In the years prior to coming to Shelterwood I had a couple major head injuries that caused me to miss my freshman year of high school. This made daily life tough because I had head and neck pain for a year and I couldn’t look at any sort of screen for about a year and a half. I made up some school and sort of got back into the swing of things, and during my junior year almost all my symptoms were gone. However, because of the previous years being hard on my family, I was depressed and procrastinated with almost everything in my life. I wasn’t doing great in school, I didn’t get along with my family, and I wasn’t taking any initiative to make friends or really to do anything productive.
I wasn’t told until a couple days before we left that I was heading to Missouri, which is not exactly news that brightens your day. I didn’t feel that I fit in initially, which is common when you first get there, but I quickly found out that most of the kids and staff were pretty cool, and I started to make some good friendships. Little did I know I was going to make the best friends I’ve ever had over the next ten months.
When I arrived at Shelterwood I felt like I had tried to rely on God with regard to my concussions, and because I was feeling better, I drifted apart from Him for a while. However, God cares too much about us to have just a “decent” relationship. But He didn’t force his love on me, He waited for an opportunity to enter. That opportunity would come on the November mission trip to Haiti when Jesus showed up in a powerful way, and it reminded me that He is who He says He is. Hanging out with orphans and being immersed in community inspired me in a new way to follow Him, which led to me being baptized at the end of the trip.
In December, I still wanted to go back home to finish my second semester, but it made more sense to stay and finish school at Shelterwood. It was pretty difficult spending my senior year at a residential treatment center, but throughout the entire process I found other teens and staff constantly supporting me and just being good friends. With space, time, and good counseling the relationship with my parents also changed for the better.
While Haiti was an amazing experience, I’d have to admit that most of the lessons I learned were through my time on campus. Living in a house with a bunch of other guys I couldn’t help but learn patience. I also discovered that I have the ability to help other people. I never thought that people would honestly want to hear what I’d have to say or would value my opinion at the level they did throughout my time at Shelterwood. This showed me that I have a voice and that I can positively affect others, and encourages me still that whatever I do for a career, I know I want to genuinely help people.
One final thing I’d like to point out is how remarkable the people are. There were many times that a mentor or some random staff member offered advice or just spent some time with me, and that made a big difference in my time there.
I’ve only been home for a couple of months, but I’ve already seen some opportunities where Shelterwood has helped me. I have a positive outlook on my future, and I can definitely say that a good amount of that optimism can be attributed to the tools and lessons I learned while at Shelterwood. It helped me to get a better understanding of who I am as a person through the challenges and obstacles that I faced there, and through the friendship of other teens and mentors. The ministry that Richard Beach started three decades ago is still a place that helps us “troubled teens” get back on the right track.