Spiritual Life Program
Sending Valentine's Day Prayers
On Sunday before Valentine's Day in 2009, a group of women and Youth Villages girls stood looking up at the sky as they watched the helium balloons they had just released fade to ever smaller and smaller pink and red dots. The balloons, carrying the girls' prayers and wishes, were part of a spiritual life activity at Youth Villages Paidia’s Place Group Home.
The women, a volunteer group from Fullview Baptist Church, visit the girls at the group home every two weeks as part of the Youth Villages Spiritual Life Program. The volunteers structure the two hours they spend with the girls every other Sunday into an hour-long Sunday school lesson followed by a hands-on activity to reinforce the lessons learned in the second hour. The balloon release was the culmination of this day's volunteer project.
“The program is designed to help nurture the spirituality of the young folks while they are with us. It allows them to express themselves in a spiritual sense and to attend programs where they can pray and participate in other positive activities.”
– Hilda Arsenault, program coordinator
“We try to prepare the girls for when they go back home by teaching them skills such as cooking, good manners, good grooming, how to use a checkbook and so on,” says Verlinda Baity, a member of Fullview Baptist Church who began the volunteer efforts with Youth Villages four years ago. “We also invite different speakers who share testimony with them to expose the love of Jesus through other people.”
Begun in 2000, the goal of the Youth Villages Spiritual Life Program is to provide children with an additional outlet for support during their treatment. Participation by the children is voluntary. The Spiritual Life Program is run by Coordinator Hilda Arsenault, but the program is sustained by individual and group volunteers from local churches and other faith groups. Volunteers may meet a group of children weekly, two times a month or less often for spiritual and inspirational activities, testimony, drama, concerts, messages of encouragement and more. Some volunteers also lead chapel services at the Youth Villages campuses.
"The program is designed to help nurture the spirituality of the young folks while they are with us," Arsenault says. "It allows them to express themselves in a spiritual sense and to attend programs where they can pray and participate in other positive activities."
On the Sunday before Valentine’s Day, the volunteers had come by the group home with a Valentine's Day message of love. They began their session with a discussion of God's love and extended it to the love the girls feel toward their families and friends, and appropriate love in a relationship. Afterward, the girls created Valentine’s Day crafts and decoration, as well as prayers for themselves and their loved ones with the help of the volunteers.
They began by decorating the group home windows with cut-outs of cupid and hearts bearing their names and the names of the people they love.
Every girl also received a box of chocolates and other Valentine’s Day candy from the volunteers.
“We like to leave something with them every time,” Baity says. “We always leave materials or a cupcake for a girl who could not participate in the activity, so that she knows that we love her too.”
The girls and women also wrote personal prayers and wishes on pink and red construction paper hearts that they glued to helium-filled balloons in Valentine’s Day colors.
“I want to go home,” wrote one girl.
Another wished to see her grandfather soon.
Another girl asked God for strength.
Still another girl wrote about God’s love, describing it as “joy, peace, patience, kindness, faithfulness, no long suffering.”
Then, after holding a prayer just outside the front door of the group home, the women and girls sent their balloons off with shouts of joy and excitement, and watched them ascend toward the sky until they disappeared in the white clouds.
If you live in Tennessee and are interested in becoming a Youth Villages volunteer, mentor or Spiritual Life volunteer, please e-mail email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org or call (901) 251-4827.
For questions about our Spiritual Life program or to become a Spiritual Life volunteer, please email Hilda Arsenault or call her at (901) 251-4935.
As part of a Valentine's Day Spiritual Life activity, Kenaysa (middle), a girl receiving help at the Youth Villages Paidia's Place Group Home, writes the names of the people she loves on Valentine's Day hearts and cupids. Helping her are Joan Alston (left) and her mother, Chandra Alston, Spiritual Life volunteers along with fellow church members from Fullview Baptist Church.