When Lindsey Paschal signed up to volunteer for SWITCH, she had no idea that it would change her view of teenagers forever.
The For the City Network started SWITCH camp last summer to bring students from all over the country together to affect change in Austin. Lindsey heard about SWITCH through an email about volunteer opportunities in the church and the city. A second grade teacher, she knew she would have her summer off and wanted to get more involved after moving back to Austin from a brief stint in Houston.
The For the City Network quickly found a spot for Lindsey as a JAG leader—a liaison for a participating youth group.
"When I found out that it was working with middle and high school students, I was anxious because I work with little kids. Unfortunately, there is a stereotype given to teens of being selfish and apathetic. I kept thinking about how I was going to get these kids to care about what they were doing," expressed Lindsey.
Lindsey was concerned about how the kids would react to the less than comfortable conditions at the refugee apartment complex where they were assigned to volunteer their first day. "It was so hot, and there were 47 of us crammed in a 400-square-foot apartment. The Austin Stone had rented out an apartment for the refugee children to use to do homework or play. My job was to make sure that the youth group was interacting with the kids."
Although initially concerned, Lindsey was more than surprised at the response.
"It was so amazing to see how they loved on the kids and just enjoyed it. They let the kids paint their faces and they played games with them out in the street."
During the lunch break, the leader of the youth group asked if the children needed anything his group could provide. After lunch, the group returned with bags of cleaning supplies, small gifts, sports equipment and school supplies for the kids.
More than just caring for the refugee children, the youth group went above and beyond by helping an elderly woman move into her apartment after it started raining—just as they were getting ready to leave.
"The [youth group] unloaded trailers full of furniture in the pouring rain, and they were so joyful about it. It was so neat to see that they cared," Lindsey explained.
Throughout the week, Lindsey saw the teens serve the people of Austin with their whole hearts.
"The kids went so far out of their comfort zone, and that challenged me to change what I believed about them. It really showed me how I had stereotyped that age group into thinking they don't care, that God isn't moving in that demographic right now."
Along with seeing just how much teens can affect change in the city, Lindsey was able to see areas in which she herself could serve on a daily basis.
"It showed me a lot of areas in Austin that were in great need. The youth group was going back home to Lubbock, but I'm still here. It [made] me want to be a greater advocate for the city that I love so much, the city that I missed desperately while I was gone."
After such a positive experience with SWITCH, Lindsey desired to play a greater role in the camp and the For the City Network and requested to be a part of the planning process for next summer's SWITCH camp. With a new passion for serving the city and youth, Lindsey wants the church to know how important youth are to the body of Christ.
"If they are going to be the future leaders of the church and the future of our communities, then they need to be respected more and poured into more, not just looked at as teenagers that are apathetic. Give them a chance to show you how much they love God. They're not a lost cause."