Gator Shades

The Trout Hatchery with Gator Shades

While at Gator Shades one day, I had a new Grove student open up to me in a meaningful way.

We were walking to a cafeteria because he had forgotten to pack a lunch for our trip to the Armada Ropes Course at Trinity Western University. I bought him some snacks and a drink and we started walking back to the others. While we were walking back he turned to me and said, “You know, I don’t have any friends. I’m bullied often. You know, when Derian was giving his presentation and said that his ‘friends’ at school called him the follower? That’s me.” I asked him some of my normal follow up questions, we got sidetracked, and when we came back to it he told me about a few people he was starting to get to know and I had the opportunity to respond with this:

“You know that I’m one of your new friends too, right? I’m going to be there when school starts in September and I’ll be there for you throughout the year. I’ll find you.”

This is pretty normal in my job, but the speed of the
openness caught me off guard, until I started thinking about it. Normally, with the same hours of investment I see this, but during the school year I get 15-70 minute windows at a time. The intensity and intentionality of Gator Shades can be broken down as this:

  10 hours of admin, planning, and preparation for Gator Shades
  +47 hours of investment during the program
-building memories
-getting to know each other
-establishing trust
-becoming a trusted adult (bridging the relational gaps at the school)
  +1 out trip to a ropes course
  +1 bag of salt n vinegar chips
  +1 vitamin water
  =1 moment of vulnerability and a much deeper connection.

  That 1 moment, I already know, is setting up the next 5 years.

5 years of meeting him where he’s at, stepping up with him to talk to a teacher on his behalf, taking him out for bubble tea and being there, having him visit our programs on Wednesday night as we foster a safe environment and show him community, and engage him along the way about who Jesus is.

- Jon Pue

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