Revelations: Struggles change heart, world view

June 10, 2011 at 1:10 a.m.

Jennifer Preyss

Jennifer Preyss


The more I surround myself with people in need, the more I realize how much they change my heart.

Regardless of whether their need is physical, financial, emotional or spiritual, spending time and pouring into someone with an obvious struggle, forces me to see the world beyond my daily scope. For a moment, they allow me to see the world as they do. And even though I may not always like or agree with what I see, there's something beautiful about those moments. Those are the moments, I believe, that lead to great inspiration, and world-changing movements.

Last weekend, I had the opportunity to spend two nights and two days with about 40 girls at Parkway Church's One Retreat.

I served alongside many strong women, each of them responsible for various areas of the retreat, each of them passionate about showing these girls the best weekend of their lives.

My role at the retreat was team leader; I was responsible for leading and loving all of the girls, and specifically looking after two of them.

They ranged in age from 13-18, but many of them, unfortunately, had the life experiences of adults. Wearing bows in their hair and makeup on their faces, a 13-year-old might tell you what it was like to be molested by a parent or family member when they were children; or a 17-year-old girl might tell you how she's preparing to be a new mother as a senior in high school; you might hear a sweet 14-year-old confess she's a daily pot user and takes medication for depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety and sleeplessness.

Not all of the girls at One Retreat were struggling with life, or family, or themselves. But the majority of them were struggling with something heavy.

It's hard not to let yourself feel for them. It's hard not to feel it for them.

I promised myself I wasn't going to judge their situations last weekend, or make any promises to fix them. I was only going to love them, and tell them how much they're loved by God.

As I walked around the retreat observing and interacting with the girls, it occurred to me that One Retreat may be the first, and for some, the only time they've felt safe in a long while.

I recalled my own youth and thought about how precious it was to grow up in a family where I didn't have to worry about my father, or brother or uncle crawling into my bed every night and taking advantage of me. I thought about how sweet it was to have a mother and father who cared enough about their children to be around and show up when they said they would.

Then, I thought about how much these girls will have to work to trust God, trust men and trust the world not to let them down because a few crummy people in their everyday worlds continue to model that example.

In recent years, I've heard people refer to these types of kids as throwaways, future criminals and leeches on society.

What if one person entered their life at age 13 or 15, or as a pregnant 17-year-old, and showed them another way? What if for a moment, someone showed them a glimpse of what they could be?

I know that my schedule won't allow me to save the world, but maybe me, and few other strong women out there, can help save one girl.

I encourage all the strong men and women out there to think about volunteering in some capacity with One Retreat. If for any other reason, it may change your heart.

Jennifer Preyss is a reporter for the Victoria Advocate. You can reach her at 361-580-6535 or



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