Last week the final straw was drawn as I and Coleman rode by them on our bikes and one of the guys said something to us in Albanian while the rest of the boys laughed at us. I got off my bike. Walked over to the jokester, got into his face, and had a few choice words with him. Christlike? Probably not. And, perhaps I let my anger get the best of me. Although, they likely didn't understand what I told them, we walked away with the understanding that these boys best leave us alone or their will be further consequences. I was deeply frazzled and bothered by these boys who I'm supposed to be ministering to and become a positive role model for. Sadly, many of these boys don't know what respect is because it's not modeled in their own homes. Often, their fathers beat them and kick them out of the house. And, here I am yelling at them just like their own fathers do. Deeply bothered, I called up a couple of members of my field team and we gathered together to discuss this and spent a good amount of time in prayer.
When I returned home from the prayer, the group of teens were still hanging around the same spot near our house. You can just hear the awkward silence as I rode by them. I went inside our courtyard, dropped off the bike, and sat down in my thinking chair inside my home. Actually, it's a brown leather Lazy-Boy recliner that inevitably puts anyone to sleep who dares to sit in it. As I was sitting, I prayed and the Spirit led me to go sit amongst these boys outside and just listen to them. If the opportunity allows, engage them and see where the conversation may lead.
I setup my camping chair amongst the group of teens. They looked at me as if I was a little crazy. I just sat there. I didn't say a word. Inevitably, they approached me and asked a lot of questions. They asked why we're here and what do I do for a living. I told them I'm simply a missionary, to tell people about God and to help them in a way that Christ would help them. I told them of my visions of starting a church in our community. I told them I want to teach them how to gain some basic skills so they can make a decent living providing for their future families. I want to teach them important values and principles of life that will help them gain respect amongst their peers and in their community. They were elated to hear this and were eager to kickstart this vision for me... right now. I told them I needed some time to learn the language first. We had a small conversation about God and they wanted to know the differences between Buddha, Mohammed, and Jesus. My answer? Only one of these men claimed to be the Son of God and He still lives. I didn't criticize their beliefs, but only reinforced what I know to be true about Christ. This deeply interested them. Especially the one boy who was a Muslim.
The conversation came to an end and then suddenly a volleyball game ensued. They tied a rope across the alleyway and politely asked if they could borrow a ball. They wanted me to play with them and teach them some basic volleyball skills I learned in America. It turned out they were just as good as any average American. There wasn't much I taught them. I'm used to playing on much wider courts rather than a 7' wide alleyway. Nevertheless, all went well and we played for a couple of hours until it got dark. Afterwards, we all went our separate ways shaking hands and giving high fives. Peace and joy was restored and trust was gained.
I attribute this late afternoon miracle to a few things: the hand of God, prayer, and my willingness to step out of my comfort zone. I look forward to carrying on these relationships with these teen boys and seeing where it may lead. I sincerely hope and pray that someday they will become men of faith, men of integrity, and effective in their community where they will teach these same principles and values to their own families and those around them.