This month's activity for the seventh-grade Mentor Groups at church was to take a field trip! We gathered first at the church, and then each mentor drove his/her group of mentees to the community center, where we sat in a meeting room to hear from one of the employees about "living in service to Christ." This gentleman told tales from his life. He was born in Colombia and lived his first few years with his parents, who put out their cigarettes on his head and eventually turned him out of the house because they couldn't afford all their children. He lived the next few years as an orphan, surviving on the streets of Bogotá by begging and stealing and evading the hit men hired by businesses to kill any orphan children who loitered around their store fronts. (He showed us the scars on his arm from when an irritated business owner doused him in gasoline and set him on fire.)
He was adopted by American parents and raised in the United States, but he said that he was a challenge to his adoptive family because his old habits (i.e., stealing) died hard. Even into college, he struggled with the aftereffects of his early childhood abuse, at one point attempting suicide. But he cited his parents, his friends, and a particular coach as the reasons for his survival and his decision to re-think his rejection of God as Someone of no importance to him. He started to pray and met the woman whom he later married and then became a father; and every night their whole family prays together. He feels that his life is full of blessings now and emphasized to us the power of prayer, not only to help those for whom one prays but also to bring peace and blessings to the pray-er him-/herself.
He is a coach now (wanting to "give back"/"make a difference" to children the way that his coach did for him), and many of our mentees listening to him know him as a coach or a sports tournament organizer in the community . . . so it made a real impact on them to hear the sad stories of struggle from the past of someone whom they see as a positive, strong role model. The boys in my group had insightful things to say afterwards as we drove back to the church to conclude our meeting time. And they admired our guest speaker (as do I) for sharing his tales in order to inspire others.