We see the hope and potential in every young person

Annual Celebration & Fundraising Banquet a huge success!

On behalf of RE:SOUL we would like to extend a huge thank you to everyone who attended last night and made it a successful evening!! We are so grateful!

Hiding in Plain Sight: The Stories of Today’s Youth

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“This is my first meal of the day!” At 11:30 p.m. my heart sank as I sat across the table from Trey and watched him devour a donut and a small chocolate milk.

I had stayed late that night after drop-in to catch up on some work. I left the centre just after 11:00 p.m. and on my drive home noticed Trey on his bike. Sitting at a stop light, I watched him cross the road, pull up in front of a Tim Hortons, and walk in. Though my mind said, “just drive home” my heart said, “go in and see him.”

I decided to join him.

I already knew Trey quite well. A student in Grade 9, he moved back and forth between his mom’s and his dad’s, and occasionally lived with his grandparents as well. His father had been in and out of jail for drug related offences and his mother suffered from severe mental health challenges that more often than not went largely unaddressed.

In the short time I had known Trey, I had already identified this 14-year-old kid as a survivor. The stories he had shared with me about his life and his family were both shocking and heart-breaking … and yet here he was, eating his first “meal” of the day, still willing to share his life with me. He even offered to share his donut with me!

As a result of this “chance” meeting late at night, several actions were put in place to help ensure Trey would have his basic needs met. Amongst many other action items, including connecting him to other service providers in Milton, we began to provide gift cards for groceries and made sure he had a good meal when he was at the Youth Centre as well.

Though I often feel what we can offer in terms of meeting “basic needs” is small (another reason working with other service agencies in Milton is vital) teens like Trey remind me that just having a place to be and belong is his greatest need. He has told me on many occasions that without the love and encouragement of adults who really care, he doesn’t know where he’d be today.

Trey is no longer hiding, at least from those he trusts … and Trey continues to hold onto hope! It has not been an easy journey and many times he has wanted to give up. Truthfully, I think most would have! But Trey is a survivor and it is our privilege to walk beside him!

 

Sincerely,
Michael Burns
Director, RE:SOUL Youth Centre / YFC Milton

Hiding in Plain Sight: The Stories of Today’s Youth

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Today’s Teen Story is written by Mary Martin, former Volunteer Director and long-time volunteer and youth advocate.

When Sasha first came to the youth centre, she seemed to be hiding behind her hair with an iron mask over her emotions. Although she rarely engaged in conversation with anyone, she showed up. Over and over again, she showed up. And the volunteers showed up. Over and over again, the same staff and volunteers showed up. Consistently Sasha was treated with kindness and respect.

The unspoken message said, “We see you. You belong here. When you want to talk, we will listen.”

Gradually, Sasha began to join in the games and the conversations. Gradually, we learned who Sasha is. We learned that she loves mountains and puppies and rock music and she has a passion for softball. We discovered that she has a fantastic sense of humour, once she feels safe enough to express it.

As trust was built, Sasha shared some of the struggles she was having and some of the negative thoughts she harboured about herself. Through consistent, positive conversations, she is learning the truth about who she is created to be … a priceless masterpiece of the Creator.

Now Sasha is a regular at the youth centre, displaying a growing sense of confidence in knowing she is important to us and more significantly, important to God.

The story of Sasha reminds us of the value of patience and consistency. God is a patient teacher and promises His loving presence is always with us. These are messages we hope to mirror to the youth of Milton, including:

“We see you! You belong here! When you want to talk, we will listen!”

 

Sincerely,
Michael Burns
Director, RE:SOUL Youth Centre / YFC Milton

Hiding in Plain Sight: The Stories of Today’s Youth

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“Every year a couple of teens die tragically, often because of suicide. There’s nothing we can do about it. It’s inevitable.”

These words were spoken to me by a long-time educator with the school board. Though I knew her sentiments came from both fatigue and frustration, I couldn’t help but recoil at her words and the apathy that accompanied her thinking. As we continued talking (and many times since then) I found myself wondering how many others share this belief; that the tragic loss of teenage life is inevitable? What I said to her then and what I say to you now could be summarized this way:

“There is so much more we could be doing and there is so much more we should be doing! To give up and do nothing is never an option!”

Today, I simply invite you to read the words of a teenage girl who took the time to write a letter of thanks. Though the letter is from a few years back, her words remind me of the importance of a place like RE:SOUL. Often unknowingly we are dealing with matters of life and death!

