It was a beautiful evening in Northeast Indiana. The sun was shining. The sounds of a tractor could be heard in the distance. The smell of the old barn brought back memories from my childhood. It was great to be on a farm, especially this particular one. It is a special place. A place of responsibility. A place of healing. A place of hope. I was at Brickley Farm, home of House of Hope Northeast Indiana.
House of Hope Northeast Indiana is a residential home, school and farm for teenage boys, ages 13-17. This Christ-centered home, on a farm setting, is a place where teenagers in crisis are healed and restored to their families. Most of the teens are behind in school and have been in trouble with the law. They are heading down the wrong path, making bad decisions, and causing tension within their families. The House of Hope team helps each teen develop to their maximum potential as they work their way through a structured program, designed to correct negative behaviors and to heal fractured family relationships. The organization not only works with the boys, but their families as well. Parents are required to participate in the program through parenting classes and weekly counseling. Once healthy boundaries have been established, the boys will return home every other weekend so families can work on specific issues as they progress through the program.
The boys participate in nearly every aspect of life on a working farm. Chores teach the boys about accountability, responsibility, and hard work. Each task plays an important role in the healing process. They feed and care for the animals, clean pens, bale hay, and gather eggs (just to name a few). In addition to their daily chores, residents are responsible for cleaning and maintaining a self-serve store that is open to the public. They also track inventory and learn many business related skills through a subsidiary company calledBrickHouse Farms, LLC. BrickHouse Farms offers premium beef and pork, fresh from the farm. The meat is high-quality and delicious. I have had the opportunity to enjoy it on more than one occasion.
I was invited to spend some time with the boys over dinner. We sat around the table like a family and engaged in conversation. I shared my testimony and our story, the life lessons that I have learned, and some of the challenges that fill my life. I wanted them to know that we all struggle. We all make bad decisions and say things that we shouldn’t say. They needed to hear that no one lives a perfect life and that we must embrace our mutations and the things that make us different. We smiled. We joked. We laughed. In a short amount of time I connected with these young men. They all have a story. It would be easy to write these boys off and label them as troublemakers. It happens often in our society. It does not happen at House of Hope.
I asked each young man where he would be if he would not have come to HOH. The answers, though not surprising, were hard to hear. Each said that their future was unknown. They believed that they would be in jail, struggling with family, or possibly dead. They understand that they have been given a second chance and they are taking advantage of it. Today, they are talking about the future. They want to finish high school, go to college, join the military, and become entrepreneurs. They have vision. They have dreams. They have hope.
I made a very small investment of time for this week’s volunteer activity. I didn’t help with animals. I didn’t make the meal. I didn’t gather any eggs. I just sat down at dinner and took interest. Sometimes that is all that we need to do. We just have to take time to show people that we care. Take interest in the lives of others, especially children. Lend an ear and listen. Share your story, your testimony so that others can learn from your mistakes and your journey. It can make a difference. Our youth need to know that we care. They need our attention. I was only at House of Hope for a few hours, but the time was impactful. Maybe not for the boys, but definitely for me. House of Hope Northeast Indiana is an awesome organization that is changing lives of teenage boys and their families. There is no judgment. There is no quit. The staff is caring and committed. The farm is a great teacher and producer of tasty food. I am honored to have had the opportunity to volunteer with them. They truly are providing hope on the farm!