Monday, March 18, 2013

Sum of its parts?

Sixty kids in a school gym running in sixty different directions with eleven adults scurrying after them in order to herd them into a central circle. It was an experiment in futility. That was the manner in which my Saturday morning started. A month prior our church had committed to assume the programming for a Community Children's Project, and this was the chaotic fallout. On paper, the idea of a group obstacle course seemed appealing as a team building activity that could channel the kid's energy in a positive direction. But, the gap between our idealistic expectations and the harsh reality could not be bridged by some good intentions and a microphone. It was in that moment that the individual faces of the children seemed to just blur together into an unmanageable mass, and the focus changed from service to survival. I think most members of our group would have chosen to spend the next 2 hours in a prison cell over accompanying this nightmare to its gruesome end.

That's when we opted for a different route. We divided into groups based on interests. Carlinhos corralled the aspiring thespians; Rodrigo and Leonir opened up a workshop on graffiti; Carol pulled out colored pencils and paper; Marcos, Daniel and I assembled a soccer tournament; Barbara, Lenice, Aldair and Andreia offered support. In these smaller groups, each leader was able to establish a personal connection with the kids and define behavioral expectations. Accordingly, that which was previously a frantic blur of movement became individual faces with unique stories and talents. Loving acceptance and clear boundaries opened the door to genuine interaction. We left three hours later with some memorable stories, petitions to return and ideas on where to go from here.

I tell this story not because I feel as if we stumbled across some novel new approach of working with at-risk youth. Honestly, I learned most of this stuff from Tom at Next Exit over thirteen years ago. Instead, I tell this story because it provides a glimpse of that which God desires to accomplish through a people that He aligns in a common direction. I pray that this may be your experience as well.

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