The 3 Turns 5
As difficult as it may be for us to believe, the 3 Mile Project will celebrate its 5th birthday in just a couple of weeks. I’ve spent a fair amount of time thinking about this over the past few weeks, marveling at how quickly five years can fly by and how we’ve been blessed as we’ve done our best to be faithful to God’s call to impact kids in West Michigan.
Because there was nobody out there for us to copy, we have to confess that we learned most of what we think we know after we actually opened the doors. We did everything we could to anticipate what operating a 34,000 square foot youth center might entail but, at the end of the day, we knew that we were seeing only a small part of what God had in store for us. We moved forward in faith, knowing that there was more on the horizon for us than we could begin to imagine. And that has definitely been the case.
For example, we never imagined how kids would respond. When we were remodeling our building during the summer of 2010 we’d look at each other every once in a while and ask, “What happens if we do all this and only 30 kids show up?” The idea that we would have more than 19,000 individual young people visit us in our first five years of existence was beyond our comprehension. Oh ye of little faith.
We never imagined the opportunity we’d have to partner with other organizations and ministries in our community. We’ve already hosted 140 rentals during calendar year 2015 and we’ll easily reach 160 by the end of the year. These partnerships support critical efforts by others to make even deeper impacts on the young people of our community.
We never imagined we’d become a matchmaking service. We’ve had two couples get married who originally met as staff at the 3 with another marriage on the horizon for next July.
We never imagined we’d become an incubator for youth ministry professionals. Four of our alumni have taken paying positions in youth ministry and we’d like to think that their experience here played some small role in that. Equally important, we’ve developed a staff of mostly young people who are making an incredible impact in their communities, not only here but in their neighborhoods and their places of work.
We never imagined we’d be able to provide an important opportunity for young people to think and act beyond themselves. By allowing high school students to volunteer here we’ve given young people the opportunity to serve and, by serving, to learn what it means to be a difference-maker. I can’t wait to see how that experience impacts their lives in the future and, more importantly, impacts the lives of others with whom they come into contact.
We never imagined the impact we’d have on individual kids. This is a hard thing to measure but we know we’re making a difference, not only from the things we hear but because of the kids who come back, week after week after week. Many of these young people have been exposed to a different way of life – to a world where there are expectations about how you act and how you treat others. They’ve also been reminded that there is a way of life that leads to hope, joy, meaning, and purpose. The truth is, we’ll never know the depth of the impact we’re making. We simply trust that our effort to be faithful to this ministry of softening hearts will be multiplied beyond anything we can do on our own.
Five years has flown by. We’ve been blessed to meet so many great people and to be invited to be a part of their lives. We are humbled by the opportunity to be a part of something so much bigger than any of us individually. And we have learned that just when we think we’ve got it all figured out, God shows us something new. I can’t imagine what the next five years will bring.
– Stan, Executive Director