Sunday, May 20, 2012

Beginning Transformations

Snapshot of things God is doing.

When we first started hanging out in the park and teaching Bible stories, some kids would come over to play music or hear the story. But there was one kid (the playground bully) who was really not into us being there. He would circle around and throw things (sometimes rocks) at the kids who were joining us. He would mock the older ones, saying "What are you doing with them? That's baby stuff!" and try to shame them into going and playing basketball with him instead.

Thing is, this kid was so lonely. We could see it - he was the bully, but he was so miserable. There were times when we'd go by the playground and he'd just be sitting there by himself with his basketball, watching other kids play together.

We kept coming back to the park every week, and he would come over to the cookouts to get a hot dog or something. He would join the games we started (mostly with the intention of destroying them - somewhat successfully - we had to sic the deacon cop on him once). We finally managed to make him talk to us long enough to get his name. After which, he ignored us if we used it, so it didn't much matter. But it did mean that we could pray for him by name. Every week we would teach Bible stories, and he would circle around the tables, but he stopped trying to interfere - he would just circle at a distance, hoping someone would ditch us and play with him.

Well, we kept praying for him and saying hi and trying to get him to join us for about 6 months. Then we opened the cafe. We were still going out to the playground, so we'd see him, and he continued to do his circling/ignoring thing.

Six weeks after we opened the cafe, he came in with some of his friends and started bullying around the cafe. We made him stop, but it was pretty obvious that he wanted to play inside, but didn't know how to play foosball (the game of choice in the cafe). I offered to give him lessons a few times - succeeded once. The other kids started mocking him for his ineptitude, but he started learning and isn't half bad now.

We have a set-up where if kid wants something to eat and can't pay for it, they can do a cleaning job for it. One day, this kid decided he'd try that out. So he's in the kitchen washing dishes with us and I discovered that he is a really sweet, conscientious kid. I started thinking to myself, "If this boy doesn't watch it, I'm gonna start actually liking him a lot."

Then he started defending the cafe rules. Rather the opposite of continually trying to break them. Interesting.

Granted, he's still a sneaky bully a lot of the time. He still pushes boundaries. But somewhere in the past month, he's discovered that we actually do care about him - he counts on that.

Yesterday, I was teaching a crocheting class. He came over and asked to learn. I started to show him how, but he got frustrated and asked me just to make him a bracelet. So I did, and he wandered off. Later, he came back and asked to learn again. Again got frustrated, and asked me to make him a chain and put a cross on it. I nearly keeled over with surprise, because we've made it clear that you only get a cross if you want to learn about Jesus.

I started to make him a chain, and as I'm doing so, he asked, "Why do some people talk about Jesus all the time and not God?" Before I could say anything, he said, "I guess it's because he died and rose from the dead and stuff, huh?" Completely blown away, I just answered, "Yeah. I mean, when you think about it, it's pretty cool, right?" "Yeah." (Guess he'd been listening during all of his circling)

Christina came by with the cross and some cord. He saw the cord, looked at the cross I was wearing around my neck, pointed to it and said, "Can you make me one exactly like that?" I did, and as I handed it to him, I said, "Do you know why people wear these?"


"People wear these to remind them that Jesus died for them. And to remind you that he loves you that much."

"Hmm." Then he put it on, shuffled his feet and walked away.