One Good Phrase: Brooks Boyett (Their stories aren’t written yet)

I’m so excited to introduce you to my brother, Brooks. Not only does he have a pretty awesome name (He’s named after my son!), he’s also one of the greatest people I know: Somehow able to hold faith and reason and justice all together one big metaphorical handful. I admire his courage and his big-hearted, open spirit. It’s about time I hosted his words here. So grateful he was willing to share a little of his story.

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I started a non-profit ministry called Mission 2540 nearly nine years ago. We work with children and their families who live in poverty. I can’t go into detail of the hows and the whys of the ministry and all that went into getting it rolling, because my sister has limited the amounts of words I can use. I’ll just begin by saying when we launched it I was bright-eyed, fired up, and ready to change the world – or at least a small corner of Amarillo, Texas.

I met a big group of kids whose family lives were a mess. Abandonment, abuse, hunger, sorrow – you name it, I encountered it. I was convinced that by caring for them and guiding them and introducing them to the love of God, everything would change. Teenage pregnancy would stop. College would be attended. Marriages would take place. Jobs would be had. Success would come.

Nine years later, I’m still waiting to see all that stuff happen. Oh, a few kids have made it to college. Many have graduated high school.  But avoiding all the pitfalls that come with being raised in a broken home in the midst of poverty? Not so much. Many of those little girls became pregnant; several of the boys fathered children. Some didn’t even graduate high school. One is in jail right now. Another, based on the number of times he posts pictures of weed on his Facebook wall, may be joining him soon.

Last week, I got a text saying “I’ve decided back to school and do something with my life!” That was cool. And unfortunately, rather rare. Usually, it seems that first group of kids who I’ve watched become a group of grown-ups only contacts me when they’re in trouble.

How do I deal with the frustration of seeing so many lives not going the way I had hoped and dreamed and prayed for? Because, honestly, some days I feel like I’m failing. Last year, I listened to a speech by a local long-time elementary and middle school principal who I admire very much. He’s spent his career turning around schools filled with kids in poverty. And he has watched elementary students who he invested years in and had great hopes for make some of those same bad choices. He said there’s something he always reminds himself of when he encounters this kind of frustration.

“Their stories aren’t written yet.”

He said that phrase and it resonated deep in me. It was a holy moment. As he uttered that phrase I saw their faces.

That teenage mother? Her story isn’t written yet.

The 16 year old boy who keeps skipping school, no matter how much his mom pleads with him, how much I lecture him? His story isn’t written yet.

The 6th grader, raised by his grandmother, seething in anger at his dad for leaving and his mom for ending up in jail? His story isn’t written yet.

The moms and dads who can’t hold down a job and seem to make one bad decision after another? Their stories aren’t written yet either.

My ministry, this little thing God called me to start years ago that continues to grow and change and challenge me? Its story isn’t written yet.

Neither are the lives of my own 3 children. My football player, my artist, and my ballerina. Who knows what the future holds for them? I certainly don’t. I have hopes and prayers and dreams for their stories. But fatherhood quickly taught me that I can’t control everything my children do. I’m not God, as much as I’d love to have sovereign control over their lives. They make choices without me. I can’t be the author, dictating where they go and who their friends are and what they choose to do with those friends.

But I can be a voice. My wife and I plan to remain the strongest voice in the ears of our children. For the kids I work with, I’m just one voice out of many, but I pray I’m a strong enough voice that I can at least be heard above the noise.

In John 4, Jesus mentions to his disciples about how some do the hard labor of sowing seeds, while another gets to come in and reap the benefits of the labor. Jesus used the language of his time to essentially say we all play different roles in people’s stories. Sometimes we’re a part of the opening chapters, some during the climax or the exciting plot twists. And for others, thankfully, God allows us to see all the way to the end.

Regardless, I’m learning to be thankful that I get to play a small role in the narrative of some people’s lives. I pray it’s a positive one. I have no idea how long I’ll get to keep doing this, walking through joy and pain and all the emotions in between with the small group of people God has called me to. I’ll keep sowing seeds and then…who knows?

Maybe I’ll get to do some of that reaping. Maybe in 15 years I’ll go visit that young man who’s sitting in a jail cell right now. Only it won’t be a prison but in his home. And I’ll meet his wife and children. And we’ll laugh about his past adventures.

It could happen. After all, his story isn’t written yet. Neither is mine.

