“Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one. Doesn’t she light a lamp, sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it?” – Luke 15:8
Two years ago, I found myself waking up at 5 am, driving 45 minutes to another city, and knocking on the doors of strangers.
One of my students was on his last chance at school. He had to prove to his principal that he could show up each day in order to avoid expulsion. A couple of months earlier, he had turned 18 and been turned out of his house. He’d been couch surfing on his drug dealer’s couches or his junkie friend’s bedroom floors each night for weeks. With the rules of the school system as they were, he wasn’t allowed to ride any bus to school; he had to ride the one he was assigned at the beginning of the school year that picked him up in front of the house where he was no longer allowed.
It was for this student, we’ll call him D, that I had roused my police officer friend to go with me and give D a ride to school. He asked. Who was I to say no?
D and I walked into school together, ready to sit down and make a game plan with the principal. D was eager to show that he was ready and willing to stay in school, to stay clean, and to graduate. Unfortunately, the principal didn’t see things the way D and I saw them. D was sent to ISS, isolated from his friends and favorite teachers. Later that day, D’s backpack was searched, they found cigarettes, and, thanks to the Zero Tolerance policy, D was officially expelled and faced criminal charges.
The next morning, I went and knocked on all the doors I could, searching for D. Nothing. He didn’t show up again at church, and I received one text from him a few weeks later, containing a vague apology and a thin excuse for his lack of communication.
Jesus’ parables of the lost coin always bring this story to my mind. Youth ministry is full of lost coins. Sometimes it’s the student who walks away from their faith or the student whose parents decide it’s best to go to the church down the street, even though you know in your gut it isn’t safe for them there.
Often times, these students are like my D; they’re here and then they’re suddenly gone. At SPARK Conference, we discussed at length the fact that we are only in our student’s lives for a handful of years. We are blessed enough to work with them in their most challenging and formative, but at best, we’re in their lives for an instance.
What joy and comfort it is to know that our God never gives up searching! Our lost students are God’s lost coin, and we are given hope as She looks for them (and us): “And when she finds it, she calls her friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin.’“ -Luke 15:10
Last summer, 18 months after that last text, I got a phone call from D’s ex girlfriend. She told me that he had moved to a new city, away from his old friends. D was enrolled in a program for young men and had been taken in by a pastor and his family. He was working, sober, and completing his GED. His story still has several chapters left to be written, but there is hope, and a God that never stops searching.
Who is your lost sheep?
How can you continue to pray for them today?