(Note: Though a few minor name changes or deletions were made for confidentiality sake, I’ve left the body of the letter exactly as I received it.)

when i started going to the church in grade 9 i wanted to find God. I wanted to believe in something greater than what we have on earth, i wanted some hope.
i don’t know if you knew, but i was very depressed in grade 9. i was cutting my wrists , smoking weed, and often taking large doses of over the counter drugs to help me sleep.

i grew up as a catholic, but i never believed in God, so i turned to the youth group in order to try to help me, from a different perspective, i was as you would explain it. “exploring faith”.

i kept coming back, in order to try and find and understand God, but what kept me coming back more than anything, was the youth and how accepted and loved i felt when i was there. at the time i had alot “friends” but really, i felt lonely. i didn’t trust anyone, because i didn’t trust myself unless i was high, because than i didn’t hate myself.

i want to thank you though. without you, and the youth, i would not be here today. i honestly believe that without the support you provided with me, i would have fallen farther into drugs, become more depressed, and probably would have died from OD, or from cutting my wrists.

you saved me. you also made me a stronger person, you made me be more accepting of other people and i am happier now.

Worth noting, I am simply one of many adults who welcomed and poured into the life of this young lady. It was the environment of acceptance, belonging, and love that gave her the foundation to find greater strength, peace, and happiness! This is what we do at RE:SOUL.

 

Sincerely,
Michael Burns
Director, RE:SOUL Youth Centre / YFC Milton

Hiding in Plain Sight: The Stories of Today’s Youth

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“He said he wouldn’t show anyone!  He said the picture would just be for him!  He even said he loved me and would never do anything to hurt me!”

Candice first came to the Youth Centre with her parents.  They had called the week before, asked some questions about who we are and what we do, and then requested a tour of the centre with their daughter. Though they didn’t share much about Candice during that first visit, her mom did pull me aside and almost in a whisper told me that Candice had been struggling at school and with her “so-called friends” over the last several months. They were looking for a safe place with some positive role models as well as somewhere she could begin to develop new friendships.

Truthfully, it didn’t take long for Candice to fit right in and begin to make friends.  She was outgoing, kind-hearted, easy to talk with, and had a very distinct laugh that was often heard. Only during our weekly Supper & Soul Talk did she seem to withdraw a little, though a keen volunteer had also noticed that her eyes always seemed to be looking everyone over. In a subtle but almost calculated way we began to notice how much time Candice spent checking out others. In fact, it seemed like she was never quite relaxed, constantly but secretly sizing everyone up.

It was after a group discussion one night that she pulled one of our female volunteers aside and told them her story.

Tears flowed before words came out but she eventually found the courage to say that she had “sexted” her boyfriend a few months back. She went on to explain that she had always struggled with body image and felt like she lived in her sister’s shadow, who was always referred to as “beautiful” by her parents.  She knew her parents didn’t mean to elevate her sister over her, they probably had no idea, but she always felt like they did. This, along with several other factors, led to an eating disorder, and at one point she weighed as little as 87 lbs. Though she felt terrible she liked how she looked, so she kept depriving her body.

It was at this time that she started receiving attention from a guy in her class and soon after they were dating. Only two weeks later she had already made decisions that she regretted and then the request for the nude picture came through a text. Deep down she didn’t want to and had heard of other sexting gone bad, but after some convincing (along with her own fear of losing her boyfriend) she sent him a picture of herself with nothing on but a bathing suit bottom.

The very next morning her sister saw it posted on Facebook. She immediately told Candice and then told their parents. In quick order her parents had the picture removed from Facebook, contacted the school, and the police got involved. Everything that could have been done was done … but Candice couldn’t shake the fact that likely hundreds of people had seen the photo and over 70 people had “Liked” it. This led to a season of depression, losing almost all of her friends at school, and eventually her parents removed her from school altogether and enrolled her in an alternative education program.

Candice has been a regular at the Youth Centre now for a while.  Most of the teens and volunteers don’t know the details of her story and those she has shared with continue to work with her regarding self-image, self-worth, healthy living, and most importantly, her identity.  She is learning how to forgive others as well as forgive herself. She is learning that she is not defined by her past but instead looking to the future and what good lies ahead.  She is coming to understand that her value and worth is not dictated by others but in who she is and who God has created her to be.

