God is amazingly faithful. Yesterday was a tough day. As many of you know we have been getting involved with the youth, both at our church and in our neighborhood. Well, God has really blessed us, especially with opportunities in the neighborhood. We consistently have anywhere from five to fifteen kids hanging around our house and are sure to have a knock at our door soon after we arrive home from anywhere...with many more knocks to follow. The kids play with all sorts of different things, from the tree fort and tire swing we made in the back yard to video games, Legos, and the computer inside. It has been a blessing for us to have many friends for our children and to be able to minister to many of these children who seem to crave so much attention. Many of their parent(s)/grandparent(s) work long hours in order to get by and the kids are often left on their own. It seems an area where we can really make a difference in the neighborhood. Especially, as there are so many bad options that are open to the kids as they get older. Most of the people working with the youth around here feel that if they haven't got the kids involved by age 10 in some positive influence, that there is a good chance of them instead getting involved with the local gangs.
Yet, it has been difficult at times. To have that many kids around all the times is wearing. The other day when I tried to give Allison a break from the kids by taking ours and some others to the park to play, I returned home awhile later to find five others hanging around the house using the computer. Many of the kids want to borrow our various things...from a basketball, to roller blades, to bikes. But we have had trouble getting stuff back at times...mostly from forgetfulness...and the kids have been a little rough on Allison's bike. Not to mention, that when you get that many kids together there are bound to be arguments and the occasional (and not so occasional sometimes) fights. The kids are tough down here...but that seems to makes things worse as they have to act tough...and when they fight...they mean it...fists, sticks, rocks...whatever.
The breaking point was yesterday though, when we found some things missing from the house. There are so many kids in and out of here that we really can't know who it is...and this hasn't been the first time. It had been a rough couple days with a lot going on...especially with classes having just started. Then to find that the kids to whom we are attempting to minister are turning around and stealing stuff from us...again...was just about all we could take. We both wanted to just call it quits for awhile and tell them they are not allowed over. It was just so frustrating.
Enter God...I knew right away that I needed to rely on him...I even racked my brain to see what he had been teaching me in devotions lately...but nothing came...at first. Then we went to work-out at CIU...to blow off some steam. My friend JP told me that often he finds things aren't quite as bad as they seem. This didn't seem to help much...until I was praying with Brian that evening. He, like us, was dealing with disappointments. In the traumatic world of an eight year old he wanted to play video games or a watch a movie, but it was time for bed and he was pouting. We spent some time talking about how much God has blessed him and all the good that happened that day. We finished praying and as I walked out of the room God tapped me on the shoulder and reminded me of JP's words from earlier and how what I had just told Brian applied to my situation as well.
I'd like to say that this solved the problem, but both Allison and I needed more. We had a long conversation that evening...most of it just talking about how we felt about the situation and how much it was still stressing us out. Not much was resolved...we both knew we should still minister to the kids...but it was difficult. She went to bed and I went next door to beat up on the neighbor...in Madden '08.
But God wasn't done with us. Sunday morning's message was on Galatians 6:9 "Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary." The Pastor spoke of how hard, at times, it is to do the work which God gives us...especially if people reject us...or steal from us. Yup, he used that exact example. Yet God does not give up on us, and we should not give up either. We have to "keep on keeping on." It was such a message of encouragement that we needed...God really came through for both of us.
We returned home with a renewed determination to reach these kids...it might be difficult...and disappointing at times...but having the response we have had is - as a Pastor has said - a blessing. We reorganized the house so that electronic stuff (things that are small and easy for them to grab) is put up and away and we came up with some new limitations...but we are looking to continue moving forward. We know God wouldn't want it any other way.
In the end, although it was difficult, it was awesome to see God work in this area and to once again be astounded by this work. I love these "coincidences" when the exact message you to hear is the one that is preached...or as our Pastor say, "There are no coincidences" ;)