“Twenty-four years ago, I was hopeless and convinced that I would never experience joy again…God restored my life and made it purposeful, meaningful and useful in His pursuit of young people.” – Kristi Lichtenberg
“You’re damaged goods. You’re too broken. You don’t fit in. That’s the message that the kids I work with have received from the world around them,” said Kristi Lichtenberg. “Many of them have dropped out of school, lived on the streets, gone to bed hungry and been in and out of jail. Through my work at Cornerstone Crossroads Academy, I get to play a small part in loving these kids toward Christ. That seems crazy to me since I once was the one without hope.
“There was a time in my life when I would have cursed you if you told me life would ever be good again. I’d just gone through a very bad divorce and assumed that meant I could never again be in ministry – the purpose in my life. I was always a very good rule-follower, and I had a big sense of entitlement and pride because of it. I thought of faith like a formula: I’ll pay my dues, and God will bless me with a good life. When God didn’t give me what I thought I deserved, I was bitter and decided I could do life better on my own.
“The roots of anger and unforgiveness wrapped around my heart, creating indifference on my part toward God and the rest of the world. I wondered if it was even possible to return to the Lord after walking away from my family, friends and my relationship with Christ. I was shocked by the level of sin I was trapped in by then. I was in a place of complete hopelessness.
“A friend reminded me that if I turned from my sin, Jesus would be waiting there with open arms. It took me a while to come around, but when I did Christ was there. As I slowly returned to a daily walk with Christ, I was fearful of going back to that hopeless place. God used the little faces of the first graders I taught every day to assure me that life could have meaning again. My purpose was to live out the love of Christ by serving others.
“Experiencing career success in public education, I became a central office administrator. But I missed being with the kids and requested to become a junior high assistant principal – a job I loved. There I noticed that the kids who performed, tested and behaved well were prized. Those who didn’t get good grades or had discipline problems were sometimes forgotten.
“The kids who were struggling needed structure and consistent love and support. School would have been very different if the needs of those 10 to 15 students were met. I dreamt of creating a place to care for kids who were broken, scattered and lost.
“One Sunday, Pastor Chris Simmons from Cornerstone Baptist Church came here to Watermark and talked about the ministry they were doing to homeless, poor and underserved people in South Dallas. I met with Watermark’s External Focus leaders and found out there was a small school like the one I had dreamed of at Cornerstone. The Lord was so faithful, and that’s how I got involved at Cornerstone Crossroads Academy (CCA).
“CCA is a place for second chances. Many of the young people we serve have been homeless, abused and rejected. Their strength and resilience is remarkable, but the need to have a safe place to learn, rest, be cared
for and find hope is so important. I’ll never get tired of watching God use the kindness of the CCA staff and volunteers to draw kids to Himself. Students come here because they want a diploma. But they leave learning about the goodness and hope of Christ.
“I am aware of just how unworthy I am to have received
a second chance. Twenty-four years ago, I was hopeless and convinced that I would never experience joy again. Today, God has richly blessed me through serving here at CCA. I am truly living my dream. God restored my life and made it purposeful, meaningful and useful in His pursuit of young people. “None of us at Cornerstone operate in isolation. We partner with other organizations in South Dallas and with believers at Watermark and other churches around the city to do everything from mentoring kids to bringing lunch to the school every day. It’s an example of the body of Christ at work.
“Caring for kids and adults on the margins of society
is messy, and sometimes it can really hurt. But there is
also joy in being part of God’s work in someone’s life. This job has helped me see that sometimes we need people to show us that life can be better, not just tell us. Watching God do that every day is crazy fun. That’s
why I love my life!”
If you are looking for ways to serve others this holiday season, visit watermark.org/go.