Luke Ebener directs youth ministry at St. Paul the Apostle Catholic Church and leads WyldLife.
Mother Teresa (now Saint Teresa) had a poem hung on the wall at Shishu Bhavan, her home for children in Calcutta. This poem is often referred to as the “Love Anyway” or “Do It Anyway” poem and is almost universally attributed to the Albanian nun whose calling to “the poorest of the poor” inspired the whole world. The poem was actually written by Kent Keith in 1968 when he was a sophomore at Harvard College, and the poem won worldwide acclaim only after it was discovered in 1997 after the death of Mother Teresa.
A couple weeks ago I couldn’t help but notice a similar poem scribbled on the wall of our parish youth minister who is also a Young Life leader. Luke Ebener is the director of Youth & Young Adult Ministry at St. Paul the Apostle Catholic Church in Davenport, Iowa, where he also serves as a WyldLife leader. Luke’s poem was enough to stop me in my tracks and encourage my spirit at a time when I really needed it. Borrowing from the scope and meter of the “Love Anyway” poem, Luke wrote:
Kids will make mistakes, disappoint you, break the rules, and take advantage of you.Love them anyway.Kids will not return your phone calls and text messages and may laugh at your awkward attempts to connect with them.Pursue them anyway.Kids will not accept your invitations.Invite them anyway.Kids will avoid your questions and talk about anything but the topic at hand.Ask questions anyway.Kids will think you are "too holy" or talk about Jesus too much.Be holy anyway.Kids may not respond to all of the creative ways you try to articulate the Gospel.Be creative in communicating the Gospel anyway.Kids will talk over you, not listen, be distracted, and not believe what you say.Speak truth anyway.The seeds you plant in these kids today you may never see grow.Plant seeds anyway.In the end, God isn’t going to ask you how these teens responded, how far they got while you were their leader, or how cool the kids think you are. He’s going to ask you if you loved them like He loves you. And did you witness the Good News of the Gospel?Keep loving those teens. Keep fighting the good fight. The Spirit is alive in you.
Luke’s words speak to us all as we love kids, share the Gospel, and keep fighting the good fight. Even when our best efforts seem to come to naught, we keep working, believing in the resurrecting power of Jesus.
His words serve as a reminder to me in Catholic Relations. Even though what takes us years to build could experience roadblocks and setbacks, we need to build anyway. Even though the healed and reconciled hearts we foster today could tomorrow be wounded once again by small-mindedness and division, we need to heal and reconcile anyway. Even if the global call to a “new evangelization” could be mired in a mentality that says, “We’ve always done it this way,” we need to evangelize anyway. Because in the end, we trust that “no word from God will ever fail” (Luke 1:37). Yes, Jesus has promised us, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).