James Patrick agreed to go on a camping trip as a chaperone. He is now 18 and has demonstrated a lot of maturity. JP, Dwight, and I took 10 4th-8th graders to Burgess Creek Falls and Edgar Evins State Park with Great Outdoors University. The great thing about partnering with GOU is they provide everything while allowing us the flexibility to add some activities that are important to PTM. Following a day of hiking trails around water falls, playing in the creek, and setting up camp, we shared a few stories and were getting ready for bed. When making the rounds for final good nights, I stopped by JP’s group to suggest they say prayers together. JP replied, “we already did”.
JP started at PTM in 2005 as a 3rd grader. He has made me proud so many times. He has also made a handful of disappointing decisions (like all of us). Having JP as a volunteer leader gives me great hope that we are building within our students a desire and an ability to give back. During our Sunday morning devotional time, JP shared a little of his story which is a story many of our students share with him: “When I started at PTM I had anger issues. I had just lost a loved one and my father had just been put in jail. I felt like life was unfair. Some kids picked on me and I got in some fights and would kick trash cans. But God was good to me. He gave me good people to help me and to believe in me and to keep loving on me.”
As he was sharing I was thinking about how every one of the boys on our trip could relate to some part of this story and how hopeful I am that they too will be surrounded with believers who will invest them. And I thought about the number of people who have poured into JP. Over 35 different marketplace mentors in addition to several who have spent time with him this summer—Matt, Dan, Brad, Neal—and there are others who I do not even know about. Another thought hit me. In 8 years boys from this camping trip may be leaders for another “generation” of PTM students. This renews my hope in what is going on through the volunteers, program, and staff at PTM.
Driving back from this trip Donna emailed a picture from Alliyah’s summer graduation. At her graduation she was surrounded by mentors she has met through PTM—another image of a great cloud of witnesses surrounding PTM students. (Thanks Rachel, Kelly, Donna, and Janet!). Soon Alliyah will be volunteering at PTM and our students will have even more mentors pouring into them.