The way we serve the kids at Hosea is relational. We get to know them on a personal level, build trust, provide a consistently safe place and love on them. Most, if not all, of the kids have come from very unstable homes. They ran away from an abusive parent, a drug-addicted family, or never had a home at all and were born on the streets. They ran away to the streets where they hoped for a better life, but found they now have no safe place to sleep or rest. The most heartbreaking thing is that on the streets, most people walk by them and don’t even acknowledge their existence.

Building trust, providing a stable environment, and showing them that we really do care is extremely hard…but also the most important thing for their future.

For me, it was a rough start when I began volunteering at Hosea two years ago. No one can teach you how to talk to, much less build a relationship with someone 10 years younger who doesn’t trust anyone, and who thinks there is no way they’ll have anything in common with a 30-something Christian from North Carolina. And so the first few weeks I would say, Hi” and “Where are you from?”. What else was I supposed to say to a homeless teenage stranger. I didn’t feel like I could use the typical conversation starters such as, “Where do you live?”, or “Where do you work?”. I slowly learned that I wasn’t the one who needed to do the talking. I was there to listen, make them feel known and eventually they started to trust me. I’ve bonded with these kids over music, food, politics, and movies.

It takes months to gain the trust of a street-affected youth. For me it took a lot of patience, persistence, consistency, and learning to listen more than I speak. I’ve learned the best way to show these kids that I care is to show up, shut up, and give them a giant hug.

I’ve learned a lot about these kids and myself over the past two years. But I’ve also learned a lot about Jesus. I have become so much more comfortable with the unconditional love of the Father through loving these kids. I am learning TO LOVE like Jesus while also learning TO BE LOVED like Jesus.

I have grown bolder in my faith along the way. I remember telling a much wiser Hosea volunteer how upset I was after taking a few guys out for ice cream and then getting lost on my way to drop them off at ‘home’ afterwards. Their ‘home’ at that time was under a bridge. I apologized to them that I got lost and one of them said, “It’s OK, we’d much rather be lost with you in your car than under a bridge.” That broke my heart and I cried as I drove home after dropping them off. This older/wiser volunteer reminded me that God loves them even more than I do and will protect them. She advised me to give those worries to God and pray bold prayers. So my faith continues to grow out of desperation and hope for these kids and my prayers have become so much bolder. And I have full faith that He can do that.

I’ve learned to give up the control I thought I had over my own life and the life of these kids, and have put bold faith in the Lord…that He is the one who can save and protect them. All I have to do is show up and love them.

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