Hope for the Hopeless

Art made during Creative Life

Near the start of my time in Langley I took a group of youth to open mic night at a drop-in center.  There was loud music, questionable dancing, and language that may make the average person blush.  Such is the world of youth work.  We are not afraid to enter the mess and we don’t flinch at the barriers that vulnerable youth put up to push adults away.  Toward the end of the night as the crowd mellowed, a question was posed to the group.  That question was:  What is hope?

One of the young people I brought to the event made a bee-line for the stage and spoke loudly into the mic that, “Hope is the first step towards disappointment.”  That single moment has been the topic of 
conversations between us for many years.  

Think for a moment how you might respond to that definition.

As I write this, some of the most difficult stories of the youth I’ve worked with are running through my mind.  Those that were rejected by families, abused by those in authority, sexually exploited, launched into addiction, died at their own hand, faced a continual series of life shattering events: critical illness, deaths, legal issues, family breakdown.  You name it.  It is no wonder that they become numb to the idea of hope and even begin to question the core of their identity.  

When I write these letters I want to share the success stories.  Those that help you feel good about our partnership and leave you inspired that your money is well invested in Youth Unlimited.  At the time of my last mailing, I had such a story.  However, between the time from printing the newsletter to mailing them the wheels fell off this young guy’s life and I didn’t feel I could, in good conscience, send out a hopeful, inspirational success story that in reality looked bleak.  That is why it has been quite some time since you have heard from me.  Those letters are still sitting in a box in my office - reminding me every day what a precarious edge these kids walk on.

Once upon a time, I set to memorizing Romans 8 and got hung up on the words of verse 24 which say: “But hope that is seen is no hope at all.  Who hopes for what they already have?”  I struggled with the meaning of the phrase, but I realized something that day that has kept me going for many years.  My hope is not rooted in the success of the youth I work with.  If it was, I would have quit a long time ago.  My hope is in the grace of Jesus, to love those that are trapped in the mess and that, regardless of whatever it is that they find themselves in, there will be someone that can reflect a bit of that love in those dark places.  I may never see it fully realized.  And in fact if I did - it would no longer be hope.  It may be nice for me but feeling good isn’t the same as hope.  Hope for me is about believing something beyond what I may feel in a particular moment.  Thank God.  My feelings would be a horrible basis for success.

So know that your investment isn’t about creating success - it is about loving those who may never see success.  Loving them over and over and over.  Despite the failures.  Despite the disappointments. I believe that loving these youth in the name of Jesus is worth the effort. It is precisely in these moments, when they feel they are in the darkest place - they need to know there is someone that won’t give up on them.  Someone that still believes in their hope and potential when they 
cannot believe in it themselves.  Thanks for believing in God’s hope and investing in this work with me by sending me into the mess.

- Danny Ferguson


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