By Katherine Lohrmann
Children’s names changed for confidentiality.
Children’s registration was in full, celebratory gear! Smiling staff were in place, games scattered across tables, and freshly baked snacks piled high. As the vehicles pulled up and children spilled out, laughter sounded in the air as excited kids arrived.
One group was less delighted. The worried case worker approached a Youth Haven staff member cautiously. “This is the Rudy children’s first time here,” she explained. “The four siblings are separated in the foster care system and haven’t seen each other in a year. This is their one week to be reunited.” The staff member assured her this was a normal occurrence at Youth Haven, but the social worker was still apprehensive. “They can be really hard to work with,” she cautioned.
The two boys stared at the ground with arms crossed as they clutched their garbage bag of belongings. The oldest - named Ashley - held her younger sister with eyes watching her surroundings closely.
At each retreat, the children are presented with the Youth Haven Trailbook - a customized Bible. Normally, this is a happy event. But upon receiving her Bible, Ashley stood up and threw it at a staff member. She wanted nothing to do with her team, and especially with God.
Games, crafts, and activities continued, but the Rudy children huddled together in a corner, not willing to join. The staff were patient and loving, desperately wishing the Rudys wouldn’t just “make it through,” but would enjoy their week. Better yet, they prayed they would meet Jesus!
The next evening, the program lead asked who would like to pray for dinner. One hand timidly went in the air. To everyone’s surprise, the hand belonged to Ashley Rudy! “Come on up,” the delighted staff member exclaimed.
Ashley walked to the front, then hesitated. “I don’t know how to pray,” she whispered. “What do I say?”
“Just talk to God. Ask Him for whatever you want,” the Program Lead responded. After a long pause, Ashley prayed, “God, please bring my family back together.” And then she went back to her team. That evening, Ashley accepted Jesus as her Savior. Before the end of the retreat, the rest of the Rudy children had done the same.
Since then, there is a visible change in the Rudy siblings. They return as often as they can, bringing their well-used Trailbooks and buzzing with questions about God. They happily engage in activities and are eager to learn and grow. They even respond to our children’s newsletters by sending back completed games and Bible activities. And God did answer Ashley’s prayer from that first retreat. Today, the children are again living together - reunited.
For these four children, Youth Haven is far more than a fun place where they had a chance to be together again. It is the place where they found hope. Thank you for your part in making that possible!