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The Echo
Taylor University, Upland, IN
Thursday, May 30, 2024
The Echo

The RedBarn: Ministry serves Upland

Benes, Liberti share passion for ministry

Troy and Liz Shockey embody the word “hospitality.”

Together, the Upland-based couple have embraced leadership of The RedBarn, an after-school ministry for Eastbrook students grades 6-12.

The RedBarn has served the Upland community for 16 years.

It falls under the umbrella of both Youth for Christ and LightRider Ministries and is open for students Monday through Friday, 3-5 p.m.

Sophomore Katelyn Benes and junior Sofia Liberti both volunteer at The RedBarn.

Benes, an elementary education major, has been working with the ministry since her initial involvement freshman year, prompted by a service prerequisite for her introduction to christian ministries class at Taylor.

She fully believes in the mission of The RedBarn under the Shockeys’ leadership.

“They’ve become like a home away from home for me,” Benes said. “If I am having a bad day, I will just drive over to their house and sit in their backyard.” 

Benes is not the only one to call the Shockeys “home.”

Troy often pours into the students on a personal level, visiting their different middle schools and high schools to eat lunch with them.

“I didn’t realize how involved he was in the kids’ lives,” Benes said. 

Both Troy and Liz attend students’ concerts, sports games and other important life events.

Not only is their presence in the students’ lives a beautiful model for the team that they lead at The RedBarn, but even more, it shows the students what true companionship and consistency look like.

“No one else listens to them,” Benes said. “We are the one constant in their life.”

Like Benes, Liberti originally joined The RedBarn as a practicum requirement and has grown to love the rhythm of weekly community involvement.

She cherishes the connections that she has formed as a result of intentional conversation with the students. 

“My favorite part so far has been being able to create a space for relationships or processing different things,” Liberti said. “And just a break from the stress of school or the stress of home — whatever that looks like, because often you might not know what their home life looks like.”

A day at The RedBarn is full of fun — and full of food.

Often, volunteers are not aware of the access to meals that the students have at home, Liberti said.

Several women from the community work together to cook and serve dinner for the kids, as well as organize snacks for them to take home and to school the next day.

While they do not function as a typical youth group, The RedBarn team ensures that their students are being poured into spiritually.

“By showing up, you are showing the kids, ‘I am mentally, emotionally available for you’” Benes said.

Students enjoy playing board games, sports like carpetball, pool and basketball, visiting the art room and talking with their friends.

Leaders often engage the students in one-on-one conversations, building relationships with them by talking through tough topics and getting to know their hearts.

“They notice the things that are different about you,” Benes said.

The RedBarn’s ministry reaches beyond after-school-care. Every Thursday, students are able to participate in a Bible study from 4:30-5 p.m.

The team even had the opportunity to lead a group of students to the Lord through a winter bash event that they put together.

“I have seen how the Lord has worked in the lives of the children there through the volunteers,” Liberti said.

Liberti is especially grateful for the opportunity to see God work specifically through her prayers for the students that she works with. She treasures the opportunity to connect face to face with the kids and to picture those sweet faces while bringing their requests to the Father.

The beauty of working so closely with the students is that, even as the team pours out everything they have, they come to see the students offer so much in return.

“It’s definitely helped me to see, like, how blessed I am,” Benes said. “But it’s also helped me to grow in my faith in terms of, like — these kids are struggling with the same questions I struggle with. And so, being able to show them that and watch their faith grow has, like, impacted me as well.”

For college students looking to get involved with the ministry, Benes and Liberti offer helpful tips.

Liberti encourages volunteers to go for the first time with someone else, while Benes recommends trying it out once or twice to see if it is a good fit for their specific giftings.

Simply put, the mission of The RedBarn is to create a space for students to hang out and be cared for, but their care is far more than a physical building or a shared meal.

Rather, it is rooted in the provision of resources, help and hope — all of which bring students closer to their ultimate home, kept for them by their Father in heaven.