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The church sound equipment had been tampered with. A group of middle school boys passing through the church after school were responsible. In response, they were required to complete community service hours at the church. My husband, the youth pastor at the time, took up the task.
When the community service hours were complete, something funny happened, the boys stayed. Wednesday night youth group included their presence. They had friends and their friends had friends. Suddenly, youth group seeped over the edges of normal.
There was inappropriate language and scuffles from long-held grudges. Questions about God emmerged, serious doubts, embedded in histories where hope was not very visible. At the end of night, we stood in piles of pop cans, trails of popcorn and pizza boxes piled high. Often, the following morning some kind of message would await us about something witnessed the night before that hugged the edge of appropriate.
One evening at the beginning of an all-nighter, called Cruisin’ through the Night, we stood facing off against seventy middle school students. The wild factor was tipping the church off its foundation. The boys and their friends and their friends, were present in the mix. That night one of the boys tipped a bag of winter salt over in the church elevator. The next morning, my husband and I stood surveying the mess as we came face-to-face with adult members of the church. I remember reaching out to hit the close door button, we road down to the basement in silence.
Those boys stayed. Not only did they stay, they were loyal to a fault. Sometimes we wondered why.
I think it was the second chance, offered up in love, the presence of people who cared about them even though they struggled.
It was the way the church kids responded too. They embraced these kids from the other side of the tracks without question. They were weaved into small groups and included in activities. The kids didn’t miss a beat in offering the grace of Christ.
We all learned we are not so different, all these lives moving together in grace.
What has made you stick with someone who was challenging? Has a second chance ever changed you?
Lisa Van Engen is a writer from Holland, Michigan. She loves to offer up encouragement about making a difference at her website About Proximity. Lake Michigan and hiking are two of her family's favorite things to do.