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Thornwell Emphasis Month | Minutes for Mission | Austin’s Story

The mission of Thornwell is to prevent child abuse and neglect, build and reunite families, and support healthy communities in the name of Jesus Christ. Founded in 1875 in Clinton, SC, by a Presbyterian minister to care for orphans from the Civil War, Thornwell still cares for children who’ve experienced trauma while providing innovative ministries to strengthen families throughout Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina.

Thornwell’s theme this Emphasis Month is “Pathways to Prayer.”

Austin’s Story

The best way to tell you about Thornwell is to tell you a story about someone who lives there – a story about Austin.

17-year-old Austin came to Thornwell scared, shy, and unsure of his future. His home life had been unstable and chaotic. When the pandemic began, he struggled to keep up with virtual school. His grades plummeted, along with his self-esteem. His mind was so wrapped up trying to survive that focusing on his studies was an afterthought. He often felt hopeless and alone.

When Austin first arrived at Thornwell, Austin was quiet and fearful of disappointing the people showing him patience and love. Austin found a
sense of peace he’d not experienced in a long time. His teaching parents, therapists, and tutors developed a personalized action plan to boost his grades and self-esteem.

Tutors in Thornwell’s learning center worked daily with him. As his grades improved, so did his confidence. Soon, Austin was connecting more with the boys living in his cottage. He sought guidance from his teaching parents and discovered wonderful mentors in college-aged volunteers who showed him that God had much more planned for his life.

Austin did not realize it then, but God had a set path for him to become an advocate and leader. Austin began to act as a mentor to other youth who came to live at Thornwell. He felt comfortable sharing parts of his story and a simple yet powerful message – “it gets better.” Austin became the role model for others that he’d always wanted in his own life.

Today, Austin is no longer the scared, shy teen he once was. He’s described as a kind, selfless, and nurturing leader. He is someone his peers turn to when life gets hard. As he continues to work on himself, he pours into others – the embodiment of a servant leader.

Austin’s story reminds us of Moses. Throughout his story, it’s clear that Moses was uncertain about his calling by God to leadership. He wasn’t perfect, but he demonstrated his faithfulness and powerful leadership through his actions. Moses confronted Pharaoh, led the Exodus, parted the Red Sea, and brought the people to Mount Sinai, where the Old Covenant was established. Despite his stutter, he even gave inspiring speeches, such as his exposition on the Ten Commandments in Deuteronomy 5.

Even when we are uncertain about our journey, God is the lamp unto our feet and the light for our path. He knew what He had planned for Moses’ life, just as He does for Austin. He knows His plan for your life, too. We pray for wisdom and discernment as we seek the will of God along the pathways of our lives.

We hope you will pray for Austin and the students like him who live at Thornwell. Friends, your selfless giving allows leaders to be born. When you give, you tell teens like Austin that the sky is the limit for their future! Please prayerfully consider giving generously to Thornwell.

*(Austin’s name has been changed to protect her identity, but her story is real!)

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