Changing The Future

 
Changing the Future



This past week I had the opportunity to participate in a very rewarding project; we built a playground for some Hispanic kids in a very poor neighborhood. We also had a backyard Bible Club where we played with the kids for 2 hours, gave them a very short lesson on the gospel and fed them. I developed a new friendship with two 11 year old boys who desperately wanted some male interaction.



The project cost over $10,000. It involved clearing a vacant lot that an older lady had donated and prepping it for a large playhouse that had ladders, slides, climbing, etc. It was hard work. We dug holes, got blisters, and shoveled 2000 lbs of mulch, all with a smile on our face.



Playing with the kids for 2 hours each day was also a challenge. The 45-50 children ranged in age from 18 months (they came with their siblings) to young teenagers. One family provided 200+ water balloons every day for a great, fun, intense, water balloon fight.



Lessons Learned



The first thing I learned was that those kids and their parents were people. Many were probably illegal aliens, but they were pursuing what we all want: peace, prosperity and some happiness. Instead of being “those people” in the poor neighborhood, they know have faces and names: Omar, Nayo, Michelle, Issis, Danny, Brandon, Marciela and BB. These children have hopes, dreams and a lot of pain.



By spending time with them every day, I learned a lot. I no longer sit in judgment, but want to offer hope. These kids have no role models except gang members. These people can’t rise up from their situation without some outside help. You won’t know that truth unless you get involved. So, get involved.



Many have said that Hispanics don’t trust whites. Well, the only way to dispel that fact is to get to know the kids and their families. Give them a reason to trust you. We built those kids a playground. It was nothing they did or “deserved.” By doing so, we earned their trust. According to the lady who donated the land, there are a lot of happy faces in the playground next door. She is now smiling as are the kids.



Building relationships can overcome any stereotype. Too many of us are more comfortable believing the stereotype versus you or me actually getting involved. It is easier to criticize from the chair than get your hands dirty, build relationships, and step out of your comfort zone. The truth is that both sides had to step out of their comfort zones to engage. We, the gringos, had to go into an area that had gangs and spoke another language. The Hispanics had to come out and engage us. Fortunately, those kids were bored and starving for attention. We all had LOTS of fun and were hit by quite a few water balloons too.



Ok, where do I go from here? I helped build a playground, played with a bunch of kids and I feel good about myself. If I do nothing with what I have learned and experienced, then I am self-focused. Fortunately, the group has committed to keeping the playground painted and cared for. Also, as an individual, I can get involved with the couple who works regularly with the kids on a monthly basis.



I now have relationships and names: Omar, Enrique, Nayo and Marciela. I can get involved on a regular basis building bridges versus casting stones. What will you do?



Faith



Ephesians 2:8-9 “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God- not by works so that no one can boast.”



We built that playground out of grace to those kids. I explained to several boys what grace meant by asking them if they did anything to deserve the playground. They answered “No.” I asked them if we were required to build the playground. They answered “No.” I then told them that us building the playground was grace, something freely given to a person who doesn’t deserve it. They understood.



In our own lives God extends us grace, unmerited or unearned divine mercy. We are saved by faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. We are not saved because of ourselves. It is not our works that can save us. Just as the Hispanic kids were not capable of buying, or building that playground, nor are we capable of saving ourselves.



God has made eternal life, salvation, available to all of us, but we must accept in it faith, not because of anything we have done. An example of faith is the kids believing that the playground is for them and playing in it. If they don’t play in it, what value is our grace to them? The same is true for God’s grace to us, we must accept it in faith.



The great news is that grace does not stop at salvation but God gives grace to live and through his grace, He helps us give grace to others.



Accept God’s grace to you and pass it on to others. Go build a playground, or get involved in another’s life who can’t give back. Go do something kind. By doing this you will change another and in doing so, you will be changed as I have been.

 

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