What a week we in the Presbyterian Church of Lake Travis have just had. We had been anticipating the coming together with the kids of MEYO (Multi-Level Youth Outreach, a program begun by the Divine Redeemer Presbyterian Church in San Antonio), but we had no idea how moving an experience it would be. Nine of the youth from MEYO came to Austin for a field trip. It is a trip during which they are expected to do some community work in the service of others, and indeed they did. On Wednesday and Friday, they worked in the vegetable gardens and then on the landscape of Community First Village, a unique village for the chronically homeless. On Thursday, they participated in leading worship service for the residents of the Silverado Memory Center. On Sunday, they were an integral part of our Sunday Worship Service, one of the most inspirational services we have had. And yes, even with all that, they had a little time for recreation and play (see photos).
This field trip gave us the blessed opportunity to be with them throughout their stay and thus allowed us to get to know them and begin to develop what we hope and pray will be a lasting relationship. Being together with them has also begun to both educate us and give us an appreciation for the difficulties of growing up in a gang ridden environment.
Clearly their trip was intended to be an inspiration for them, and there is no doubt it was. In reality, however, it was even more of an inspiration for us; especially the Sunday services. During these services, three of the young people gave a testimonial about their lives and the impact of MEYO and the Presbyterian church on them.
For those who did not have the opportunity to hear these kids share their testimonies with us, we are going to include one of these testimonials in the newsletter this week and in each of the next two weeks. When you read these stories, you will not only be moved by them, but you will begin to understand what can be done to aid in preventing children like them from becoming gang members, and instead become productive contributors to our world. The first of these testimonials is from Oscar, a graduate of MEYO and college, who is now back with MEYO as one of its counselors.
My name is Oscar, and last May, I graduated from college at the University of Houston at Victoria. My mom started me in the programs at Divine Redeemer when I was in elementary school, at Peace Pals, the after school program for 1st-5th graders. When I got in to middle school, I joined House of Teens, and started attending church youth group events, like Mission Presbytery’s Midwinter youth conferences at MoRanch, and the church’s annual summer mission trips. As a high school senior, I got to be on the Midwinter Planning Team, and help lead the Midwinter conferences.
I am an only child, and MEYO gave me a community to be part of, and a church family that has loved and cared for me for many years now. I was Catholic when I was growing up, but at some point, I realized that Divine Redeemer and MEYO had invested so much in me, and I really wanted to give back to that community. So my mom and I became Presbyterians.
My experience with House of Teens and Divine Redeemer has done so much for me. I have gotten to go to camps and numerous outdoor experiences. I have learned leadership skills, and learned to get out of my comfort zone. I have had some excellent role models, and had so many adults who cared about me, and have spent time and energy on my life.
Growing up, I did not think that going to college would even be a possibility for me. Everyone told me “you can’t do that”. Well, I did. When I graduated high school, I received scholarships through Divine Redeemer, and help with college applications through College Vista. I always knew that when I finished my education, I wanted to return to the Westside, and hopefully to share some of what has been given to me, with others in the neighborhood. I am now working with Lea at MEYO, and I pray that I will be as good a mentor to the other kids in the neighborhood, as so many people were to me.