Frankie Roskam is the founder and CEO of The Justification of Youth (JOY), a movement to serve at-risk and orphaned youth around the world by empowering students seeking purpose and by partnering colleges and universities with underprivileged communities abroad.
Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I grew up in a Christian home in Wheaton, Illinois with two incredible parents named Peter and Elizabeth. My childhood was almost out of a storybook: riding bikes, family dinners, and endless adventures with my siblings (Gracey, Steve, and A.J.). Like any family, we had good times and hard times, but amidst it all we always sought to glorify God.
When my dad read to us, I remember loving Aslan and wishing that my closet led to Narnia where I could meet such a lion. My mom kept a list of what we wanted to be when we grew up, and as a first grader I dreamed of being a missionary. I longed to go to unknown lands, speak foreign languages, and introduce everyone to my best friend named Jesus.
In the evenings, we prayed together as a family in my little brothers’ room each night. When I returned from my first mission trip to the Dominican Republic in third grade, my prayer I said when my dad called on me was, “Dear God, please be with all the kids in the Dominican Republic, especially Noel, Caridad, and José Rafael.”
Despite my idillic childhood, my faith became more childish every year until my first year at Miami University I had become angry, bitter, and resentful. I had let the things that hurt me turn me away from God, and I was no longer living for Him. I stepped so far into the dark that I decided that I did not want to live anymore.
Through a work of the Holy Spirit, I heard about a man named Jesus who loved me more than I could ever understand. He had made me for something special, and for the first time in a long time, I wanted to know what that was. I would say that my relationship with Jesus truly began when I was nineteen, crying on the phone with my mom, in the dark night of a freshmen dorm room.
In my journal that night, I wrote,
Give me joy because I do not have it right now.
How did you stumble upon a career in nonprofit/mission work?
I looked up Kids Alive International because my parents had friends who were missionaries in the Dominican Republic. In high school, I spent my summers as a golf caddy, but I never even enjoyed golf, so I was looking for something, anything that seemed more adventurous than eighteen holes on green grass.
I applied for a summer internship, not knowing what it entailed or how the Lord would use it to transform my entire life. In summer 2013, I lived in Jarabacoa, Dominican Republic for six weeks teaching first grade and playing soccer at every opportunity that I could.
“Stumbled” is a accurate word to describe how I have become involved in work serving at-risk and orphaned children around the world. I laugh when I think that I did not even know that I loved kids until college.
Can you name an experience while pursuing this career that has stuck with you?
JOY started with scribbles in a notebook and a post on Facebook. I told everyone to come to the library to hear about something to help children in the Dominican Republic. I had big ideas, no road map, and a lot of faith.
I thought no one would come that first night in King Library, but over 27 people came: both friends and complete strangers. I said a bunch of things about children, purpose, and joy. I saw so many eyes looking back at me, and I saw the same thing in each face. Whether they knew Him or not, each person longed to see Jesus.
In the Dominican Republic, I saw Him, so I said, “Come and see.” This is the Justification of Youth.
What advice would you give for young women finding their feet in this field?
Through starting JOY, I have learned that prayer changes things. Pray.
Give it all to God, every part of it, every idea, every thought, and every dream.
His plan is always better. Seek to know Him more.
What have these experiences meant in your walk with Christ?
These experiences have shown me that faith is an adventure. I truly want to give up my entire life to follow Jesus. God gave me his heart for children, and sometimes when I just see a child my eyes water with so much love for them. I do not even have to know their names, but I hold it close that God made each one of them on purpose and for His purpose: love.
God has taught me that I want eyes to see Him, ears to hear Him, and a heart to know and love Him. I want to see the world as He does.
Above all the emails, flights, adventures and tears, the Lord invited me to be a part of what He is already doing just because He wants me to learn how to love Him more.
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