How do we define success?
Emmanuel entered Cloud and Fire's YouthBuild program at age 16, and was in the program for 18 months before he moved on. Because he didn't finish high school, some might say our program didn't reach him. They would say there is "nothing to show" for his time with us. I have a different take on that.
I just visited Emmanuel in Douglas, Wyoming, a town of only 5,000 people. Manny moved here in February, 2011, because a friend of a friend offered him work as a helper at a restaurant. Traveling from Los Angeles to the middle of nowhere is quite a trek for someone, just so they can wash dishes! But, what a change this has made for Manny.
Manny is 18 now. He told me how coming to Wyoming has helped him grow up. When he first came here, he blew whatever money he earned on clothes, eating out in nearby Casper, and entertainment. Soon, he realized how foolish that was. Five months later, he has learned to live totally independently on less than $200 per month, and says he is a changed person.
It was a thrill to hear him talk about the lessons he has learned because of Cloud and Fire, and how those lessons have helped him become responsible. He also remembers the Bible lessons from morning devotions. He's gone through some real struggles with his family, but he remembers the story of Joseph, and he knows that God will make a good ending to his story, too.
Last Fall, Manny didn't know what to do. His family was pressuring him to quit school and get a job. They didn't even care if the job was legal, and urged him go so far as to sell drugs if that would bring in income he could share with them. Manny struggled under that pressure, but he found a way out.
I must admit I wondered about the wisdom of his choice, but seeing him in his new surroundings gives me a sense of joy and peace. Today, Manny is the assistant chef of La Costa, a Mexican restaurant, which is the most popular eatery in town. The people who work there have become a new family for him, one that he says is loving, "just like Cloud and Fire." It's clear that God has His hand on Emmanuel, and he is definitely a success story! I am proud of you, Manny!