“Coach, I saw a dead body today!”
“My mom’s friend got shot right by the police.”
“I can’t sleep at night…”
“He was right over there and somebody shot him!”
These are all comments I heard from kids this summer… most of them while riding in the van. Offhand comments made as part of casual conversation, about events and occurrences that were anything but casual. Hearing them, I am filled with grief for what the boys must be feeling inside. The statements they make reveal a state of crisis that besets them despite the calm demeanor they exhibit.
It serves as a shocking reminder to me of the close proximity and unexpected nature of violence in our kids’ lives. The potential for violence is always there… at any place and at any time. So whether I’m in a van full of kids on the way to basketball practice or with a group of kids on an outing, at church or visiting at school… I have to be prepared for the off hand comment that bespeaks inner turmoil. And I must be ready to offer condolence, comfort, support or even counseling.
Sometimes people ask me what our biggest need for doing ministry is and I reply that for me, it is to be prepared for these moments. I ask for prayer that I might be diligent to be prayed up so that I might be able to minister in these unexpected moments. I want to be used by God to offer comfort and assurance in these times of fear and vulnerability, to help the kids know that they are safe, they are loved, and that God sees and cares.
Recently when one of the boys was telling about violence he had witnessed, the boys in the van were talking about the need to carry guns. One of them asked me what I would do in that situation: “Wouldn’t you want to have a gun, Coach?” I replied that I wouldn’t carry a gun… I feel like Jesus can protect me better than a gun. Thoughtfully he said, “Oh that’s right Coach! I’m a child of God; I don’t need a gun.”
The blood of Jesus may or may not stop a bullet… I have no doubt it is capable. But it is certainly the only power which may engender a feeling of security, peace and well being in these circumstances.
In spite of the fun, goofy and sometimes raucous nature of our gatherings, in spite of our efforts to instill a sense of community and inner strength and peace, even in spite of the Christian teachings and behavior modeled for them, our kids live in an atmosphere of dehumanizing stress and fear due to random violence beyond their control. We want to bring a spirit of power, love and self-control in these circumstances, that they may experience life as God intends for them… abundant and fulfilling.