Thursday, August 14, 2008

Kosovo and Inner City Atlanta

This summer at camp, Adam had his hands full with discipline on the boys side of camp. I dont remember it being nearly as intense last year, at least as far as issues and discipline problems go. One of the most frustrating things about working with kids from the inner city is how they respond when they get in trouble or get upset. They either get angry and violent or shut down completely. I was telling Pastor Steve how frustrated I get when they shut down because they wont tell you what happened, why they're upset or what they want; instead, they sit silently (usually in tears) refusing to let you in. I understand that it must be some sort of defense mechanism, or survival instinct where that's the only way they can safely respond to situations where they live. But Pastor Steve opened my eyes to the depths of their situation: he told me about how he went on a mission trip to Kosovo to work with war victims and children who had been affected or displaced by the war. And the kids in Kosovo respond in the exact same way that our kids from down-town Atlanta respond. I was blown away to think that these kids had experienced as much trauma as war victims - what, I wondered, could possibly be so terrible in our city?

So I began asking the kids questions, and paying attention to their responses. One of the boys who kept trying to run away described how he watched his brother shoot and kill someone. Another little boy who Adam kept having to discipline explained that he didn't like where he lived because there was shooting every morning and every night and his sister's house got "all shot up." One little girl had just been evicted from her home, and she woke up multiple times in the night crying and screaming with terror. One boy got in trouble for bringing a gun to school because he was going to use it on his mom's boyfriend who beat up his mom . . .

Realizing the depths of these kids' pain makes it easier to understand and extend grace when they respond inappropriately, angrily or by shutting down. They are victims of injustice, and I cannot help but hear Micah 6:8 echoing in my heart: "What does the Lord require of you? To do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God"

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