Tuesday, February 2, 2010
A Tuesday for the Ages
I have had the opportunity to volunteer with a youth group in North Omaha for the past few months. It has been an incredible journey of learning and struggle. Tonight we had a couple people decide they had beef with each other. One of these people was an ADULT who hangs with their cousins and family (about 25% of the kids are related somehow). It is an interesting thing to watch as an adult partakes in the emotions and the craziness even egging it on a little. It's hard to explain exactly what goes on during an urban youth group service. It's an experience that only can be explained by being present one's self. I found that being white there are certain challenges that I face in trying to reach out to these kids. The biggest obstacle I believe is the lack of quality volunteerism in this community. The majority of the white people they know are fly-by volunteers that have good intentions, but lack the understanding of the effort true transformation requires. It has taken three months just for me to get some of the kids to acknowledge that I exist. Even tonight I had a girl who walked right by me and ignored my greetings of "hey it's good to see you and I am glad that you are here tonight". Even though I say this to her every week she continues to ignore the fact that I am looking at her and only standing two feet away from her. Of course that triggers the "I will not be ignored" button deep down inside me, so I just repeat it to her and make sure she has at least seen me out of the corner of her eye. No response still - other than a concerted effort to avoid any eye contact at all and a brisker pace as she gallops by me. It is good to live a life that reflects the values that are centered around a belief system. Most of the time I feel misunderstood when I tell people about our church about why we drag our children to a church where there may be weapons and fights in the middle of a service. There is something in me that screams we can't live an insulated life. There is no where that is "safe" because every where is surrounded by imperfect people. Yet even tonight as my family was leaving to get loaded in the van I had to escort them to the van and lift all six foot four inches and two-hundred and fifty pounds to the largest possible swell too make sure that everyone knew by a glimpse that any horse play or threats would mean certain catastrophe to all foolish enough to impose a beef or an accidental shove. It is nerve racking to think there is a real possibility of a stray bullet or a misplaced shank of a weapon. I worry about my kids although the day we got in the van and my daughter said "what the hell was that" as a flash from a passing car caught her eye caused my wife and I to giggle after a stern correction of what we do and don't say. Apparently Jesus walking on water was not the only lesson learned in Sunday school that morning. I haven't seen my wife this invested in a long time as she is starting a parenting class for a group of the pregnant teenagers in our group. It seems that there are quite a few as the group started with three and in the past week or so and my wife has found two or three more making at least six in a group of under a hundred. I believe that it was James that said true religion is this to take care of the orphaned and the widowed. I don't think that we will be here forever, but I know that we are here right now and that right now we get to try to fulfill what we believe about being a follower of Jesus Christ. That it is more than a Sunday service and a song on the radio. That truly following Jesus means allowing ourselves to be led into a life that requires faith and sacrifice. That following God means that we don't wait for the poor and the hopeless to come to us, but we go to them. Not everyone needs to do what we are doing, but I believe that we all need to be straining forward to discover what it is our faith is demanding from us.