Since we began our life here in North African, one great joy and struggle has been our relationship with the neighborhood boys. Like the boys of any neighborhood, some are kind, good natured and gentle. Yet others are tough, mean and bullies. And when a new boy joins the group, the boys must prove who is on top. This is especially the case with a nasaara, or a white person like our son Josiah*.
In general, the boys in this nation lack discipline from their elders and tend to play roughly. Then showmanship comes into the mix, bringing slaps, pinches and kicks. Some go so far as to snap rubber bands on another boy’s skin or throw balls and even rocks at another’s face. Our son Josiah has endured all of this. He is playful but gentle and has yet to retaliate. But as you can imagine, it has become a challenge for Josiah to choose playing outside when many of the boys have fun hurting him or laughing at him.
We talk and pray about these things. I have sought the advice and opinions of local men in the neighborhood, and I also talk with the local boys about it. But in the end, we ask the Lord to give us a love for the boys.
The picture is not entirely grim. Some of the boys are gracious, kind and helpful. They are interested in getting to know us and listen well. Mahmado, Saali and Bashira are several of these—the kind of boys that bring a smile to your face when you see them. We praise the Lord for them. But our observation is that the poorest kids on the block and the homeless boys are the most humble, kind, respectful and thankful.
Recently, we had one of our biggest struggles with the boys. We asked a few boys into our courtyard to look at books and jump rope. Soon, more and more forced their way in. They became unruly and did not respond to our requests, so we decided it was time to ask them to go. I led the boys out, but some of them began to run away, throwing rocks, bricks and their sandals. Nobody was hurt in the end. But do not sympathize with me. My sin is that I was very irritated and impatient.
I echo something my wife wrote:
I am not a nice person. I don't need someone else to tell me that, because I already know it. I am selfish, I exaggerate, I'm a hypocrite, I want to have fun more than I want to work, I eat the last cookie when there's only one, and I can spend a whole day without turning my gaze from myself to God.
But the story doesn't end there. At the end of the day I don't have to wonder if I will be any better tomorrow... I won't. But there is someone who is all those things that I am not, and much, much more. He paid for all my sins when he was nailed to the cross to suffer the wrath of God. He knew I was not a nice person, and he loved me anyway.
It is in the light of this truth that we do not give up on our neighborhood boys. They, like anyone here are in need of experiencing the love of God through His people. They are in need of the truth that we carry in our hearts and Bibles. And we need God to display His divine power through us.
Pray for the Lord to give us wisdom in this situation. We want to sow the gospel into their lives while knowing that we need an extraordinary amount of love—a supernatural love—to give to these boys. At this point, it is not in me. And pray for Josiah to know how to interact with them without merely having to endure them.
*This name has been changed.
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