During a StreetWorkz night in the spring, we challenged our kids to pray big. God wanted to bless them. We had them write down their prayers, seal it in an envelope and place it in a pile on the stage. As we circled up to pray over this collection of prayers, a student who had been sitting quietly, not writing, suddenly motioned for me to return to her table.
"Remember that thing I told you about my family on Friday? Can I pray about that?"
"Absolutely," I responded, "that's huge."
"So what do I say?"
"What do you want most?"
"Well, I don't want my grandma to be upset or have the family so divided. Can I ask for that?"
"Definitely, you can ask that God would love your family and help them heal as they forgive each other."
"Yea, I think I want to forgive too." I stared at her. I couldn't fathom that kind of forgiveness she was describing.
Later, as we split up for drop-offs, she walked up to me, gave me a hug and thanked me for helping her pray and letting her have more time to write. She planned to take her envelope home to pray some more. She said she was glad she told me about what had happened.
I'm surprised by how far ahead our kids will plan. And how casually these seemingly demanding questions are thrown about. They're testing the waters. Just as often as the questions though, come the "threats."
"If you're not at my high school graduation, I'll haunt you in your sleep."
"If you don't take us there for our 8th grade outing too...boi."
"It's been two weeks, you better visit me for lunch!"
My first reactions were something like, "Excuse me?!" Then it clicks. They've come to expect these things. I've set a precedent for being in their schools, at their celebrations, and part of their weekends. They want me around and they trust that I care enough to want to be there. They soak up the attention and affection, dubbing me "Street Mom," or "Street Auntie."
Driving back from an afternoon outing last Friday, I asked about their days. Rose-bud-thorn: something you really enjoyed, something you're looking forward to and something that wasn't so great about the day.
One sixth grader responded, "My rose was getting to hang with my squad today."
"Oh yea? Who's your squad?" I fully expected names of girls at school.
Instead, she motioned to the other four students in the car. I was taken aback. Those five kids are my pilot group for a new middle school academic program. It hadn't occurred to me that this program could become their main community. We were only two weeks in. They had already come to enjoy each other's company, be friends and look forward to time spent together in tutoring, art workshops or just talking. God had been bonding them together even when I thought they hated it. He created a stable, safe, loving environment, allowing His grace to cover the rockiness of my struggle to form a burgeoning program.
I've realized I won't feel like I'm doing enough or doing things right. But it's because I love our kids a lot. That's why I stayed for year two. I want so much for them. We all want the best for our community and our kids’ futures. In the face of tragedy, hardship, frustration, apathy and injustice, I say, “Thank You, Jesus, for not expecting me to ‘do it all’ on my own.”
To our extended BCM family, I ask you to join us in prayer as we launch new and recurring fall programs. We need prayer for the Spirit to work through us (sometimes despite us), to love the kids, to guide them, to speak encouragement and truth to them in those vulnerable moments, to admit that we don’t know how to lift them up to dry land but together we’ll grasp the lifeline of hope to the solid ground that our Father provides.