Finding the Greatest Gift in the Darkest Moments
What is the next step in your life? What do you want to do for a career? Unanswered questions are nothing new to Luke Porter. His life has been full of them.
“You Will Never Amount to Much”
Luke knows that he was born in Bogota, Columbia. But, without an official birth record, the details – even his birthday – are unclear. Luke was told he lived with his Grandma until the age of three, but he doesn’t know why his Mom and Dad left him. He knows that in 2008, he and his older brother and sister were adopted by a family from Kansas. And, even though he would spend the next nine years growing up in a house with 15 other kids, why did he never feel like he was a part of the family?
He wondered why it was always “his fault” when anything went wrong. No matter how hard he tried, why could he not do anything right? He must be bad; there must not be anything good about him. Luke bounced between peaks of anger and valleys of depression as conflicts escalated. Constantly, he heard a voice telling him that “he would never amount to much.”
Realizing he could not get the help he needed in their home, his adopted Dad began searching for a place where Luke might actually be happy and feel a part of a family. A friend from their church recommended a place he volunteered: Show-Me Christian Youth Home.
Beginning to Believe
In 2017, a quiet, reserved twelve-year-old hesitantly stepped onto the Show-Me grounds. “I came in as lazy as a kid could get,” Luke said. “I didn’t feel I could do anything.”
To his surprise, Luke discovered that Show-Me offered a new world of possibilities to find his talents. Working alongside his housedad, Luke helped with lawn and maintenance projects. He discovered that he enjoyed working with his hands. It felt good to see something he fixed or built.
At Show-Me, Luke found many areas to get involved in. He played soccer and basketball. He ran cross country and track. He participated in quiz bowl, Leadership U, and archery. Luke discovered talents and leadership abilities he didn’t know he had. For the first time in his life, he heard compliments. Those encouraging words boosted his self-esteem. He began to notice things about himself that were good. “Gradually, I began to believe I could have a future,” said Luke. “I could amount to something.”
While sports helped Luke to see his talents, the other kids at Show-Me helped Luke see his life from a better perspective. The more he focused on himself, the more lost he felt. By hearing their stories, he realized that there were people worse off than him. It made him want to reach out and help. As he helped them, it helped him.
He found it easiest to talk to other teens at Show-Me. He could be more himself around them. They might not have all the answers, but since they had gone through similar experiences, they understood some of the feelings and questions that swirled in his head even if he couldn’t put them into words. “Having been through similar past struggles, we can see what’s really going on,” stated his classmate, Tati. “We are real with each other and will call each other out on stuff.”
The Power of Just Being There
While Luke trusted some of his friends at Show-Me, learning to trust adults would not be as easy. “With a whole bunch of people in my life, I begin to start trusting them. I feel like it’s going to be different – then they leave,” stated Luke. To protect himself from that feeling of abandonment, Luke always kept the adults in his life at a little distance. “If I am only going to know them for a little while longer, they don’t really need to know anything about me,” he reasoned. Each time things felt like they would finally fall into place, another obstacle came and knock everything over.
In 2021, Luke faced the biggest challenge of his life. He received word that his adopted father – the one person he trusted in his life – had died. Luke’s heart cried out with questions: How could God let this happen? Why did the people in his life keep having to go away? In this time of uncertainty, Luke found an answer — his family.
“It wasn’t any specific thing they (Ken and Emilee Parton) said. It was just that they were there and listened when I needed them,” stated Luke. “Family is a group of people, it doesn’t have to be biological or adopted, that will be there for you, who are honest with you, and willing to help. My Show-Me family isn’t just the Partons; it is my friends here; it is all the teachers, staff, and supporters that I know love and care about me. “
Not Knowing the Answers is OK
Show-Me has not given Luke all the answers. He is taking things one step at a time. In May, he receives his high school diploma from Show-Me Christian School. He’s not sure what the next step will be. Maybe, he will work for a year to build a solid financial foundation, then go to tech school and get a degree in electrical engineering. He hopes one day to have a career he enjoys that allows him to create things with his hands.
“Truthfully, the future makes me nervous,” admits Luke. “But, it is less scary knowing I have a family here at Show-Me that cares about me and I could go to for help if I need it. Knowing there are people who will actually listen and see my point of view (my Show-Me family) helped me realize I am not alone. Even though I am still trying to figure out the next step, I know my family will be there.”