*The following is a reflection from one of our interns, Gus. As part of the internship, Gus lives in the community in effort to love God and love others and works directly with Youth Works, our work to reach at-risk youth with the gospel. Whether he is volunteering at Orchard Elementary or spending time with youth at 316 (our youth center in the row houses), his desire is to pour into youth the love of Christ.
I absolutely struggle with judging kids at face value. I so often look at the kids I work with as naughty because they act out in class or have learned improper ways of interacting with others. An eye-opening event for me occurred after hanging out with a group of 3rd graders one night. One of the last kids to leave suddenly had big eyes filled with a mix of shock and fear. He exclaimed, “You have to drive me home!” Knowing he lived nearby, I casually told him to walk because I thought he was just being a punk and not wanting to. After darting his eyes toward the window, he said, “But it’s dark.” My heart instantly softened. This was not the naughty kid in class, though he often acted out. This was not the kid who rolls “the tough part of town” with his friends. No, this was not even the little boy who was afraid of the dark. God spoke to me in that moment to no longer define people by who I saw them to be at first glance. Rather, to define people by who God says they are. In this case, my young friend is a 3rdgrader who God deeply desires a relationship with and who needs to experience His love and to receive His lordship. That’s it. When I solely look at someone’s situation, I will only see his or her failures or victories.
What determines how I view someone? Is it their socio-economic status, education level, skin color, gender, or age? Do I give value to someone who has money, a well-paying job, owns his or her own house, knows how to read, or has a positive personality? Do I look down on someone because they struggle in ways that I do not? Yes. Yes, I do. Now, I’m not someone who would say, “Well there goes so-and-so, what an awful person. I’m so much better than them.” However, God has opened my eyes to just how much I say that same message with the way that I live and often view others.
As I entered this internship, I had it in my mind that the purpose of my being in the community was to save kids from the wretched place that they had been born into. How sinfully prideful of me! I thought that what these kids needed was found in what I could do. I mainly prayed that God would give me the strength to do what I needed to help these kids I was involved with. Months later, I now see that I was being short-sighted.
Quite early on, God began to show me His love for the children I have the privilege of working with. I volunteer in a 3rdgrade class and as my compassion for them has grown, the Holy Spirit has spoken to me more and more about how much He loves these kids. “Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God” (Luke 18:16 ESV). I desired for the 3rd graders to be loved, but I have learned that it’s not my love they need, but God’s. We’re equals, just as no one’s love can satisfy me or make me well, no amount of my own love can be beneficial to them if I do not give it as an overflow of God’s love in me. I’ve learned the best way I can love them is by pointing them to Him who is Love.