05 February 2007

Billie's Legacy

On My way back from Jacksonville, I sat next to a white-haired lady of informally regal presence. Her name is Billie.

Now a retired minister, Billie spent most of her adult life working with drug-trapped youths around the world. She was amongst the founding pillars of David Wilkerson's ministries and a founding counselor in the Teen Challenge program. She worked closely with Nicky Cruz, of The Cross and the Switchblade fame, to develp effective inner-city rehab programs. After doing so in Los Angeles, Billie and her husband set up a drug rehabilitiation program in Maui that was considered a shining example of treating the person, not the problem. In her almost 45 years of changing lives, Billie traveled to 34 countries and helped thousands of people, almost always one at a time.

And yet as We spoke, in that suddenly-familiar, oddly-intimate way travelers do, Billie wondered about her legacy. Now that her grandchildren were adults, she was turning her eyes to the future she wouldn't see and pondering what role she would have in it.

Have you ever done that? Have you ever wondered what your legacy will be? In the cliched words of the "tombstone exercise": What would you like your tombstone to say about you?

Coming so close on the heels of My dad's death, Billie's thoughts resonated with My own. In her case, I felt her legacy was obvious as her long and successful record of ministering to young people and adults on four continents was clearly a worthy and well-spent life's work. And yet, she was almost despondent about her role as mother, feeling that she had short-changed her children for the ministry. As evidence, she pointed out that she was not really "close" to any of them, for they had lives scattered around the U.S.

From My limited experience, I told her that, as parents, We always feel We could have done more for Our children. It simply comes from Our caring nature and never seems satisfied. I turned her "evidence" around and noted that the fact that her children had established solid lives, not only for themselves but for their children as well (We had discussed them earlier), was proof she had done what a parent should do: Prepare their children to stand on their own. The idea seemed to catch her by surprise, then she nodded in agreement.

Billie told Me that when she was diagnosed with cancer nine years ago, her oldest son, the "most distant" of her children, almost moved in with her, commuting by plane from Jacksonville, Florida to Erie, Pennsylvania every week to spend 2-3 days at her side. Her other children visited frequently, but it was this child, the one who clashed most often with his mother who became the closest during the battle. She told Me that back then she thought it was because he was afraid she would die; now she saw that it was because he never was "distant," only different in the way he showed his love.

Billie beat her cancer and her children have continued their lives, as has she. In a small but significant way, I helped her see her legacy more clearly, that it is brighter and larger than she can imagine and that without a doubt, it will last for a long time.

What will be My legacy? Billie inspired Me to return to The Pledge to the World and make it a priority. I will try to do more.

What will be Your legacy? You already have one, but is it what you truly want it to be?

What will be Our legacy? Do enough of Us care to make it what We want rather than what We allow?

The Jenius Has Spoken.


Karly said...

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Anonymous said...

Bonifay, FL (West FL Teen Challenge Boys Ranch) regularly has volunteers, typically retirees who come and help out around the place living in RVs on site.

Here's a first hand account.


Anonymous said...

My son has been enrolled at Teen Challenge Bonifay, FL since June 2006. It has been a rewarding and life changing experience for him. He had a two-week Christmas visit and a two-week "re-entry" visit back home with family. His reactions to situations and demeaner are entirely different than when he first enrolled and he is returning to the son we knew and loved as a child.

The ranch is regularly monitored by county agencies and suprise inspections are frequently carried out without incident. This is a military style camp with firm strict rules, but my son has flourished with the consistency and discipline with love.

I could not see sending my son to a facility that would use drugs to control him nor could I see the benefit of a psychobable facility to rationalize his behaviour.

This is just what he needed to get his head screwed on straight. There is a proper amount of discipline blended with classroom, bible study and mentorship. As students progress through the program and show improvement they are given the opportunity to lead and mentor the newer students.

Its not a facility with ex-military drill instructors harrassing the boys 24/7. Its Christian men held to high standards of integrity and peers of the boys who have demonstrated a level of trust and accountability. There are also a number of ladies in teaching and facilitating roles.

Further, the students are kept busy with regular chores and exercise. This is a working farm and they do supply some of their own food items. Its a good way to give a young man some responsibility and have him gain self-worth through accomplishment.

There is also free time for swimming or fishing in the lake, playing board games, chess, table tennis, weight lifting, horse riding, reading, etc. My son is teaching himself to play the accoustic guitar.

The students are rewarded for acheiving school goals with field trips. My son has gone deep-sea fishing on a coulple of occasions, for example. During the yearly rodeo, in town, a large number of the boys are allowed to attend. There are opportunities for community service and missions trips both in the states and outside the U.S.A. as well.

Yes, the phone calls are monitored via speaker-phone. I haven't seen the need to discuss anything that couldn't be overheard by a dorm full of boys and I've never been cut off.

My son is in the best shape emotionally, mentally, physically and spiritually that he has ever been.

All in all, its a great program.

Not of This World said...

For those trying to make a decision about sending a loved one to Teen Challenge, voluntarily entering the program, or entering under court order.

Resource clearing house and place for testimonials both favorable and not.