Tuesday was quite challenging. Both Steph (my site partner) and I had to send participants from our programs home. Steph sent one of the children home, and I sent one of our youths from Teens Leading Communities (TLC) home – both for showing disrespect. Sending anyone home for us both absolutely breaks our hearts. We most often try to avoid it and give second, third, fourth, fifth, and more chances. One of the problems with avoiding giving real consequences was that we were being taken advantage of and the negative behaviours only escalated. On top of having to send them home and them being filled with anger as they left, comments from the other youth about what we had decided to do as a result of their behaviour made the situation heavier.
The following day, Steph and I had scheduled to do some program planning, but instead spent two hours discussing what had happened the other day and praying together. “What am I doing wrong?” “Be confident. We are doing what we can and we need to remember to not let what the kids say affect us.” “What if she never returns because of how angry she left?” What if she doesn't end up understanding what she did? “We need to trust God in that. We’ll let her know that we’re thinking of her and remind her that she is welcomed back, but we need to know that they need to respect us.” These were the conversations going back and forth. Both of us taking turns being honest about how discouraged or tired we felt about the situation and then encouraging each other.
As we ended our meeting, I remember sighing and thinking that anything could happen today. I felt like I was walking in blindfolded (and in some ways, I was). We had planned to have difficult conversations with a couple of the children and youth about their behaviour before things got worse. Ultimately, we wanted to let them know that we were having these conversations about appropriate behaviour because we care about them!
Once programs began, we were amazed by what God was doing. It was one thing after another that led Steph and I to go, “He just did this!" "You won't believe what just happened!" "Did you see that? God’s answering our prayers!”
The boy who was sent home the other day had sent his younger brother to let Steph know that he wanted to talk to her in the hallway. Before he stepped into the main room, he wanted to apologize to Steph and the other child for his behaviour. Every leader who has ever been at KG would be surprised to know that this boy chose to apologize for every specific thing he did and mentioned steps of what he would do instead for the next time he would get angry.
Following that, the TLC had come into the church to tell another one of the leaders that she needed time to process and think about what had happened. She left the building as soon as she saw me, but I was surprised that she even came back to deliver that message.
The following are word-for-word text messages exchanged by Steph and I at the end of the day (we usually debrief, but had to leave immediately that night):
Me: “I forgot to mention, small groups went so well. It was good that the group that wanted to go with you, went with you. Sitting at the table created control since everyone had their own space and was able to see. Some people were colouring while listening and the ones who kept asking questions and looked so into what I was saying was Jago* (who turns out to not be Christian), Tobiah*, Ivo*, Lorcan* and Annora*. It was interesting how some of them [mentioned that they] felt like they were really bad and that they would go to hell because of that. So just enforced that they are children of God and not to feel condemned by their sins which is what I had experienced and am coming out of!”
Steph: “That’s amazing Esther!!!!!! Praise the LORD. What a day. Thanks for sharing that; that’s so amazing they were able to hear that. In SG Azaiah* and Fergus* asked some great questions and Fergus* asked a lot about how to accept Jesus and have the Holy Spirit in us!! I asked who has accepted God into their hearts and repented and got some responses too :) just to know
Super encouraging hearing Fergus ask and ask for prayer to do so too! And Azaiah!
And Fergus also showed that he was calming down and when an inappropriate comment was made and I asked him to stop!! So yay!!! Very proud of him :)”
All-in-all, there will continue to be challenges wherever we are. I am going to feel like I’ve failed at times, but we have a faithful God who makes all things work for His glory as He works in us through the Holy Spirit!
For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. Ephesians 2:10