Heart change and transformation at Shelterwood

As Shelterwood’s Resident Director, every day looks different for B.J. Shay. He oversees policies and procedures in student dorms, helps recruit young adult mentors, works with assistant house directors and more. Central to his work, however, is the chance to witness transformation in the hearts of Shelterwood students.

B.J. knows heart change personally; he experienced a life-changing transformation himself. “I was a troubled teenager and that helps me understand the importance of what we do. It gives me tangible knowledge that kids can change if they desire it. I know it first hand,” he says.

As a teen, B.J. experienced personal tragedy, including loss of people close to him. “It’s clear now that was the root of what was going on,” he explains. As a high school student, he struggled with substance abuse and was defiant to his parents.

He was raised in church, but B.J. stopped being involved. “On my own personal journey, I always knew God was there and that he had a plan, but I didn’t like that plan and I didn’t like him at the time.”

In college, he hit rock bottom — and that was when real transformation occurred. “That experience showed me that there’s nothing you can’t do with God,” he says.

After college, B.J. worked full time in youth ministry as a pastor in Hawaii, then applied to be a mentor at Shelterwood. “Being a mentor was the most significant year of my ministry career. These young adults come together, form a team and build the bonds it takes to help these kids,” he shares.

“The number one thing I think mentors learn is that God doesn’t give up on anybody, no matter what,” B.J. says. “We don’t force these kids to come to faith, and you can’t force them to understand who Jesus is. But we create opportunities for them to experience the Holy Spirit and the Holy Spirit can experience these kids.”

“The mentors are, in my opinion, the reason why the program works,” he says. “The kids learn how to reach out to people who are positive influences and positive people.”

Since his time as a mentor, B.J. has held every job title in the Shelterwood residential department. Over the years, he’s seen countless stories of transformation, but one stands out.

“We had a student who was good at manipulating others so they’d do what he wanted, although it wasn’t in his best interest,” B.J. recalls. “He was incapable of accepting no.”

But over time, transformation started to occur. “He learned how to value people and how to relate to people,” B.J. says. “He made a big change during the summer session that year, and it was notable growth. He started attending a church intentionally and chose to go to Bible study.”

Change continued as he approached graduation. “He learned to accept the feedback of others and create effective dialogue in his life. He came from a place of manipulation and a heart of deceit to a place of communication and a heart for others.”

Since graduation, he’s done great things. “He’s an incredibly professional young man,” B.J. says, “the kind of person who could literally be the President if he chose to. He has that kind of skill with people.”

Because of stories like these, B.J. points to the faith component at Shelterwood. “The faith component is really important because it helps kids learn WHO they are and WHOSE they are. When kids understand their identity, they’re more able to find self-worth and value and purpose in their life. And that’s when the real change takes place.”