He stood behind the other smiling boys at a distance, as he chewed his finger nails and stared at the ground. He was apparently nervous and remained quietly stand-offish. While other children in the barrio of Colonial quickly ran to meet us, Jose lingered. It seems the wounds of losing his mother and growing up the oldest of four in a broken home had left a deeper scar on him. It was more difficult for him to be embraced than the other children, and he definitely wasn’t going to open up easy.
When I went to serve in the state of Chiapas, Mexico I had anticipated working with at risk children. I wanted to see what God was doing and how we could connect and make a difference in these little lives through Mission Possible. While spending time there with missionary friends that live on the field, I saw the ministry they were doing each week. How they were impacting families through street outreaches and discipleship. Something that stood out to me was a local couple working with them. They were using a soccer league to reach young boys on the streets of Comitan. Most leagues had a small fee, and the children in these poor barrios were not able or even allowed to join. But this couple offered their time and coached teams in three of the local barrios as they mentored and shared the love of Christ.
Jose is one of these boys. While he didn’t respond right away when we arrived. He had been a part of the soccer league for a while and after we had spent a little more time with him he began to smile. Several fist bumps and a few soccer stories later and he was a different kid altogether. The gospel is at work in his life, and each week as they build a relationship he is getting to hear about Jesus.
Jeremiah 29:11 tells us that God wants to give a future and a hope. And when I see the long term relationships and discipleship of these local ministries I believe they are offering that gift to the people they serve. As I continue to encounter at risk children in new places, I am thoroughly convinced that our future, our hope is directly connected to how well we do the same. How well we love and disciple this generation with the gospel of Christ.
I am looking forward to returning to the children of Colonial with a team in June. I can hardly wait to see all of the growth that will have taken place in these young lives. But leaving Chiapas I found myself asking if I am willing to search and find Jose here? It might be something as simple as a soccer league that does it, but I want to give Hope every way I can.