Our life is full of boys this season. Chris has three basketball teams going—a high school team of juniors and seniors, some of whom have been with us since third grade—a high school/middle school group of eighth to tenth graders and a new group of fifth graders that he has gathered from different schools and families we have ministered to for years. Chris is busy most nights and weekends with the guys.
Recently a thirty something man we have known since fifth grade called Chris to get together to talk through some things he has been dealing with. At the meeting he told Chris there had been other men in his life, but none like Chris. “You were always somebody I could trust and you were always there—“ Nothing makes our hearts more glad—that people realize that the bonds we form through Jesus and love do last forever. It is the strength of being “lifers” in the same place, not moving on to other pastures, but continuing to love and serve the flock of people God has given us.
The blessing of this has been brought home to us over the past months as Chris has been dealing with some severe arthritis and deterioration of his knee. There have been a few times when swelling and pain made mobility difficult. During this time we have been blessed by our young men in their twenties who have stepped in to help—Nathanael, Tyler, Thomas, Jordan, Pierre—helping coach basketball, push the van out of snow, help with retreats, shovel snow. Nothing blesses my heart more than to see that these bonds of love and family have been formed and that our young men so readily join in the work of caring for us and for the younger boys.
We are also busy with our high school seniors, filling out applications and forms and trying to make sure that as their graduation approaches that each one of them would be set with options before them and paths that they can pursue to make sure that they will be able to have lives where they can support themselves and one day, a family.
It’s funny how God opens doors. Last week I happened to be taking some soup down the block to an elderly neighbor who is battling cancer and as we were visiting I happened to find out that he had retired from a career as a welder—a second career that he took on after night school so that he could better support his family. I am looking forward to having some of our boys go down to meet him to hear about his work and what it took for him to prepare for and obtain that career. It’s just the kind of thing I want our guys to see—somebody who has walked a path before them and used it to make a life for himself and his family.
Chris took a group of high school boys on a winter retreat this month. The boys had so much fun in the snow and cold—inner tubing down the hills, playing broomball, laughing, playing. Chris reported that when the dvd player didn’t work for the night time movie, the camp highlight may have been the dance contest that ensued. Apparently, we have a lot of talented movers and shakers! That retreat is like a family vacation—preparing meals together, cleaning up, praying, eating, sleeping and Bible studying together.
We are so grateful that after so many years, we are still here—lifting up the name of Jesus and loving young men as they grow from boys to men of God. Just like with any growing up, there are a lot of bumps in the road—but we pray that God will continue the good work he has begun in each of our guys and that we will be able to be there to walk alongside encouraging them to follow Jesus with all their hearts.