Don't Judge a Book...
One of the boys has been on a very long and winding road to reach where he is now. I lost count of the times he ran away, or got arrested. He would come, stay a while, be doing well, and then self-destruct. Along the way, he acquired a body full of tattoos and scars. He doesn't always smile, so you would probably cross the street if he was walking towards you. He keeps his head covered in stocking caps and his heart with walls. When he is angry, you can wish to be on another planet.
All last year, he was gone. After getting expelled the year before for fighting, lines were drawn, and he chose the street. That led to him being beaten and almost killed, again, and 6 months in prison. To be honest, I had given up hope. I thought things would never change. But his friend, whose heart is so much bigger than mine and so full of hope, encouraged me to not give up. To be honest, I did it for the friend, not him, when the opportunity arose to help him again. I knew it would end badly again and I kind of wanted to tell the friend, "I told you so." He had hurt me so much with his bad choices and broken my heart so many times, I was sure that nothing could have changed, but somewhere there was the tiniest sliver of hope, though I couldn't admit it for fear of disappointment again.
He came back home towards the end of last year. He went to his village to visit his family for some of that time, and in February he went back to school. Two days ago we were sitting and talking. Mostly joking around, but then he said something to me about Jesus. I can't even remember what he said, but I will never forget where the conversation led. He told me that he reads his Bible at school and when other students or teachers find him reading it, they get really surprised and ask how. Culturally, reading is not a thing. It isn't common to find anyone reading anything. So when people are, it is surprising anyway, but add to that how people see him, they are extra surprised because no one can believe he loves God. They tell him he looks scary and like a thug, and not like someone that would read the Bible. Then they told him how he has taught them not to judge a book by its cover. Every Tuesday and Thursday, he now preaches at school and tells his classmates about Jesus' goodness and unfailing love.
We can't always see the end when we are in the valley, and I don't know for certain that we are out, but it is moments like those when all of the suffering becomes worth it. He had fallen so far, but even God's mercy and grace reached him and now he is reaching others. He used to believe his life was worthless and God wasn't there, now he sees God's purpose on his life.
Never in my wildest dreams could I have hoped for such a day, but God knew it was coming.
Hold on friends, your day is coming too.