A note from Amy Young, Easter member and TreeHouse mentor
Since my teenage years, I’ve had a passion for working with marginalized and “at-risk” youth. My passion led me to get a college degree in criminal justice and a career in the juvenile justice system in 2013. I first learned about TreeHouse in 2014 during a worship service at Easter Lutheran. The Eagan Area Director of TreeHouse, Paul Maloney, was speaking and I was instantly intrigued. I felt that God was calling me to learn more about TreeHouse. I couldn’t have predicted the journey He was about to lead me on.
During a TreeHouse site visit, I watched teens talking openly and feeling safe. They knew that people cared about them. Watching staff, volunteers, and teens connect with each other reiterated that I needed to be part of this life-sustaining organization. In 2015, I started volunteering on Tuesday nights. Four years later it remains the highlight of my week.
At TreeHouse, we’re on a mission to end hopelessness among teens. We accomplish this through grace-based programs and environments. Teens learn to know a loving God, build resiliency, develop healthy relationships, and plan for their future.
While we can’t change the circumstances that teens face or promise they won’t struggle and experience pain, we can walk side-by-side through all of it with them. We have the privilege to walk into the dark, hopeless places and meet teens where they are in their lives. We sit with them. We develop relationships with them. We speak truths about who they are: lovable, capable, worthwhile, loved without strings, never alone, and that they have a future. We provide support and mentoring, while also celebrating their successes.
I was excited to learn that Easter’s summer sermon series, “Climbing Trees” focuses on gaining new perspectives. That’s exactly what we do at TreeHouse! We move beyond the masks teens wear and the walls they try to put up. We learn who they really are without judgment. Jesus spent his ministry bringing light into dark places and showing people a loving, ever-present father. He moved beyond labels and judgments. He took the time to show people who they were in God’s eyes: His children, beloved, forgiven, and saved.
As a volunteer, I’ve witnessed amazing growth and transformation in the teens we serve, as well as myself. I’ve celebrated 18th birthdays and attended graduation parties for teens who thought they would never live long enough to see these milestones. I’ve attended a baptism and listened to teens eagerly share their “God moments.” For years prior, they didn’t believe that God loved them. I’ve witnessed teens minister, pray with each other, and share the truth that every life is worth living. I’ve listened to teens share stories of feeling suicidal, alone, yearning to use drugs, or self-harm to numb the pain. They choose to talk to Jesus, TreeHouse staff, or other TreeHouse teens instead. I’ve watched teens conquer self-destructive behaviors and leave abusive relationships. For the first time in their lives, they realize that they’re lovable and worthwhile.
I’ve experienced immense love and support since I started volunteering at Eagan’s TreeHouse. I’ve been challenged to grow deeper in my faith, leaning into God throughout my journey with the organization. Now, God has challenged me to carry on the work of Jesus by opening a new TreeHouse location in the Faribault community. I was hesitant at first. Change can be scary and I questioned if I was truly the right person for the job of opening a new TreeHouse. However, God has led the way by opening doors, creating paths, providing a support system, and answering prayers along the way. I officially started Area Director training in May, and have been busy finding volunteers and financial support within the Faribault area. We plan to open our doors to teens in September 2019. Thank you to Easter Lutheran for your continued support and prayers as TreeHouse continues to carry on the work of Jesus and reach every teen experiencing hopelessness in our communities.
Thank you, Easter Lutheran Church for your continued support and prayers as TreeHouse continues to carry on the work of Jesus and reach every teen experiencing hopelessness within our communities. –Amy