If the walls of Doug Gray Cottage, one of Epworth’s cottages that houses young men ages 15-18, could talk, there are hundreds of stories it could share about what has happened over the past year and a half. It goes without saying that the past year has been challenging in new ways for everyone, but for the boys of Doug Gray cottage, the hardship of the past year served as a launchpad for growth. As a group, they focused on learning the value of family and the different ways family can look.
If the walls of Doug Gray could talk, they could tell stories of the family dinners shared together every night, and the laughs, tears, and lessons learned over a plate of spaghetti and meatballs. They would confide that between “Please pass the butter!” and “Can we have sushi tomorrow?” there were shared fears about next steps and celebrations of all the little wins along the way. With pride they would tell that every Wednesday, a group of teen boys make the decision to turn off their cell phones and put down their video games to be together, be outside, and enjoy a day without the pressures of the world that hide behind a screen. They would share about Saturday morning cottage walks together, to exercise their bodies and their hearts. They would talk about the pranks pulled, the game nights that were a little too competitive, about the tenderness in the air when two of the boys came back from choir practice and performed their songs for their brothers in the cottage.
If the walls could talk, they would tell a story about Sean, a high school senior who was struggling with public speaking, social skills, and self-confidence, but felt so safe with his people, that he decided to start leading the cottage devotionals. By the end of the year, Sean had grown from a nervous boy to a confident young man standing proudly in front of a group of his peers sharing and facilitating conversation around what the Lord is teaching him. Sean was able to translate his newfound leadership skills into a new job in his career field. When he was accepted into college and Epworth’s Independent Living Program, the same group that had so patiently walked alongside his growth and cheered him on then helped carry his bags to the car and into his next phase of life.
While there would be too many funny stories to recount and many moments of silliness to remember, if the walls of Doug Gray cottage could talk, they would really reminisce telling how the boys felt safe, accepted, and loved and how staff is transparent and honest, loving the boys unconditionally. They would whisper how the Doug Gray family was there for each other, on the best days and on the worst ones. They would beam over how love being cultivated benefits not only the boys of Doug Gray, but also future generations of their families. They would tell you about the Sunday morning services listened to and all the lessons learned on what growing into manhood means.
Cottage Coordinator Faye Jones can tell us of the tremendous growth that this cottage has experienced over the last year. She reminds us that there is no shortage of difficult things that has happened to the children at Epworth, that the boys of Doug Gray walked into that cottage with bags of hurt, loss, and struggles. But they are resilient. They are fighters. And even more than that, they are children of God who are fighting for growth and a better life, together, thanks to the pandemic. When discussing where God is in the really hard parts of life, Aaron in Doug Gray said it best. “It’s easy to find God in the really bad stuff. God is in the forgiveness”.
If the walls of Doug Gray would talk, they would tell that hurts are being healed and hope is being nurtured at Epworth. Every single day.