Tuesday, July 14, 2015
Running with the devil
“bad company corrupts good character.”
- 1 Cor 15:33
Each year I take a group of students to the shore for a week of serving kids in the VBS programs in the morning and talking to people at night on the boardwalk about faith. We don't hand out tracts or Bible-thump, we simply look for conversations with people that can be pointed in the direction of belief and the life Jesus talked about.
So last night I sent off the 40-something students to look for meaningful conversations. After taking care of a couple details for the group I found myself drawn to a bench where three guys were obnoxiously getting girls' attention. Their names were Taitian (the loud one with a noise-maker), Berto (with a bandanna on his head) and Javier (the quiet one). I was surprised they talked with me.
We started off laughing mostly about how they were trying to get girls' cell phone numbers. The conversation was punctuated some pretty foul language, calling out to random girls and another friend coming up and throwing punches. At first I thought it was a fight but quickly discovered this was normal for them. It was clear the guys were out to hook up with girls and find a place to score some drugs or a party. I was most fascinated with Javier, the quiet one who sat next to me. He just graduated high school and I was asking him what his plans were. He said that he was going to take a year to think about what he wants to do.
The truth is that he will probably hang around with people like Taitian and get in trouble.
So I sowed a seed that I hope found some soil in his mind. I said that there are places all around the world that need people like him to help. Poor communities in Haiti and Honduras that could really use someone with time on their hands to help them become self-sustaining. To be honest, there were places right around the corner in Atlantic City or Camden that could use his help - the kind of help that changes lives. When you focus on helping others for a period of time it makes hanging out on the boardwalk scamming on people feel like an empty life. Once you realize you have a purpose, you want to live that purpose - not drift without a purpose.
So I told him this and I was surprised that he was really listening.
I told him that if you spent 6 months or a year in a place like that it changes who you are and you figure out what you want to do with your life very quickly. He asked me where he could get involved in something like that. I mentioned the church in town that does mission trips. He said he had been there once. I told him to go back and start talking about how he can look to give and not take. This was a guy who only needed a small push in the right direction.
But then two girls walked up introducing themselves and distracting the guys. They were probably 14 and looking for a quick route to a good time. Easy targets. Another example of looking for something in the wrong place. I kept thinking of how I could talk to Javier some more about his life and how God has a purpose far beyond any of this. While I was thinking, the guys had to go. Saying goodbye, I spent a moment with Javier, hoping our short time together might get reinforced by friends and family in the weeks and months to come. His life is so much bigger than what he was running with.
But the chances are that he will wind up in trouble. Pray that he beats the odds.