By Betsy Stalcup, founder and executive director of Healing Center International
How did Jayden's Place come to be? Well, more than a decade ago, a two-year-old girl with big brown eyes began coming to our house every Monday evening. Back then, my oldest child was 22, newly graduated from university and living in our basement. Anna wanted to help a friend by taking care of her daughter in the early evening hours so Lindsey could have a break from the arduous combination of working full time, finishing her university degree, and being a single mom to Jayden. Jayden seemed nervous at first. Compared to her quiet home with her mom and grandmother our house was noisy with the sounds of teenagers and my outgoing husband. But as the weeks turned to months and years, she became part of our family. I will never forget when we gave her, her own cloth napkin to use at meals, with her name on it. When her mom came to pick her up that night, she ran to show her the napkin with shining eyes that said, I belong!
When my daughter married and moved away, I took responsibility for Jayden’s visits. I would walk up the street to her day care provider to pick her up. As we walked home we would talk, stop to play at the park (we both loved to swing) and come home to cook, read and hang out together. Jayden made me play. In the summer, we swam. In the winter, I took her sledding at a nearby golf course. My children and husband would come home and would join in the fun. It was good for all of us.
Jayden is now in high school. She and her mother and grandmother have moved to another community and she is too busy with school and volleyball to come to our house each week. When my husband and I look back on the ten years that she visited our home once a week, we are astonished to see the impact we had on her and the impact she had on us. We still chat on the phone. I have a soft place in my heart for Jayden, who is in our nightly prayers. It was and is a joyful journey (though I have to admit that I grieved hard when she stopped coming to our house).
I believe God is calling his people to reach out to children in their circle. Perhaps your circle is your neighborhood. Perhaps it is your church. Perhaps it is a circle of relatives or friends.
Perhaps you are one of those that God is calling.
This is a call for God’s people to begin praying about reaching out to a child who could use more time one-on-one with a safe adult in their community.
A child’s greatest need is to know they are loved, seen, heard and understood. Much of what children learn does not come from words, it is absorbed through modeling. Children need adults who are genuinely glad to be with them, and see them from God’s perspective. Jayden’s Place is not intended to be a program that entertains children or keeps them occupied, rather it is creating a place where a child can belong, and form a life-giving relationship with a caring adult (or two).
We believe that when adults spend time with children simply doing what healthy families do, everyone will benefit. Jayden’s Place has the potential to change our neighborhoods and the world.
If you are interested contact me at Betsy@godhealstoday.org to find out more.