The Shine program, facilitated by local women across the Illawarra has wrapped up yet another term of infusing the message of worth, value and strength into young girls across our high schools. Now running for 8 years, the Shine program has become one of the biggest City Women projects across our area now seeing more than 472 girls through its course, many now established in local youth groups. Developed specifically to reach young girls within schools, the purpose of this mentoring program is to touch the hearts of these precious daughters and love them with the love of Jesus.
Last Wednesday, I got to attend the graduation celebration for the girls from Oak Flats High. This terms cohort are aged between the ages of 13-15. It was hard to believe the stories from the facilitators - Breanna, Heloisa and Lidia, as they recounted their first sessions together earlier this term. At the beginning of term, the group was very closed off, reserved and not talkative. However, over time the barriers came down as trust was built and they began to speak up. With this in mind, it was hard to believe that this was the same group in front of me. Each girl stood up in front of their peers and shared her highlights from the term (a victory for many). When they spoke, the room went quiet as every girl listened to their classmates share; cheering them off with encouragement as they went to be seated. Even within 9 weeks, the culture within this group had changed radically.
When asked how they would describe Shine to a friend, more than half of the girls described it as a safe space where they didnt feel judged. “They [the facilitators] talk to you like you’re their best friend,” one of the girls shared. “Its a great place to express my feelings and grow,” said another.
It was especially powerful to hear the girls declare truth over themselves
“I am not a nobody, I am a somebody”
“No matter what happens to me I can stand back up”
“My life has purpose”
Each of the girls takeaways from this term was different and deeply personal to their own life journeys. When asked what one of her most impactful things they learnt from this last term was, one of the girls exclaimed “it was life changing! … [Shine] made me open up and become more confident.” The responses from others were similar:
“Shine taught me -
to not be afraid and put up my hand to ask for something;
To not talk down to myself;
To say positive things to my body;
I have the power of choice”
The facilitators know that the challenge is now entrusting the principles and truth Shine infused into the girls for them to carry. Breanna says “We hope they dont forget what they have learnt and that they can look back on the very practical things we have given them that will remind them. We also hope their friendships will continue and they will search for a place where they feel valued.” The facilitators strategy is to connect the girls with older role models in local youth groups who “carry kingdom value” as Lidia put it. By doing so the girls can hear the fullness of the gospel preached and experience Christ-centred community.
Depending on what side of the coin you look at, the great demand for Shine across our area could be deemed a success or a failure for the Illawarra Church. Shine has reached so many young girls across our area, establishing many, in local youth groups and under the discipleship of local Churches. Yet at the same time, this reality exemplifies the great cry across our city for ambassadors of Christ to reach out. This great demand only depicts how much need the youth of our region are in for the message of the gospel.
When asked how others could help with Shine, Heloisa said “be available and be involved, I love that women cheer from the sidelines but I would love it if they could be available to give 1.5 hours to be in there with us… if representatives can adopt a school we would end up transforming and changing the culture around our city.” If time is not something you can give there are still many other ways you can support! There is help needed to bake, set up rooms, pray or even simply just spreading the opportunity to help with Shine to others in their network. The need for this message is so great but its impact on the few that have heard it is even greater! God is on the move and he is hungry to see restoration and revival in the hearts of the youth of our city.