I used to think ministry happened only on a platform, now I know it happens across a table, on a car ride home, at a cheer-leading practice or maybe in the McDonalds drive-thru. I used to think i needed to fix the deeply painful problems of peoples lives, now I know how to love people in the midst of them. I used to think I had to be someone that people would like, now I know that God can use the most unlikely people in the most unlikely places. I used to think I had to say the right things and have all the right answers, now I know the power of presence. I used to think I was changing these kids lives, now I know they changed mine.
I’ve spent the past year of my life hanging out with students from all over Nashville at a former campus of Long Hollow Baptist Church called Hillcrest. I’ve seen hundreds of people come through the doors of this little inner city church - each looking for something in their own unique way. Some looking for purpose. Some looking for someone to love them. Some looking to get a free meal. Some showing up on the front steps thinking that’s where you turn when you’ve hit rock bottom.
I have met people of many diverse ethnicities, cultures, backgrounds, values and beliefs. And there is one thing I know to be true of each person - they all have a story. A story that is unique. A story that has made them the person they are. A story that matters. Each picture below represents unique girls and boys who each have a story to tell. I have learned more from these kids in the past year than I could have ever taught them. I have listened through tears as many have shared stories of broken families, neglect, abuse, addictions, homosexuality, poverty, gang violence, incarcerations, death of a loved one and just about every other unimaginable circumstance you could think up. I have seen the reality of absent parents. I have heard the pain of a girl who just wants her dad to come back home from jail. I have listened as many have expressed how much they just want someone to love them. I’ve heard the pleas of many who wish they could escape from the life they are stuck in.
I wish I could tell you all the stories of these kids lives, but we just don’t have the time. What I do know is that there is joy in the midst of the pain. There is purpose in the midst of the process. There is hope even when all seems lost. I have seen light in the midst of dark places. I have seen Jesus shift the stories of many. I’ve seen lost people come to know Jesus. I’ve seen addicts set free. Families changed. Eternities impacted. I’ve seen students grow in their relationship with Jesus and hunger for the word of God. I’ve seen walls torn down, smiles return and somehow laughter in the midst of really trying times.
This has not been any easy year by any means, it’s actually been really tough. But it has certainly been worth it. I am forever grateful for the people I have met, the relationships I have built and the memories that have been made. I will never forget the car rides, the jam sessions, the late night taco bell runs, 2 AM conversations, cheerleading practices, basketball games, dance parties (where you totally hate on my dance moves lol) watching y’all do the “the whip” to just about any song during a worship service and letting me take a million pictures.
So heres a shout out to all of my friends down at the Crest, thank you for letting me into your lives this past year. Thank you for teaching me to not take myself so seriously, to be grateful for what I have, for reminding me to have faith like a child, to share what God has given me because this life is not my own, to get in the trenches with people and love well and for pushing me to believe God to do the impossible in our city. If you are still reading this, check out the pictures below. They are moments from this past year that tell a lot more than my words could ever do. Love y’all!