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After graduating from Drake University and looking to supplement her income as a substitute teacher, Amelia Gibson found a part-time job as a Youth Development Professional with the Boys and Girls Club of Central Iowa. Amelia had planned on teaching middle or high school history, so after leaving the club for another position, she didn’t think she'd return.
Like many entering the workforce full-time for the first time, Amelia was still developing her interests and gifting and worked several jobs over the course of seven years. Amelia would leave and return twice to the Boys and Girls Club, and through each transition, God began to grow her heart for what she considers the modern-day equivalent of widows and orphans.
“Our single moms are basically the reflection of what widows used to be,” Amelia said. Most of the single moms they serve are supporting a family on an annual salary of $22,000 or less. “A lot of my kids are in foster care, which I’m super thankful for in some ways, but in other ways, they are still orphans. When I stopped working with those families, I missed playing a part in that.”
Though she had a passion for working with youth and even coaching, she learned that her actions had to be driven by a real set of values and doing good works was simply a response to God’s Word.
“I had to learn that as much as I thought I was serving God and growing the kingdom of God and loving people through my actions, at the end of day, if they didn’t know that God was part of it, I was going to fail no matter what,” Amelia said. “I could work 60 hours a week, a kid could have groceries for the weekend, but at the end of the day, there’s no saving that I could do beyond that point. Having to let go of that and think to myself, I either stay here and keep trying to change all these kids’ lives on my own, or I let go of that and understand that God is sovereign, and He loves these families just as much as I do.”
Conversations about church, God, and even the gospel can arise with no prompting, and Amelia can dialogue and ask questions of her students when they bring things up or have questions themselves.
“I have kids ask me why I don’t cuss or do certain things, and I can say it’s because I represent Christ,” Amelia said. “When I have a kid who’s crying because their parents are getting divorced, and they walk in every morning and just want to give me a hug and talk about it, we can dialogue about those things and about God being faithful.”
When I have a kid who’s crying because their parents are getting divorced, and they walk in every morning and just want to give me a hug and talk about it, we can dialogue about those things and about God being faithful.
With a connection to various forms of community involvement, Amelia also has the benefit of sharing Walnut Creek events with families she serves, giving her opportunities for conversation outside of the program.
“A lot of my kids participate in City Lights Sports, and I can go to those games and sit with families and talk with them about God. It’s not awkward or weird because they already know that I care about them, and I care about their kids,” Amelia said.
As part of a Christmas tradition, Amelia’s Community Group adopts and provides gifts and basic needs items for families involved in her program. Other friends have volunteered at the organization by serving meals or at events like trunk-or-treat.
“It’s so cool because, yes, it’s meeting the need of volunteering to give back to these kids, but I get to share with the people I’m in fellowship with how my days are, what is important in my life, and why it’s important," Amelia said. "Often times, we miss talking about work with our friends beyond if it’s good or bad, instead of talking about sweet opportunities that God gave you.”
Often times, we miss talking about work with our friends beyond if it’s good or bad, instead of talking about sweet opportunities that God gave you.
As part of her current role, Amelia hires, trains, and coaches staff at her site, giving her the chance to instill the same value of caring for others. “I want my staff to function as a family,” Amelia said. “If we’re for one another, then we’re for the kids. I’ve expressed to them that I want the kids to know that I’m for them because Christ is for them.”
Though some of her coworkers are believers, Amelia says her ability to stay motivated and passionate has to come first from Scripture.
“I work for a place where I can use my passions and what God’s put on my heart. It’s also a place that challenges me to go back to the Word of God because I have to or else I’m a monster. If I’m going to accurately reflect the gospel or the Bible, I need to be in it,” Amelia said.
Looking back on her fragmented career, Amelia identifies with the twentysomethings trying to find a job, faithfully serve God, and obey His commands.
“I keep coming back for a reason. I am here until God decides to use me other places. I don’t want to be in a position where I quit something just because it’s hard. It’s worth it to figure out what God would have for you,” Amelia said. “He can use you where He’s put you, and that’s the point, but you have to be willing to go where He wants you to go.”