Candice is no longer hiding!  She is finding hope!

 

Sincerely,
Michael Burns
Director, RE:SOUL Youth Centre / YFC Milton

Hiding in Plain Sight: The Stories of Today’s Youth

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When Jason first came to the youth centre he seemed to fit right in.  He was easy to talk to and it certainly appeared that it was easy for him to make friends as well.  With a skateboard almost always in his hands, that is when he wasn’t riding it, it was easy to tell he identified himself as a “skater” though he didn’t seem to have a lot of friends from that same community.

Over time it became obvious that Jason didn’t have a lot of close friends at all and even though he remained “friendly” with the other teens from the Youth Centre, we quickly realized that he preferred to keep others at a distance. When it was just games or hanging out he seemed to be okay, but whenever the conversations went deeper he’d go silent and retreat into himself.

After months, maybe even a year of giving Jason the necessary space to develop trust he took a leap of faith:  He rolled up on his skateboard, sat down beside me on the curb, and asked if he could tell me something. Recognizing the window of opportunity, I of course welcomed the conversation, and assured him that he could tell me anything.

From there, over the next hour and in the midst of tears, he told me that his dad had left his mom for another woman when he was 10.  Even though his dad said nothing would change with their relationship, very quickly things did, and it was soon a rare occasion that Jason would see his father.  As a result, he began to find it hard to make and keep close friends.  It wasn’t noticed as much in elementary school but when he entered high school, he quickly found himself with few friends, and even then distanced himself from them.  While no one would have considered him a “loner” he certainly felt that he was.  He then confessed to me that he had been harming himself for well over a year, using a lighter or a cigarette to burn himself in places people couldn’t see.  Though he acknowledged that “self-harm” wasn’t a good way to deal with his emotions, he said it did help to numb the pain inside, at least temporarily.

That first conversation, the first brave and bold step, was the beginning of an ongoing conversation toward better things for Jason.  With the support of some key people, including a few volunteers from the Youth Centre, he began to talk more often about his life and the difficult emotions he wrestles with.  Though it took some time and convincing, Jason agreed to visit his family doctor and is exploring the possibility of some ongoing mental health challenges as well. Even though he has had some “moments of weakness” he no longer burns himself as a way of coping and he continues to find a place of belonging at the Youth Centre.  His relationship with both staff and students continues to grow and we’re praying his relationship with God will soon do the same.

Jason is no longer hiding!  He is finding hope!

 

Sincerely,
Michael Burns
Director, RE:SOUL Youth Centre / YFC Milton

Hiding in Plain Sight: The Stories of Today’s Youth

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You see a group of teenagers walking home from school, at the arena, or just hanging outside the local mall.  They’re laughing, telling stories, and look to be having a good time.  In the moment they might be … but appearances can be deceiving!  If you could see who they really are, if they dared to let you in and you dared to take the time and listen, you would hear the stories of a generation who stand on shaky ground.  The reasons, they are endless and unique to every teen, but there is one common thread amongst their stories: they’re hanging on, they’re survivors, and they’re looking for reasons to hope.

Starting Monday we will begin to tell their stories!

We invite you to read and we invite you to listen with both your mind and heart engaged!  We invite you to look beyond the stereotypes and to respect their individual stories.  They are your neighbours, they are your friend’s kids and your kid’s friends, and who knows, maybe they’re even your own.  Our first conviction at RE:SOUL:  They are God’s kids and they have they been created with immeasurable value and worth!  Therefore, we must begin to invest in this generation as such!  Their lives truly matter!

 

Sincerely,
Michael Burns
Director, RE:SOUL Youth Centre / YFC Milton

A NEW SEASON…

It’s hard to believe that spring is already here!  For those who love the snow like I do, it was another disappointing winter here in Milton.  Instead of a winter wonderland, we simply had long, cold, grey days.  With little or no snow to play in, even the most enthusiastic winter-lover is happy to see the spring come!

There is something about spring that is exciting, even inspiring!  Though the trees are not budding yet, they soon will, and the feel of the warm sun awakens our senses and let’s us know that life is about to burst forth once again!

So it has been at RE:SOUL these first few months of 2017.  There are signs of new life in all aspects of our ministry and we know that a new season is upon us!  Whether it’s our growing connection with community partners and high schools, new students walking through our door for the first time, or our posturing for growth by looking to hire four new staff, we believe our best days are ahead of us!


