHS

November 30, 2016

Christmas Letter


Children and babies. Christmas revolves around them. Once a baby was born in Bethlehem, but there was no room for Him. Things have changed — or have they?

In our 2015 annual report we wrote that we had noticed horrible miscarriage and infant death rates among the homeless young women we serve on Guadalupe Street. The viable birth rate was very low. It broke our hearts – so, we made trying to change it a target.

First we raised awareness. Our clients’ love for life helps them survive on the street, but it also makes them less averse to getting pregnant. So we lovingly focused on 2015 as the year we would raise that survival rate. We gave our young women and couples a measurable objective: count the number of months their pregnancies were spent mainly on the street. The number started at zero for everyone. We helped them take action to keep that number low. They responded well.

One young lady, “Trudy,” became pregnant while homeless and started down a path we’d seen many times before: get a job, stay on the streets until the baby was born, then get an apartment with the baby’s dad. As she participated in our prayer times, Bible studies and hangouts, she began to see things differently. Trudy agreed to move back home with her mother, an act that rekindled a difficult adult relationship. She focused, however, on getting ready for the baby. Trudy got a job. She applied to programs to help her with housing. Finally, in her sixth month of pregnancy, with a “score” of only one of those months spent pregnant on the street, Trudy moved into her own apartment!

Several of our pregnant clients followed this model and got their unborn children off the streets. When their babies arrive, there will be room and love for them!

It wasn’t just the street youth having children who engaged with us. We were overjoyed to see all of our clients, not just those pregnant, engage with us to start a culture change. We impress upon the street youth we serve that to continue to live on the streets while pregnant is just too dangerous for the unborn children.

This is one story of many as we pursue our mission to know, love and serve street-dependent youth. Next year that mission will grow, and it will be a challenge, as we occupy a new building, take over the vital services that have always been provided there, and continue to adapt to a growing Austin urban landscape.

We are blessed to serve these young people. They are children in some ways, adults in others. How we treat these children says a lot about our world. Is there room for them today? Have things changed since Bethlehem? I am pleased to say that we welcome street youth with open arms. We encourage them to expect better for themselves.

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September 21, 2016

It’s never too early or late to dream


In seeking an entry-level job,
it’s never too early to dream …
Supporters say, “Why don’t they just get a job?” Clients say, “I just need a job!” Indeed, getting a job is their number one way off the streets, but getting the job isn’t really the issue. In our efforts to help our clients, we discovered three surprises about street youth and employment.
Surprise #1: most of our clients can get a job quickly. Austin’s economy is booming, and unemployment is low. Once clients start to apply, jobs come quickly. Take Georgia, for example. She came in this past month and said, “Shazaam! I got a job today. They hired me on the spot! I start tomorrow.” I had watched her behavior on the streets for a while, and I was skeptical things would go so quickly for her. Turns out, she was very good at navigating the interview for an entry-level job.

Surprise #2: most street youth leave new jobs soon, not because they are fired (as we had assumed), but because they quit! When we asked clients why, most told us they quit in order to avoid a social awkwardness they encounter at work. After her first week, Georgia came to us, worried. “Somebody told my boss I wasn’t doing a good job,” she said. “I guess this job is about over.” As we role-played her options, she said her first instinct was to tell off the “somebody,” a co-worker. She talked herself out of that. Her second idea was to plead her case with her boss, saying “I’m just a street girl doing the best I can.” We know from experience that it’s almost always a bad idea to disclose your homelessness. It raises stereotypes, if not fear or suspicion. “Just ask your boss for feedback,” we suggested. “If the boss is a straight shooter, any issues will be addressed.” Georgia plans to do this now, but if experience holds, she will quit soon for another reason:

Surprise #3: We have discovered through our Job Club efforts that it’s very important for clients to be looking for something they really want — even at entry level. In our weekly Job Club, we ask, “What is your dream job? Who or what company would you work for, no matter what you had to do?” I remember a frustrated young client named Jason giving this surprising answer: “I want to work in trend-setting marketing. I want to be involved in top fashion, top trends, top anything.” And he had just quit three food service jobs in a row! We helped him list entry-level jobs he knew in fashion: janitor at a mall, salesperson at a clothing store, model at an ad agency. Within a week he was selling swimwear! I ran into him not long ago and he’s still there. The job is not a soul-sucking grind, he said. He’s considering community college, is no longer on the streets and pays rent monthly!

We believe such an exercise will help Georgia find an entry-level job she can hold on to! So many of our clients delight and surprise themselves by finding meaningful and productive jobs to lift themselves from the streets. It’s never easy, and us “older folks” probably couldn’t manage a job, being homeless, feeding ourself, staying clean, and all that without a home. But our clients are strong, resilient and amazing! We are so blessed to get such a front-row seat to watch them develop. Thank you for being a part of it!

The opportunities we offer street youth — to wash clothes, eat a sandwich, get an ID, study the Bible, find a shirt that fits, provide bug repellent — help us make inroads into their lives. Positive results often follow! Volunteers who give of their time and in-kind donations play important roles. For more information on participating with SYM, click on the link below:

Click here for volunteer opportunities

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