Christmas Cards deliver more than warm wishes this season, they bring healing to children at Show-Me Christian Youth Home
Stephanie L Boothe | Metro Voice
Grace seems to have it all: she’s likable, intelligent, athletic, pretty. Yet, according to Chris Ruhnke at Show-Me Christian Youth Home, she doesn’t smile much because she has a hard time seeing all of the good in her.
Like so many kids, Grace’s picture of herself and her value has been based on the words the people have used,” said Ruhnke. “Unfortunately, it is hard to see your worth when all you hear is words like worthless.”
This Christmas, God will be working to continue to change that view using a most unlikely tool: a simple Christmas card. For Grace, Christmas cards have a deep, personal meaning.
After her parents’ incarceration, at age four Grace and her siblings were placed in two foster homes, but they never were a good fit for her. In 2010, at age 11, Grace arrived at Show-Me Christian Youth Home. After arriving, Grace took to drawing as an escape.
“When you hear most of your life that you are going to end up like your parents in jail, that you are not going to make it in life, drawing was my escape where I could create my own world with endless possibilities,” Grace said. “In art, no one can tell you are wrong, because it is your creation. It was easier to escape there then deal with the real world. Drawing takes things off my mind. Whenever I get mad, drawing calms me and lets me go to a place that I can think and relax.”
Before coming to Show-Me, a pencil and paper weren’t always easy to come by, so when she had a chance to draw it became her special time. She said she felt like she could make anything — the possibilities were endless.
But she wasn’t always encouraged to draw.
“Whenever I drew things for friends or school, the adults in my life never had anything nice to say. It was always just… okay and back to whatever they were doing,” she said. “When nobody seemed to care or see good in what you do, it is hard to take pride in things. You doubt yourself and think am I worth anything?”
Like Grace, many kids arrive at Show-Me battered by the world they’ve been forced to survive in. “With the love and support of their family, and the extended Christian family involved in this ministry, they find the beginnings of worth and value as a beloved child,” said Director Chad Puckett. “With that support they can begin to rewrite the self-condemning scripts etched on their hearts and find purpose in their life yet to be written. We never know what catalyst might lead to a revealing moment, so we expose them to a wide array of academic, athletic, and artistic opportunities, then sit back and watch God ‘do His thing.’ It’s incredibly humbling to see the transformations.”
For Grace, the transformation of seeing herself through God’s Eyes rather than her own started out as a simple project when she was encouraged to participate in a contest to design Christmas cards for Show-Me. The designs are voted on by the children, families and staff. The top four each year are used for the annual Christmas Card.
The children were asked to make cards based on what they think Christmas looks like and what it means to them.
.”The goal was to do something that the children could see that the best Christmas gift you can give someone isn’t a physical thing at all, it is the gift of ourselves,” said Ruhnke, who coordinates the project. “Whether we bless someone with a picture we make, prayer or encouragement, we all have something we can give to reflect God’s love at Christmas, which was shown in the ultimate gift of Jesus Christ.”
The contest created a new spark in Grace.
“She sat down and started sketching some ideas. Her talent blew us all away,” Ruhnke said.Â Last year, two of Grace’s designs were chosen, and as various people saw the finished cards, they started asking for copies to use as their own personal Christmas cards.
To meet the growing requests, SMYCH worked with the local printing department at the University of Central Missouri in Warrensburg to have the cards professionally printed under the premise of supporters using them as a fundraiser or for their own personal use. These cards each feature one of Grace’s designs on the front and are blank inside for people to write their own message. On the back, Grace signed â€˜Merry Christmas’ and along with SMCYH’s contact information, there is a warm reminder that– “This card was designed with love by a child at Show-Me Christian Youth Home.”
“Our hope is that these cards let new people know that God has a place called Show-Me Christian Youth Home waiting for the children who need it. There is no better way to testify to the difference God is making at Show-Me than through children like Grace,” explained Ruhnke.
In its 47 years, Show-Me Christian Youth Home has provided loving homes to nearly 2,000 children. Different than state-run foster care, Show-Me focuses on Christ-centered homes and families to help rescue and restore young lives. Through specialized educational programs, professional counseling and therapeutic services as well as support and guidance as they reach adulthood, we support young people on their journey to wholeness and purpose by offering opportunities for building a better future and an excellent eternity.
“Being a true ministry, we want to show the world what God does through God’s people,” said Puckett. “From the ministry staff, to the volunteers, to the contributors, everything revolves around faith exercised in love. Whatever the need, God provides through His people.”
According to Ruhnke, the Christmas cards have not only been a part of that testimony and provided valuable resources for the home, but each step has provided new blessings for the people who have been a part of the process. Show-Me distributes the cards to any individual or group that wants to raise funds for Kingdom building goals. Some groups are raising funds to help Show-Me directly, other youth groups are using the proceeds to cover the expenses for their kids to do missions, and even one veterans’ organization decided to sell cards to create an ongoing scholarships for kids at Show-Me like Grace. As Diane Maddix, a long-time volunteer at SMYCH, said “it is the message I was looking to send, reminding my friends of the simple child-like joy of Christmas and being able to help children in the process.”
For Grace, it also is tangible proof of the love and support she receives every day from SMYCH.
“Each time someone sees my card and likes it, it was like it chipped away at my doubt and feeling of worthlessness,” Grace said. “And, I donâ€˜t think I am the only one. For each of us kids (at Show-Me), I think that is what the love and support we receive does. It is proof to me that we matter and we have value.”
If you ran into Grace at Show-Me today, you will see that things are different now.
You will have to look into her face, but the change is there: Her smile.
“She does not like to smile, because she does not like her teeth. Yet, when she saw her artwork in the cards for the first time, she gave the biggest smile I have ever seen,” Ruhnke wrote. “Moreover, she has been smiling a lot more this last year.”
Whether it is on Grace’s face or from knowing the joy they are sharing when someone receives their Christmas Cards, the children at Show-Me Christian Youth Home will have a lot more to smile about this Christmas.