Hi from Jess

Last week’s event at the Elizabeth Skate Park started and ended with a bang… Whilst we were still setting up a young man from StreetEats came running up to me, proudly sharing how, “I’ve been keeping up my cooking… last night I made my family Ratatouille- it was amazing… My mum’s really loving me doing the cooking!” This young man has had a really challenging month, so to hear him proudly sharing about the lasting joy and motivation his StreetEats cooking skills are still bringing him and his family really filled my tank. Perhaps the Lord knew I needed my tank filling to prepare me for what was to occur at the end of the event. All the volunteers had packed up for the night, and most young people had gone home, Ben and I were loading some final things into the van, when all of a sudden, a young person at the skate park scooted past me with a terrified look on his face. Knowing this child’s history of being bullied, I spun around, and in a voice of authority, (I don’t think was mine) I pointed my finger at the approaching “bully” and said, “You need to stop RIGHT NOW.”     

Over the past couple of months, I’ve heard and seen the kind of bullying I’d previously struggle to watch in a movie. We’ve brought kids inside for their safety, and ushered them out the back door so they can make a quick escape home. I praise God for the ability to speak into the lives of these young people and those supporting (or neglecting to support) them. We’ve spoken with young people, parents, police, social workers, council members, wellbeing coordinators and chaplains to build better supports and stronger communities. Knowing that despite our differences we are all created in the image of God and united we can make a more lasting impact. I’m continually in awe of the love and compassion, God gives me for those in the community. Whilst a “bully” victimises others, they themselves are victims too. Things aren’t black and white, a bully here might be victim to a drug dealing father, who he himself may have been victim too any many of grief, trauma or abuse himself. I praise God, for the flexibility and freedom we have to build relationships over an extended period of time- working towards and prayerfully believing God will break the cycles of these debilitating narratives. We have seen it happen in other areas- and can’t wait to see what God does here too.   

This season has been tough, when met with challenges and grief, in the past, my go to has always been, “how can I practically help?” God’s been teaching me to slow down and “seek first the Kingdom” allowing me to have a greater level of empathy than I have had before. Grieving with a father, who had to watch his child suffer and die- I realised no one knew this pain and loss more than our Heavenly Father, who chose to send His only son to suffer the most excruciating death on the cross- to conquer death once and for all.

Highlights over the summer included spending a couple of days with my family (and a family of dolphins!) in Whyalla over the Christmas period, reuniting with friends visiting SA over the holidays and being a bridesmaid. I was honored to stand by my friends’ side, celebrating their marriage in their family’s picturesque pear orchard in Clarendon- which less than 24hours later was at risk from the bushfire. Praise God the wedding was not affected again (it had already been postponed 9months due to COVID restrictions) and the strong rain and CFS crews contained the fire.