In my role at a national Non-Government Organisation, I manage a Youth Program to support young people between the ages of 12 – 21 who are disengaged from school, their families, their community, those who are caught up in the Juvenile Justice System, homeless or at risk of homelessness. Sadly, most of the young people our team works with come from broken, dysfunctional homes, where believing in themselves is a foreign way of life. Some of these young people live in home environments most of us could not begin to imagine.

About three weeks ago I met a young girl aged 13 called Sue* (*not her real name). When I met her on the Tuesday, she had been held in custody for 3 days at a local Juvenile Detention Centre. This was the first time I had been at the Juvenile Court and I sat there all day, heard many cases and saw many young people as young as 12 and as old as 17 in front of the judge. Some had family and friends supporting them but most of them had nobody, not even their parents only their government provided lawyer and in some cases a community youth workers.

During a brief chat with Sue, I told her about a Sailing Program she could attend if she wanted to, “it is great fun, you learn about sailing, you meet heaps of other young people, free lunch and free transport and if you come for 2 half days each week for 5 weeks, you get a certificate and a gift”, so Sue agreed and I went into the court and I advised the court that Sue had agreed to attend. By the second week, Sue didn’t come Sailing at all, my team drove to her home to pick her up in the morning and she wouldn’t get out of bed (Sue lives in a very dysfunctional home, with 5 other siblings and she is under the care of the Minister). On the third week, I was driving the bus with one of my staff to pick up Sue and I turned and said “Sue hasn’t been sailing for the past 2 sessions, if she doesn’t come today, we’re not going to bother any more”…..

We arrived at Sue’s place and I was surprised (and also glad) that Sue was ready, got on the bus and came sailing with us. Immediately I thought to myself “I’m so glad I came around today, how can I give up on this girl when everyone else has.” I was reminded that even when I fall short, when I fail and have failed many times in the past, that God has not given up on me and I felt God say “Don’t give up on her, because I haven’t”.

So I ask government, local leaders, parents, teachers, policy makers and every member of our community; Please don’t give up on the future leaders of our nation like Sue, it is not their fault they find themselves in these tough situations, they have no role models, nothings to aspire to, no one to rely up on and no one to believe in. They don’t yet know the love of Jesus and through our genuine love, care, support and embrace, we can truly show young kids in our neighbourhoods, in our streets and in our local schools, the real love and grace of Jesus as He shows it to us daily.

By Program Manager of Mental Health Services and Youth Programs for Mission Australia Darwin, NT.