We recently began hosting a weekly club with 20 kids from our neighborhood. The children come to our rooftop—a large cement slab where we hang our clothes to dry and host big gatherings—on Thursday evenings to listen to Bible stories and process their life experiences.
One of my goals with this time is that everything we do, from drawing to the way we tell the story to the reflection on the story, encourages each child to see their story in light of God's. The majority of these kids live with some sort of violence and trauma as a normal part of reality, and they receive little to no help in processing what they witness. The effects of this vary, but some of the dynamics we see include them using aggression to assert themselves, lacking a sense of protection, fearing the future, fearing stepping out, or the opposite—doing something that endangers them or others.
Particularly for boys this can mean what my little neighbor, age 7, told me: “When I see ________ in the school yard, I watch my back. I know he wants to hurt me, so I kick him first.”
One evening in our weekly club we addressed anger, and it was the most chaotic and discouraging meeting we’ve had yet. We were left wondering, is it worth touching the deep-seated feelings in these children? Can they learn alternatives to acting out?
And yet, in spite of the trauma, we know these kids are a very resilient and tremendously energetic group. While it is true that they experience tragedy beyond what they should live with at their age, we are there to encourage and foster the strength we already see in them. We want to affirm, cultivate, and call forth their resources.
At the conclusion of every session we give each child a secret name. By the eager look on their faces I sometimes wonder if they come simply for that special moment: the chance to hear a caring adult take them aside and whisper into their ear: "You are a treasure. God loves you and hears your cries."
Everyone wants to be a treasure and have a treasure. We hope to remind these kids each week that they are God’s treasure and that his love is their treasure. Many leave with a glint of hope in their eyes and a discernible satisfaction on their face that they indeed received the message. We trust the Holy Spirit will take those little seeds and engrave what is needed onto their hearts and minds.
Birgit Funck Shorack