 

 

 

Brooks Boyett lives in Amarillo, Texas with his super-talented and beautiful wife Sunny, their three kids – Luke, Karsen and Blythe – a dog named Lola and a hamster named Junior. He is the founder and president of Mission 2540, a non-profit ministry that works with children and families who live in poverty. In addition to running the ministry, Brooks enjoys doing magic tricks for both fun and profit. (Yes he knows how Criss Angel does those tricks. And yes, Brooks thinks he is weird and creepy too).  Unlike his siblings, Brooks has yet to publish a book, write a popular personal blog on faith or amass a large twitter following (@sleightofbrooks). He is, however, their mother’s favorite.  Which should count for something.

  • Jeannie

    Thanks for this: there’s so much wisdom here. I think the distinction between what we simply can’t control and must let go of, and what we ARE called to do, is one of the most important distinctions we can make. I relate to that mostly with my children. I can identify with you in another sense too: I also limit the number of words my brothers use. Someone has to.

    • michaboyett

      If sisters can’t limit your word count, who can? :) Thanks for your thoughts, Jeannie. There’s this distinction I’m thinking about…how if you focus on relationships (as opposed to programming), ministry is a lot harder to control, but it has so much more wild potential for life change. It’s hard to hold both of those things at once: the potential and the wildness.

  • http://www.tanyamarlow.com/ Tanya Marlow

    YES. thank you, this is something i always need to remember. someone once told me it was the ‘N’ in my Myers Briggs profile that is responsible for the fact that whenever i observe a trend, i envisage the trajectory of the trend. So if something is going well, i assume it will always go well; if something is going badly, well, i just write it off. i forget to leave room for transformation, God’s Spirit, intervention by good people. This was really timely. thank you so much. P.S. as the ‘non-writer’ of the family, you do write rather well!

    • michaboyett

      Tanya, I totally agree. Brooks can write. :) I’m an”N” in Myers Briggs too and I totally see that tendency in me as well. I like that phrase: “Leaving room for transformation.” It’s so important and so hard to know how to do.

  • Liz Aleman

    I relate so much to Brooks’ thoughts and feelings. It’s rare to see the fruit of my labor in my work with foster youth. I want to learn more about his ministry because I’ve been dreaming up a similar idea.

    • michaboyett

      Liz, I’ll happily put you in touch with him. He’s doing some pretty special things in Amarillo. (PS I want to hear what you’re dreaming up!)

  • pastordt

    What a great phrase! Thanks, Brooks, for helping me to hang onto the truth about the grandsons who are choosing directions I might not, for friends whose marriages are coming unraveled, for all kinds of people in all kinds of situations. Their story is not told yet!!! Terrific.

  • Clio

    This is a lovely post and a good phrase to keep in mind. I can definitely see how I can apply it to my own life and my parenting as well as to others around me. I appreciate your work in Amarillo. I grew up there (and was super excited when I realized Micha was from there too :). For what it is worth, I could have been one of the kids you worked with. And if you watched me in my twenties, you would have despaired as I vacillated between moments of sanity and wanton self-destruction. Now here I am in my 40s in a wonderful marriage with two great kids. I also have a masters degree and a wonderfully, miraculously average life with very little drama. And still… my story isn’t written yet. Or at least not finished. God is good, and every day is a new opportunity. You never know how the smallest seed of kindness can blossom in the strangest and most distance moments. Thank you for showing up for these kids. God bless you and your work.

  • Sarah

    This is a beautiful, eloquent and insightful essay. Thankyou! I really enjoyed reading it and I hope and pray that the message will remain with me for a long time. A phrase which is in a similar vein and which I had to remind myself of today is ‘You can’t save people. You can only love them’, which seems to grow in meaning for me as time goes on. Thankyou for reminding me how long and varied all our stories can be!

  • Angela

    Brooks, hello from a former Paramount and Amarillo girl! I thoroughly enjoyed this post and have sent it to many of my friends. These words are so encouraging and hopeful. Tell your wife hello!

  • James Mullings

    Hi Brooks,

    As Bill Clinton once said, “I feel your pain.” I have been running a similar non-profit in Washington DC for 14 years. The words you chose are almost identical to the words I would use to describe the overall effect I have had on the youth here. I might even be less optimistic than you because many of my “kids” are now grown ups and continue their heartbreaking decisions. By neighborhood standards, they will probably be ok, but in the larger society they will continue to lag far behind. Like you noted, a few are doing fairly well, but it all sort of falls short of my original vision. The thought that the final chapter is not written is of some comfort but not much for me. I have thought that maybe my calling is not for the purposes of grace but judgment. Not that I am judge, I show great grace, maybe too much, but maybe it is God who uses me to judge. (I am envisioning the kids standing at the pearly gates asking God where He was when….and God saying “James was there for 15 years loving on you but you would not open your hearts.”) Sorry the tone is so dour but that is sometimes the nature of our calling. You and I are both feeling the weight of out calling.

    James


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