Over the many years as we prepare for a camp, we pray for the kids who will attend and as the days before camp roll around, Chris inevitably fields the calls from kids who are changing plans for one reason or another. But this year, only hours before departure for camp, Chris received one of those calls we never want to get—one of the guys calling to say he couldn’t leave for camp because his older brother had just been shot and killed.
We sat and prayed for his family–that God would comfort them and guide their plans and decisions. Hours later, as Chris drove around the city collecting kids for departure, he stopped to pay a visit to this grieving family—whose shock and pain were palpable. The grieving dad and stepmom decided to send their boy on to camp for the week, trusting that Chris would look out for him, hoping that the week away would be a good thing for their son.
So, that night J___ and a van full of other middle and high school guys hit the road for camp with Chris and Tyler, our once camper—now grown-up college-graduated volunteer—for Kids Across America sports camp where they are completely immersed in an environment of Christian teaching, love and fun with an urban cultural emphasis. All the boys had a really good week and every day, when I would ask Chris how J___ was doing, Chris would say, “It is so good to get to see him here, just getting to be a kid.”
I wish the world wasn’t filled with evil, brokenness and destruction. Sometimes it is hard to see just how cruel and harsh the world can be. This family who lost their son to a violent death already had to bury their wife and mother five years ago after a short and unexpected strike from pneumonia. How much loss and suffering should one family have to bear? How do these horrible losses affect the growth and development of children? These are questions I have been holding in my heart for weeks and I don’t really have any answers. But God drew me to keep meditating on Luke chapter 7 and the two stories it tells—of the healing of the Centurion’s servant and the raising of the son of the widow from Nain. As I remember and hold in my heart this family that has had to grapple with so much pain and loss and the unfairness of life, as I feel sometimes so despairing of how many slings and arrows fall upon the hearts and spirits of so many young black men in our community, these are the things the Holy Spirit brought from Luke 7:
- The Centurion surprised Jesus because of his faith—although he was an outsider, he understood, better than the Jewish insiders, that Jesus had authority in the world and could choose to use it. In the same way, I need to keep trusting that Jesus can heal and help and will use his power and authority, still, even now, in our broken and hurting world, to help and to heal in these broken and hurting people and situations.
- When Jesus saw the widow and her only son being carried out for burial, his heart broke. Jesus knew, felt and understood the immensity of her loss—a loss that was not just about emotional loss, but all the practical loss in what it meant to be a woman with neither husband nor son in that culture. Jesus had compassion for both the individual heartbreak and the societal, cultural brokenness for this woman and her situation. So, in spite of all the brokenness of our world and the horrors of its evils for our children, I can see and trust that there is a God, who came to us in Jesus, whose heart breaks for our pain, who sees the sickness of our society and who has the power to bring healing and new life right in the middle of all this desolation.
And so, in my own imperfect way, I try to hold to trust and lean into the God that I see revealed through Jesus Christ. I ask for your prayers for J___, for his brothers and father and stepmom. I ask for your prayers for all our young men, who have so many obstacles tossed into the paths of their growth and development from such an early age. I ask for prayers for Chris and me, that God would keep us faithful and grounded and discerning all the time to keep lifting up the One whose heart breaks for us—and to keep trusting that he sees, knows, cares and will use his power and authority here on earth to help his little ones who are ground under the heel of the oppression of our broken world.