Dear Shelterwood Team:
I want to take a moment this Thanksgiving Holiday and thank you for your service and your dedication to Jesus and to the kids and families we serve at Shelterwood. I have told many people that I am very proud of our entire Shelterwood team.
I would like to share a wonderful complement we just received from John DeVries from a conversation he had with the CEO and Founder of one of the other “Jesus focused faith based” programs in the country. They had a Education Consultant visit their program and the consultant told them that “Shelterwood was the gold standard of Christian programs.” It is a huge encouragement that the perspective regarding us continues to be so positive.
And I recognize that this positive report is due first to the favor and blessing of God, and then second to the hard work of a wonderful and dedicated team of people. Please join me this Thanksgiving in thanking God for His favor and blessing, and ask Him to continue to give us wisdom, divine protection, and to send us those kids and families that we can help.
I also want to share a story with you from our trip home on the airplane from Ft Lauderdale to Dallas with our team of 35 from Haiti. I am going to leave off the specific names. You can certainly guess the names, but the purpose is not to single our any particular staff members, but instead to give you a picture of the perception of our Shelterwood team by those watching.
I was seated on the exit row aisle, and I boarded the flight first so that I could check off our kids as they boarded the plane. One of our young adult staff brought up the rear, and he checked the kids off in the lounge as they boarded the plane. Seated across from me in the exit row aisle was a middle-aged woman who was interested in my list and struck up a conversation. It turns out that she was a psychologist and had placed one of her children in a residential program a number of years ago. She started the conversation by telling me how well behaved and respectful that our kids had been in the waiting area at the airport. She told me about a couple conversations that she had with our kids prior to boarding, and she was very complimentary.
Towards the end of the boarding process, one of our girls was unable to find luggage space in the overhead bins, and she came to me and began to cry, saying “my mom and dad told me to keep this with me and not to check it, what am I going to do?” One of our team immediately got up and pulled their own bag out of the overhead bin so that she had space for her bag, and then took their bag to the front of the plane to be gate checked. The female psychologist next to me watched this transpire, and said nothing.
Then halfway through the flight, one of our young adult leaders knelt down in the aisle next to me and told me that one of our female teens was using foul language and cursing out one of our female staff. It had evidently caught the attention of the senior flight attendant who had warned her that if she did not behave herself, she would not be allowed to board her connecting flight. I instructed this young adult leader to move our most senior female staff member to the seat adjacent to this young woman and to explain to her the consequences of her behavior. And that if she did not change her behavior and apologize to the flight attendant, she would not board the next flight, and I would drive her from Dallas to KC with one of our female staff. The female psychologist next to me watched this transpire, and said nothing.
Then I got up and went to the front of the plane to visit with all four of the flight attendants on the flight. I introduced myself to them, explained who we were, and where we had just been. Among other things, I told them that fourteen of these kids had just been baptized in the Caribbean, and that we had a team of 35 on the plane and 34 were behaving themselves. I apologized for the “one” who was misbehaving. I assured them that we do not approve of that behavior, and that there would be consequences. I said that “I fully support your decision should you choose to refuse her boarding the next flight. We will simply rent a car and drive her back to KC from Dallas.” The flight attendants couldn’t have been more kind, gracious and understanding. They wanted to know about Shelterwood and what we do. I then went back to my seat, and while I was sitting there, the lead flight attendant brought me two bags of stuff… when I looked inside, I found a sample of most of the stuff you can purchase on the plane: a bottle of wine, chips, nuts, hummus and cheese, etc.. They thanked me for what we do and said that they just wanted to bless me with these things as a gift. The female psychologist next to me watched this transpire, and said nothing.
After the airplane landed, the female psychologist leaned over and with tears in her eyes, said, “I wish that I had known about a facility like yours to place my child in when he was struggling. Your team is absolutely amazing.” This was a huge compliment from a woman who watched our kids and our staff interact for several hours, and I would agree with her. We do have much to be thankful for! God has blessed us with a great team! Thanks again for all you do!
I know that you may be working this Thanksgiving, and as a result, you will be missing your family. Thank you for your service to Jesus and to us at Shelterwood. Your service has not gone unnoticed in heaven, and our entire team is grateful as well. As Corrie Ten Boom used to say, “If you obey God and give of your life, time and possessions generously, you will discover that you cannot out-give God. God will do amazing things for you and through you.” God is doing amazing things here at Shelterwood. Thanks so much for the important part that you play in our ministry to struggling teens and their families.
May God bless you this Thanksgiving!