He spoke barely above a whisper, and I almost missed it. On the first day of school, I had asked my 6th-grade math class to calculate how much money they could save by the time they graduated from Cookson Hills. Students at Cookson Hills are able to earn money in several ways during their time here. This includes performance pay for their grades, allowances, and part-time jobs on campus. Adding all of that together for one year, and multiplying it by 7 years until graduation, we determined that they could potentially save over $2,000.
I then asked my 6th graders what they might plan to do with that amount of money? Would they purchase a car? Put that money towards renting a place to live? Attend a trade school or start college classes? $2000 could certainly help them start to set up a life outside of Cookson Hills after graduation.
I asked my students, “What do you think you might do with that money?”
That’s when Clay turned his head down and softly replied, “I would bail my mom out of jail.”
I almost didn’t hear what he said. Then the student next to him replied and said, “Yeah, I would bail my mom out of jail too.”
My first day of teaching at Cookson Hills, and already my heart had been broken. Despite all of the heartache and hurt in Clay’s life that brought him to Cookson Hills, he still would sacrificially give everything he had to help his mom.
I couldn’t help but think of the parallels between Clay’s sacrificial love for his mom and the message of God’s love for us that we are trying to live out for our students. Though each one of us is born into the bondage of sin, God gave his most precious son to bail us out of that darkness. Ephesians 2:4-5 says, “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ, by grace you have been saved.” Our students need to experience this great depth of God’s love for them.
Sadly, Clay will never have the chance to bail his mom out of jail. A few months after our conversation in class, she was released. Clay had the opportunity to visit her for a weekend. He returned to school, and we got the news the following month that his mother had passed away. Cookson Hills is Clay’s family now. He has houseparents who are showing him the love of Christ, and a biological sister here who recently accepted Jesus and was baptized.
Clay is hurting. It has been a rough year. Like all of our students at Cookson Hills, he is receiving professional counseling. With that, and the love of the staff, teachers, counselors, and houseparents, I’m praying that he continues to grow in his understanding of God’s sacrificial love and care for him. I can’t think of a better place for God to have put Clay for this season and time in his life. This is a deep part of Clay’s story so I asked him if he would allow me to share it.
I am so thankful for the opportunity to be a small part of God’s work at Cookson Hills.