[blockquote]The glory of God is a human being fully alive; and to be alive consists in beholding God. -Saint Irenaeus[/blockquote]
Some days work at Neighborhood Ministries is painful. As staff we often have the painful privilege of witnessing the struggle to survive, brokenness seen up close, despair felt and hope lost. Sometimes the struggle feels overwhelming. It’s easy to lose hope.
And then…something happens that invigorates hope, that exposes God and hope is found. For me, this something has been an art series provided by our partner Free Arts of Arizona. This month, youth ages 12-16 were selected to participate in learning about and creating glass art. The first day, kids sat insecure, uncertain, uncomfortable, not wanting to engage fully. No one wanted to mess up or create an ugly piece of art. Not one kid gave themselves permission to be creative. They were too scared of doing it wrong.
Even in their hesitation, the Free Arts staff along with NM staff saw so much potential in our kids. We encouraged every question, every sign of curiosity, and hoped that they would be able to create art out of the uniqueness that God created them to be. I deeply believe what Galatians 5:1 says that, “It is for Freedom that Christ has set us free.” I so desperately wanted our kids to create in freedom without fear of doing it wrong or not being good enough.
The second day of class I was surprised to see that the kids were no longer tentative and withdrawn but engaged and excited about the class. Free Arts had fired the pieces from the previous class in a kiln and kids were able to see what they had created. It instilled in them a confidence that had been missing. This second day, they were asked to create bugs. They got to cut glass, shape it, mold it, layer it, and imagine their bug. One kid in particular caught my attention; he has been the most disengaged in the previous class. Thomas asked, eyes wide with excitement, “Kate, can I make a DRAGON?!” Then for the next two hours he work diligently creating an awesome fire-breathing dragon. He, along with the entire class had come alive with the creativity and talent inside of themselves. It was beautiful to watch.
My favorite thing about working at NM is getting to watch kids explore and discover who they are and what they are good at. NM provides kids with chances to try new things that are uncomfortable and feel risky. Yet, every time our kids engage in these activities they are changed. Something inside them comes alive. They find hope. In the process, I see God in them.
It makes me think of the quote by Saint Irenaeus, “The glory of God is man fully alive.” I love being able to participate in the journey of our youth at NM becoming fully alive; alive to who they are, who God is, and who they will be.