We are nearing the end of our boys’ summer program. For the past four weeks, Monday through Thursday we have engaged in some combination of breakfast, Bible Study, math enrichment, group reading, community service, organized sports, lunch, free time, and field trips. This is always a rich and special time of bonding and growth for the kids, the other leaders, and me. For the second straight year our service project has us tutoring the 1st and 2nd grade summer school students at Johnson Elementary School (where nearly all of our boys attended only a few years ago).
Tutoring again this year has been a wonderful experience. The boys’ dignity and dedication to this service is affirmed on all sides. Upon entering the familiar doors of their early childhood, they are enthusiastically greeted by teachers and administrators who joyously exhort them with love and pride. I have no words to explain the satisfaction the boys must feel when they hear these kind words; it is a beautiful blessing. Walking down the hall that feels almost like home, yet strangely smaller than they remembered, our boys are recipients of the unspoken honor of the summer school students who devote their time in the hallways to imitating the unique characteristics and styles of these cool middle schoolers. Upon entering the classroom they are given either a 1st or 2nd grade student, who 9 out of 10 times is ready to abide to any and all of their wishes, which include where to sit, when to read, how to say this, always ready to listen, and never asking why. Thankfully our students have wielded this power with great responsibility thus far.
In so many ways this is the most profound and practical way for our students to give back. All of our middle schoolers have received one-on-one tutoring, and it is a new perspective to be sitting on the other side of the desk. They are now giving the instruction instead of receiving it, basking in the adoration of someone younger than them, or simply putting up with the occasional misplaced disrespect. We explained to our boys, as we explain to staff and volunteers, that we do this because of Jesus’s love to us and the world. Jesus saw a need; He engaged it relationally and then met that need. There is a potential trap here that the evil one sets that our guys can be lured into, just as I am at times (even now as I write this), and our volunteers too: the notion that I’m a great guy, that these kids couldn’t do it without me, and/or look how needy they are. This is a trap that we all fall into whether we have literally sold everything to follow Jesus or have given the hand wave to a stranger letting them in front of us in thick traffic. Yet this doesn’t negate nor should it paralyze us in our calling to imitate Jesus in all aspects of the life. Instead it is a humble reminder of how we are blessed and privileged to be adopted by God and then used in his work. And that any fruit we see in our life is a sign of God’s Spirit working amongst us and as we see this more and more, it adds to our growing testimony to God’s faithfulness to this world. Please pray for us as we seek to live as Christ in the various ways that he has called us.