 

With this in mind, I would like to invite you to join us this month in the following ways:

1.  Each week you will receive an email with a short story about a teen who attends the Youth Centre.*  Take the time to read and get to know some of the very real and hidden challenges our youth face today!

2.  If you are one who prays, take the time (after you’ve read the email) to pray for this generation, the youth of Milton, and those who walk through our doors!  We covet your prayers!

3.  As the ministry of RE:SOUL grows, so does our need for additional financial support.  For this reason we are introducing a Spring Fundraiser that we hope you will all take part in.  The details will be explained in the first “teen story” email you receive and we hope it will be both a simple and fun way to keep the ministry moving forward throughout the spring and summer months!


 

We are so thankful for you and the many others who support the work of YFC Milton / RE:SOUL Youth Centre!  Together we can make a difference in so many lives!  We already are!
Sincerely,
Michael Burns
Director  |  RE:SOUL / YFC Milton

A game similar to that of “bump” is played on our pool table at the Youth Centre and is by far one of the teens favourite!  A rare day goes by when we don’t play it, though it is not for the faint of heart!  The youth named the game “RE:SOUL” and though not original, it certainly helped solidify our new name with the teens!
Though teens are stereotyped as always having their headphones on and disconnected from everyone else, at RE:SOUL this is rarely the case.  Whether it be playing sports outside, sitting around the table and playing games together, or yes, even playing video games, the teens want to do things together and with our leaders!  It’s great to see this community growing together!
Okay, well we did have a few weeks of cold, winter weather that allowed us to complete and enjoy our own ice rink!  Though it was short lived, many of the teens had a fun time on the ice and a few intense games of hockey took place!
* For confidentiality reasons we cannot share the actual names of students and need to blur the stories just a little.  However, each story will be an accurate representation of our youth (and youth in general today) and the challenges they face on a daily basis!

Thank you for making 2016 a great year for RE:SOUL!!

Merry Christmas to you and yours!

As we enter the Christmas season, I would like to express my deep and sincere thanks to all of you who have helped make 2016 a significant year of rebuilding!
RE: has tremendous meaning in and of itself, and this year has been a year of RE:  rebranding – now RE:SOUL; rebuilding – the renovation of our Youth Centre; renewing – key partnerships with so many of you; reconnecting – with community partners, schools, and the youth we serve … reawakening, reimagining, recreating … all words that would accurately describe the season of ministry RE:SOUL has been in this past year.

So as we look back, our hearts are filled with gratitude!

As we look forward, our hearts are filled with great anticipation!

It is my prayer for YOU that as you enter the Christmas season and you ponder the wonder and mystery of Immanuel – God with us – that you too will be filled with gratitude and anticipation in your own lives.  God is with us!

On behalf of the team here at RE:SOUL we would like to wish you and your family a very MERRY CHRISTMAS!  Thank you again for partnering with us!

Sincerely,
Michael Burns
Director  |  RE:SOUL / YFC Milton

On Friday, December 16th a group from Southside Community Church prepared Christmas Dinner for the youth of RE:SOUL.  We had a great turnout, delicious food, and lots of fun!  Thanks to everyone who helped make this night a success!  The teens had a great time and were truly thankful for the evening.
No Christmas get together is complete without some games around the table.  Spoons is actually a favourite of many of the youth … though it’s not for the faint of heart.  Be quick or be clawed!
Santa showed up but everyone was quick to figure out this wasn’t the real Santa Claus!  Funny hats, funny hair, ugly Christmas sweaters, and onesies all made appearances too!
A SPECIAL NOTE:  We would like to also express our deep thanks to everyone who attended and gave generously at our 2016 Annual Celebration & Fundraising Banquet.  (We learned a valuable lesson that night – we need to take pictures at significant events like that!)  The night was a huge success and the generosity of those in attendance was truly humbling!   Thank you again for investing in the lives of youth!

RE:SOUL Youth Centre

 

Dear friends and supporters of YFC Milton:

Today is an exciting day for us as we introduce ourselves as RE:SOUL.  We invite you to join us as we turn the page and begin a new season of serving the youth of our community and beyond!

More to come … but for now, enjoy the video!

Thank you again for your support!

Sincerely,
Michael Burns
Director  |  YFC / Youth Unlimited Milton