Every Monday when the kids get off the schoolbus they run to a grassy spot in front of the buildings because they know that it’s time for ABC, the Anaheim Bible Club. Our good friends and supporters: Peggy and Chuck founded the Bible club many years ago. There are a few kids now who are second generation Bible club-ers! Joining their club accelerated our acceptance into the community. Working with them from the moment we moved in made it clear to the people what we were all about.
It’s not easy to compete with the junk food truck when the kids are so hungry after school. Yet they run to us because we feed their little souls not just their bellies. Today they learnt about the Fruit of the Spirit.
Last night, like most every Tuesday and Thursday night, we had a great time in the park. Our kids from our two neighborhoods played a Crosstown Scrimmage. These kids are coming from two rival gangs’ territories, but soccer has no boundaries. They are between the ages of 19 and 8, but everyone is respected on the field. We are encouraging the older ones and help them to connect with local colleges’ teams to try out. Some of them have a really good chance to get selected and to become scholarship athletes. The younger ones will form our first Urban Seahorses teams.
As usual, we had prayer, pizza, fellowship and games on our patio after the game. We are becoming a big soccer-family under God. :)
We are long-time VeggieTales fans. WHO DOESN’T LIKE VEGGIETALES?! Our kids grew up watching them, singing the silly songs, leaning about right and wrong and soaking up the Bible stories presented in a fun and engaging way. We thought, what could be a better way of introducing Bible stories to unchurched kids in our neighborhood than watching VeggieTales together?! So yesterday when 4 first and second graders showed up on our patio to play – in 97 degrees in blasting sun – I told them to run home and ask their parents if they were allowed to come into the cold room instead to watch some cartoons with Bible stories. They ran back with their “OK” so we started our VeggieTales Club … or so I thought.
With the little ones we watched the episode about Madame Blueberry, who had a lot of stuff, but wasn’t happy. She learned that it was a thankful heart and loving people that made you happy, not stuff from the StuffMart. A little later 5 other kids came, mostly fourth and fifth graders, some of them regular church goers. So I thought we could try to watch the VeggieTales movie about Jonah. Well, I was in for a shocking revelation. Neither the little ones were able to sit through 30 minutes watching their cartoon, nor the older ones the 82 minutes long movie. They were so nice though. They did their VERY best trying to sit nicely, but it looked like it was physically painful for them. They kept standing up, stretching, jumping, or laid down on the floor, rolled around, stood up and sat up onto the couch again. Anything BUT sitting in one place. And even though I saw that they got engaged with the story, the characters and the colorful visuals of the video, they were not able to pay attention for more than a few minutes at a time. They watched it, then they looked at me and asked a question that had nothing to do with the cartoon, then watched it again, danced for the music, then asked me another question again about something completely unrelated to the story. I was shocked and didn’t know what to do.
I remembered that our kids used to watch all VeggieTales, short and long, glued to the couch, paying attention to every word. … That was 10-15 years ago though. … Having only taught in college, I haven’t experienced yet how short the attention span of many kids is today – and was not prepared to handle it. I will have to talk to some of our teacher friends and figure out a better setup. Right now I can’t imagine how, but we won’t give up!!!
One of the kids in our group has been known in the neighborhood as “The Bad Kid”. He had a foul mouth, made nasty gestures, didn’t participate in activities, or if he did only to distract others, fought with everybody and had the tendency to always get in trouble. One day when he happened to be with the group the kids were asked to draw a picture of their families. This was his picture. He went on explaining: “This is my Dad, he is trying to kill my Mom and that’s me under the bed.” He was in first grade then.
Since we started the soccer program after Bible Club he started to show up regularly. Lovingly but firmly we had to put him in his place a few times, but he started to be respectful with us and nicer with others. We found out that he was very sharp, enjoyed logical games and learnt very fast. But what he loved the most was still playing soccer. And even though most of the time he was the smallest on the field, he gave his 110% for the team. Last night after the game on the way home he told me: “Tonight I want to pray.” I can say I was really surprised. I wasn’t sure if he meant that tonight he was going to pray along with us, or that he wanted to lead the prayer, but I said: “Great!” We gathered on our patio around the fresh pizzas, put our hands together and he started to lead us in prayer: “Thank you God for this day. Thank you for this good game and thank you for the pizza. Amen.” How wonderful was to hear him praying and feel that something started in his little heart! In my head I thanked the Lord that a small mustard seed was sown.
We got a call from Josh, our fellow missionary from our other community that one of our kids, a second grader, Alvaro might be taken away. His mom just delivered her third baby, but because she is on meth the Child Protection Services took the baby and might take Alvaro and his little sister also. The mom was on meth during the entire pregnancy. We are not sure how the baby is. She herself (with 11 other siblings) was born to a mother who was also on drugs. Her one arm is not developed, she can’t really use it, yet she was not able to stay off drugs during her pregnancy.
Alvaro is her oldest child. He definitely has some issues with attention and comprehension. He had a hard time sitting still, usually struggled through homework club. Every day when he was finally done with his homework and received tis Pass Card, he flew with it to the field behind the building to play soccer. On the field he was a different child. He was poised, focused and got into the zone. He showed natural ability and enjoyed the game. At prayer time he was one of those who liked to jump up into our neck and be held till we had to leave. He is a sweet kid. We SO hope that growing up he will have the inner strength to break the cycle.
Last night around 8:30 we sat down to have dinner when 4 boys were knocking on our door. I should say one was doing the knocking because the other three were already sitting and dangling their feet at our patio table. They wanted to know if we would let the dogs out so they could play with them. We did, but we knew that their visit was about more than just that. When we asked if they were hungry, they answered with enthusiastic nodding. We had some good cake left over from our lunch guests, so we cut some nice slices for them and sat out with them to talk.
It was dark already. All of a sudden we heard some loud yelling and a few seconds later we saw blue and red lights and a police car flew past the left side of our patio. It was going so fast that I almost expected a big crash at the end of the ally because it is not long at all. All of a sudden everyone fled. Not just the boys, but the people who were sitting on the patios of the neighboring buildings. Then we saw another police car and police men running around on the other side of our patio. We were just standing there trying to understand what was going on when our neighbor signaled to us not to stand there but to go inside our apartment. So we did. And since one of the boys, Emilio got stuck there with us we brought him in too.
Emilio is a sweet little boy. He always looks into our eyes with his large, brown eyes. His face radiates openness, honesty and innocence, … but he rarely smiles. He lives with his aunt and uncle and his two cousins in a room across our apartment. We don’t know what happened to his parents.
Trying to lighten up the tension in the air, we started to play Hoppers with him, a logical game with frogs and Lilly pads. He got into it surprisingly fast and enjoyed the challenge. About half an hour past when we couldn’t hear any sound of trouble from outside, so we walked him home. We asked our neighbor what happened earlier. She said the police was chasing a guy who was running from them with a gun. She also told us that unfortunately some gang members just got out of jail and were back in the community. This is not good news.