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Strong team, strong support: Cross Connections aids in fighting mental health issues in teenagers at CLHS

From the Spring 2019 Cadets Magazine

From Matt Konow ’91

Matt Konow is the executive director of Cross Connections, Inc., a Biblical counseling and training ministry in Fort Wayne, Ind. He has a long history in youth ministry at Emmanuel Lutheran - Fort Wayne and working with youth at the Indiana Department of Corrections. Cross Connections keeps regular hours at CLHS to counsel students as needed.  

I said the unthinkable recently. I was speaking with a current student of CLHS about classes they were taking, and I said something along the lines of, “back when I was a student at CLHS ... .” In preparation for this column, it hit me yet again I am no “Spring Chicken.” Oh, well. As we often said in my military service, “Embrace the stink.” 

Remember when you were a student at CLHS? Whether it was five or 50 years ago that you graduated from 1601 St. Joe River Drive, there are things that have changed, things that are the same, and some things that are quite new. Some of the things that changed: completely different faculty, no industrial arts classes, the Worship Conference Center, and every current student was born in the 21st century. 

Some things that have stayed the same: a strong academic curriculum, a caring faculty and staff, the trough wash basin in the men’s bathroom by Student Services, the difficulty of being a teenager, the wrestling room odor, and most recently, a new way to share the love of Christ and the hope we find in the Gospel at CLHS.

I have been blessed to serve as the executive director at Cross Connections, Inc. since January 2012. Cross Connections is a Biblical counseling ministry that works through pastoral referral to provide the hope and healing found in the Gospel to our clients. 

Serving as an extension of the pastor’s office within the Body of Christ, the counselors at Cross Connections have invested into their clinical training but are committed to using Scripture as authority within the counseling setting. 

In the Spring of 2013, I had a meeting with Mr. Mychal Thom, who was the then-principal of CLHS, and explained to him how Cross Connections had periodically been called in the past by Student Services when a student or family of CLHS expressed the need for professional counseling. From that conversation sprang forth a partnership that has just completed its sixth year, and has blessed many of the current and former CLHS students and families in an innovative way. 

Cross Connections provides a professional counselor twice each week between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. to augment the work done by the licensed school counselors.

Working closely with the Guidance staff, Student Services, and the entire CLHS team, our counselors provide a space for students to come when they are struggling. 

Across the nation, anxiety and depression are the two fastest growing areas of mental health that our youth are struggling with. According to a study done by Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, the odds of adolescents suffering from clinical depression grew by 37 percent between 2005 and 2014. 

The National Institute of Mental Health estimates that 3 million adolescents ages 12-17 have had at least one major depressive mode in the past year. Teen depression appears to be on the rise equally among urban, rural and suburban populations. Research also shows that more dangerous behaviors, like self-harm, are increasing. It is statistics and trends like these that illustrate the commitment that the team at CLHS has to ensuring our kids have adequate resources throughout the week as they face the challenges of being a teenager. Even if they are just having a real lousy day and need somewhere to vent, the Biblical counseling staff at Cross Connections is here to supplement the already incredible work being done by the Guidance Department, Student Services and the leadership team at CLHS.

The willingness to focus on the solution instead of the problem is indicative of the leadership CLHS is blessed with. Mr. Mychal Thom, now the Head of School, and Mr. Patrick Frerking, now the principal, both understand Scripture needs to play a part in the counseling services Cross Connections provides them. 

To paraphrase a testimony Mr. Thom provided us, “Biblical truth doesn’t change. For students and parents, the change of high school needs a steady and solid influence. The Biblical truths used by Cross Connections counselors are not something we made up five, 10 or even 50 years ago. The truths have always been found in Scripture. To have that tool, that resource that doesn’t change is a tremendous blessing to the students and families at CLHS.”

The ministry partnership between CLHS and Cross Connections continues to embrace new opportunities as well. Toward the end of the 2017-2018 school year, Mr. Frerking asked if it would be possible for Cross Connections to provide counseling support not only to the students struggling with substance abuse issues, but to their parents as well. Having come from educational ministry overseas where things are much different, Mr. Frerking appreciates the blessing of having a Biblical counseling ministry to assist him and his team at CLHS.

Learn more about Cross Connections at www.crossconnectionscounseling.com.