Where I’ve Been

4 years ago last month I walked into a basement with upwards of 50 homeless street kids. I was scared, nervous and unsure of how I was going to connect with these young people. I found myself afraid to say the wrong things, not knowing the right questions to ask and in some cases feared for my own physical safety. I knew after one week of my time with these kids that I was well out of my league. I made a decision early on to embrace what I did not know and to become a student of their world. I had to choose to be ok with being uncomfortable, not having all of the answers and looking like a fool for the Gospel. Because the Gospel? Well, the Gospel is the only thing that could possibly compel we enough, as well as give me enough hope and courage to spend the last 4 years of my life being uncomfortable, heart broken, devastated, fearful, emptied out and lookin’ like a fool without any answers!

Where I Am Now

4 years later and I still wouldn’t say I have many answers. In my time at Hosea I saw so many things that made no sense. Good and bad. Beautiful and ugly. I saw senseless tragedy and unbridled grace. My time with kids being impacted by the streets changed me. The severity and devastating reality of their circumstances was something I thought somedays might break me. But on the other side of those same days I experienced joy and celebration, hope and healing that made every tough moment worth it. I experienced a Jesus and a love that never quit!

We saw kids healed and brought back to life. Rescued from addiction. Rescued from the fear and lies the enemy tricked them into believing. Believing that they were invisible, worthless and unlovable. I have seen kids so high and lost in their addiction that it led them to scream in my face on multiple occasions, “You don’t love me! You don’t care! F*@$ you!” for almost 2 years straight. That very kid today is sober, reunited with his family, spends time with his mentor weekly, is working, finished his high school diploma, is loving Jesus and others and speaks in local churches and at local events about Hosea and how God saved his life. MIRACLES! I will never be able to thank Jesus enough for allowing me the privilege of knowing, loving and walking along side the most resilient, courageous, generous, loving, hard working and gracious humans I have ever met. I love Jesus, myself and others more because of these kids!

“One thing has remained constant—the love God gave me for each one never subsided. By God’s beautiful grace He sustained me, and I never “burned out” on the kids. I loved being with them and loved the privilege of serving them. I learned that they were not a problem to be solved or a group of people to convert. They were young people in pain. Some would lash out because of their brokenness, some would keep their distance, while others would open up too much too quickly—desperately wanting someone to listen. But all of these young people who have been labeled “the least of these” have been my most profound teachers.”  —Ron Ruthruff. The Least of These; Lessons learned from kids on the street

Where I Am Going

In the month of June I am taking the entire month off as a sabbatical. It will be the first sabbatical I have had in 12 years of direct ministry. I plan to write a lot, find a rhythm of life that creates space for my own personal health mentally, emotionally, spiritually and physically. I want to fight business and embrace solitude and rest (This will be hard and drive me crazy most days). Study and contemplative prayer are high on the agenda. Lastly, I want to laugh, love, play, relax and just enjoy life with my people!

In July I hope to start a new job back at the John Serbu Youth Campus (Lane County Juvenile Detention Center) working on the units with the kiddos as well as also starting a job at Hamlin Middle School in the fall, assuming my interviews go alright. I will know more later this month.

In addition, I am going back to school in the fall to start a Master’s of School Counseling Program to become a School Counselor! This next couple of years are going to be a wild ride, but when has my life been anything but exciting and a little unpredictable!!

Shared Words of Encouragement 

“There is no way to tie up the lives of kids on the streets into some tidy theological bow. I can’t create some linear step-by-step approach that will insure that, when you meet a young person, you can lead him or her straight into the American Dream.

However, I can say this: Jesus said, when we have acted towards the least of these, we have done whatever we have done unto Him. Yet, not because the least are a problem to be solved, but because they reveal the brokenness and the faith found in all of us. They reveal US to ourselves and, in some strange way, they reveal the flesh and blood of Jesus among us—who loves us, heals us, and asks us to bear witness to a good God who wants to tell the world it’s loved. I guess if you walk down almost any street, you might walk past the least of these. I encourage you to not walk past them or to ignore them, as uncomfortable or painful as that might be. They have the potential to be your greatest teachers. When you see them, you see JESUS.”  —Ron Ruthruff. The Least of These; Lessons learned from kids on the street

Thank you

Thank you for for loving these kids, for supporting Hosea and for believing in what God is not only doing in that basement- but out here in the day to day as well. God is on the move in these young peoples lives and there is no better place to be than right in the middle of the action with them. So keep showing up and continue being a part of the solution to see young people off the streets and moving into healthy lives away from the streets. It has been an honor and a joy to serve with Hosea, these kids and this community!

~Tauna Nelson

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