A Christmas Message - The Door To Hope

December 24, 2017

Remarks from the YFT Board of Trustees President

In the hustle and bustle of the Christmas season, it’s easy to fill our time and our thoughts with a seemingly endless list of things to do. But for right now, I’d like to invite you to set that all aside and join me in a short reflection of what this season is truly about, where it all began and how that very first Christmas and the birth of our Savior is the shining star guiding our mission here at Youth For Tomorrow. 

We read in the Book of Luke: 

In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while[a]Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to their own town to register.

So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them. 

Imagine what that must have been like. Mary, pregnant and about to give birth. Scared, probably terrified, even. An outcast, and so young. 

And her betrothed Joseph, equally scared, wanting to do the right thing. Entrusted with great responsibility far beyond his years. No doubt carrying the weight of the world on his shoulders. 

Imagine that lonely and uncertain journey: rugged terrain, blisters on feet, exhaustion, the endless lurching and jostling from riding on the back of a donkey. 

And now, weary and hungry…likely in great pain with labor pains and from walking by foot for miles on end…imagine that moment…when it looks like hope is finally on the horizon…a place to stay for the night…a warm meal…an answered prayer…only to be told no. There is no room for you. There is no meal for you. There is no hope for you. 

Just like Mary and Joseph were turned away at the inn in their greatest, most desperate moment of need, our kids here at Youth For Tomorrow have been turned away…pushed away…victimized by the very people who are supposed to love and care for them. 

They are kids like Paul, who was born in poverty in Mexico and wandered the streets looking for food until he was adopted by an American family as a toddler. It seemed like a miracle…until his new family abandoned him, too. Filled with hurt and rage, his anger was overwhelming, manifesting itself in scrapes with the law and chronic truancy. A path to prison…or worse.   

Or like Alina, whose addicted parents left her in charge of all her siblings for days on end when she was just 10 so they could go to the casino, where they would drink excessively and gamble away what little money they had. Her pain was so great, she turned to drugs and found comfort in a group that accepted her…until this group of so-called friends revealed themselves as criminal gang members, kidnapped and raped her. 

Or Tina, whose uncle took her under his wing after her parents died. Things seemed OK for a while, until one day one of his friends came to pick her up and never took her home. Just like that, she found herself living the horror of being sex trafficked…one sleazy hotel room to another…forced to use her body, over and over again, to make money for this guy and his criminal cronies…a slave to their whims. 

These stories will break your heart. And they are only a few of the thousands of children who’ve been served by Youth For Tomorrow…8,124 kids and their families just this past year alone and an incredible 16,936 since our doors first opened here. 

Friends, we have a lot of BIG goals ahead of us, but let us never lose sight of who we are and why we are here. As leaders at Youth For Tomorrow, we, too, are the inn keepers…the inn keepers we wish our Lord and Savior and his weary parents had experienced in Bethlehem on that dark, lonely night of his birth. We WELCOME the weary and down trodden. We STAND at the door to hope. We NEVER turn anyone away who needs us. 

Just like the star that shone brightly over the manger signaling that the Light of the World has come, Youth For Tomorrow seeks to reflect Christ’s light to the children who are directed our way. 

And that light is powerful. 

The young man abandoned in Mexico and abandoned by his adoptive parents? Well, he is about to graduate with a high school degree and has been working as an apprentice in the trades. After therapy, he has learned appropriate ways to channel his feelings. He said, “I am finally the man I wanted to be.” 

The teen girl abusing drugs and victimized by a gang? She earned her high school diploma at Youth For Tomorrow, she has reconciled with her parents, she has been clean and sober for nearly 2 years and she is in community college working on a degree to become a medical assistant. 

And the girl lured into a dangerous sex trafficking ring? She is living at Youth For Tomorrow right now, doing very well in her classes, going through intensive counseling, and hopes to be going home to a loving foster family this spring. A staff member recently overhead her laughing with a classmate over a funny story—the first time she’d heard her laugh since arriving here. 

For many of our kids here, this may be the first Christmas they’ve ever received a gift…from anyone. Or had a hot meal. Or celebrated the holiday somewhere other than a grimy flop house. In fact, the Christmas season can bring back a lot of pain and bad memories for our kids. Showing you care can go a very long way. 

So as we reflect on the miracle that is Christ’s birth and as we come together to conduct the business of Youth For Tomorrow, let us remember that, even amid pain and darkness, Christ is the light of the world…today and forever. Youth For Tomorrow exists to reflect this light brightly, a beacon to kids in crisis who need hope…a warm bed…a hot meal…a caring adult…a fresh start…a new future. 

Because no matter what these kids have been through, no matter how bleak and hopeless their circumstances, we know one truth…and it guides us every day: 

The light has shined in the darkness, and the darkness cannot…WILL NOT…overcome it. 

Thank you for your leadership, for your heart for kids, for your passion for Youth For Tomorrow—and, most of all, for being a bright light in a dark world. 

Merry Christmas and thank you!