A letter sent to a 14 year old boy by his Secret Spiritual Sponsor (i.e. an adult that takes an interest in his life and prays for him)

Hi Andrew,

I just wanted to send you a quick note to let you know that I'm thinking about you as you begin your freshman year. I remember my 9th grade year as my favorite year in school, although that was probably because we were still in the junior high building, and were the big men on campus. That year was the first year that my friends and I felt like we were becoming grown up, and I remember a lot of excitement, along with a whole lot of nervousness about what that meant.

If you're like I was in the ninth grade you're experiencing a lot of tensions that you haven't felt before. This is the first time that your grades really have an impact on your (long term) future. Hopefully you also have more control over the classes that you choose than you have in the past. I'm not even going to touch the subject of girls. I didn't understand them at the time, and I don't understand them now. I do remember how much teenage attraction can throw your world upside down at that age. That's not necessarily a bad thing - it's just one more experience that makes you who you are.

Perhaps the thing that I remember most from the ninth grade was an incredible feeling of awkwardness. I grew about six inches and gained 30 or 40 pounds during that year. More importantly I struggled with self-confidence issues as I tried to make friends during that period of awkwardness. It took the wisdom of aging to realize just how normal I was to have these feelings. I can guarantee you that all of your classmates feel that way at one time or another. During your teenage years you become almost a completely different person in a lot of ways, and this person is very much dependent on who you want to be. If I can give you any advice, I'd tell you to think about who you want to be (note: not what you want to be - that's much less important) and what you have to do to become that person. What it all boils down to is that when you get beyond the clothes, the money, high school popularity, etc. (and you will get beyond that - trust me) what really matters is being comfortable with who you are. Whether it's girl friends or just good friends, the people that people want to be near are the people that like themselves and are comfortable with who they are. Now is the time in your life when you first really think about who you want to be, and begin the process of becoming that person.

One challenge that you face that I didn't is the strong peer pressure to experiment with drugs. Hopefully your friends don't put you through that. My friends and I were lucky, and we lived in our own little word where we had a better chance of being offered a ride to Mars than to be offered some pot. Unfortunately, my sense is that isn't the case any more. This is something that I pray about every day for you, because I have seen the harmful effects that drugs can have on a person's life. Some people very close to me became very dependent on drugs or alcohol. It was very painful for me to see them go through that, and struggle to regain control of their lives. I honestly believe that the only way to be safe is to not begin.

And finally, without making light of this topic, I'd like to spend a minute talking about Jesus. When I was your age, I didn't know Jesus. He wasn't a part of my life (although I know now that he was watching over me), and I didn't rely on him to help me through the tough times. I considered myself a smart guy, and figured that the stuff in the bible was just a bunch of stuff that people made up a long time ago to make me behave like they wanted me to. I figured that if I was a good person, that was enough and my future was set. I was strong and smart and didn't need the church - that was for the weak people. It wasn't until after college that I took a serious look at Christ and the messages that he taught. I didn't realize the amount of evidence available that proved that these stories were true. When I did the research and discovered that I was floored. It literally changed my world. The day I was baptized opened all kinds of doors for me that were shut (perhaps I had shut them) before. My biggest regret from my teenage years was that I didn't have Jesus to be my friend and savior. I know that would have made those years a lot easier.

Andrew, please know that in addition to your parents, there is at least one other person praying for you every day. If there are any specific things you would like me to pray for, please put it in an envelope and give it to either Crystal or Milton.

Yours in Christ,

Your Secret Spiritual Sponsor.

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