When you speak with Rebecca Henry, it is not difficult to experience the compassion and conviction she possesses to make a difference in the world. Rebecca Henry is the director of Share, a summer program for youth 12-18 years old. Since 2013, she formed a non-profit to support students of Lawrence Township. Responding to a call from God, Rebecca stepped out in faith to provide a space of nurture, care, and empowerment for a segment of youth who were in need of community and grace. Through her fierce determination and perseverance, in collaborations with other congregations in the community, Rebecca has created a summer youth program that provides space for youth 12-18 years old to be physically engaged, educationally enriched, and sacred for community building.
As pastor Charlotte Lohrenz and I walked into to speak with Rebecca at Castleton United Methodist Church, we witnessed a staff member from the Peace Learning Center speaking to students of Share about economic justice. These students were learning about the difficulties of financial management when living on minimum wage and what issues might occur that would challenge one’s ability to meet certain budget obligations. They were being asked to make financial choices based on a fixed income. How might one choose to spend money between getting medication for an illness or paying a bill for electricity? What would a student choose if the choice were between buying food to eat and getting gas to go to work? It was clear to me that Share was providing a safe place for students where they were challenged and nurtured to be their best selves.
Rebecca works closely with guidance counselors to uncover students who need a sacred space where they can come to be loved and nurtured. She is a champion for students who may be lost in an educational system that does not have the resources to support his/her growth or a community that is not able to fulfill a student’s need for friendship and encouragement.
Rebecca didn’t begin Share with a grand vision. Rather, this program was created as she began to feel the tug of God’s call on her heart. After attending a conversation about how congregations could provide support for local schools, she took time to drive around the area. She discovered that some of the apartments that students lived did not have green spaces for recreation or sidewalks for safe passage. These youth were trapped in their apartments. Often these youth were often tasked with the care of a younger sibling while their parent/s went to work. As the pull on her heartstrings became more apparent, Rebecca started Share with 8 students.
Today, Share has between 30-40 students. Not wanting to limit the availability of youth who could participate in the program, Share allows students to bring their younger siblings to the program when they become the primary caregiver during the day. Younger siblings are provided their own program for community building and enrichment. Transportation is also provided for families who are not able to drop off or pick up students for the program.
In partnership with ProAct Indy, Share was able to hire Cody Balog as the Program Director. Cody and the rest of the staff have worked tirelessly to create a community that supports these students with grace and compassion. With a listening ear, a hand on the back, or an arm around a shoulder, staff and volunteers continue to encourage, nurture, and support their students with love and compassion.
Rebecca has worked to connect her students to opportunities for further growth outside of the program. Some of the students of Share have worked summer jobs as a caddy to qualify for an Evans Scholarship to Indiana University or Purdue University. Rebecca connected some students to a mission trip opportunity and other families to Vacation Bible School. She is continuing to search out more ways to provide opportunities for students to connect to the wider community.
Share would not be as successful without the donations of time, gifts, and energy that volunteers offer to the program. Rebecca gives thanks for the volunteers and congregations who support the students of Share. She also understands that what Share needs moving forward is the possibility of having it being led by someone truly knows how to run a camp. Rebecca is having a conversation with ProAct Indy to consider if the program would be better served to be under their umbrella. Prayers of discernment for Rebecca, Share, and ProAct Indy are appreciated as they discern the best way forward to serve these students. Please pray for the staff of Share, (Cody, Alec, Tiffany, Jenna, Zaira, and Chrissy) as we thank God for their service and care.
Share began because one person took the time to listen and be open to what God had presented before them. Sometimes ministry takes place not because we get struck by lightening, but we find the courage to join into the work that God is already trying to do in the world. Rebecca heard a call and jumped in. Rebecca and the staff of Share became a champion for youth who often slip through the cracks.
Joining God in the work that God is already doing takes our willingness to see our community and see where God is already at work. It’s not hard to do if we take a moment to slow down and open ourselves up to the Spirit of God at work. This is the point of our neighborhood walks or drives. It is to see the people God places in front of us for us to see and love.
For more information about Share, go to http://www.share-lt.org/. God is waiting for us to become the hands and feet of Christ in the world.