Reflection on my EPA Fellowship year by Kris Smiley

Here at Bayshore Christian Ministries, we recently concluded the year's StreetWorkz program for our middle school students. While my stint as an EPA Fellow still has the summer portion left, I feel uniquely refreshed by my time spent with StreetWorkz. My time working with the junior high students also has me feeling very full—like I just came from a big, warm party feast.

This feeling of refreshment and contentment comes not from having grown and learned (although, I've learned so much I don't know where I would begin) nor does it come from anything I can take credit for; it comes from having witnessed the undeniable response and initiative God has claimed in the lives of 6, 7 and 8th graders.

God does not seem super interested in doing things my way. God's got His own style of taking care of business. I was not initially excited about working with junior highers but Jesus snuck into my heart one night while I was sleeping and turned those feelings upside down. Two months after starting this job and right before Christmas, I broke my ankle. While I don't think Jesus personally went out of His way to crack my tibia, I did get to see how He used it later to start conversations about real life issues beyond the surface level adult-child plateau. Interwoven among lessons and talks on relationships, romantic love, racism, and heaven I got to see God personally grab handful of moments with His children (they are first and foremost His after all) and encounter them in life-changing ways.  

I saw Him take one kid at the start of the year and over several months enlarge the young man's inner capacity for peace, confidence and prayer. I saw another young lady take ownership of her friend group and exercise leadership and self-aware maturity. Following that there are the testimonies of God moving in unusual and supernatural way. You know, the kind of stories that last a lifetime? When God undeniably meets you in a dream, or speaks to you for the first time, or you witness a healing—that stuff stays with you—and God moved among our youth in a way that has staying power.

Right now I find myself satisfied (re: my soul feels fat like in Psalm 63:5) and energized (re: refreshed), not because I did anything noteworthy, but because I have witnessed God's creative faithfulness.  The students of StreetWorkz are caught up in a hundred different cycles, systems and problems outside of their control, outside of my control and outside the control of just about every single person in their life. I cannot change their situations or even really meaningfully do anything for them—truly only God can be their source of help. God is for them more than the rest of humanity combined. In Psalm 18:19 the Psalmist writes, “He brought me out into a spacious place; he rescued me because he delighted in me.” By the end of this year, I've witnessed a merciful Father swoop down and sweep up His daughters and sons into that open, “spacious place”.