Saturday, February 25, 2012

We Have to Get to Them First...

I teach 7th grade.
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I know, I get that same reaction from everyone. 


I teach at a low socioeconomic Title I Correct 2 middle school that feeds into every high school in Lakeland. What does that mean you ask? It means like 80%+ of our students (don't know the exact percentage) are on free/reduced lunch plans, hundreds of our students are bussed from ALL over Lakeland, and we haven't made AYP in 4 years. We seem to be the last stop before some kids are sent to the alternative school,  Bill Duncan, and we tend to be the "dumping grounds" for when "The Dunk" as the kids call it, is done with them.


But what does this really boil down to?


It boils down to the fact that the vast majority of my students are starving for attention - - - any way they can get it. Just yesterday I learned (through an essay I assigned for them to write about their father OR a male figure they respect like a father) that TWO of my students literally do not have any male figures they look up to in their lives. I wanted to cry. WHERE ARE THESE MEN?!? As I sit here, I am thinking of about 10 students of MINE that are already in gangs. Some are quiet about it. Others are loud and proud. It's disheartening really. But it's reality.


I sat talking yesterday morning with my co-worker friend who is a Christ follower about the sadness of it. I told him I didn't understand why these gangs that you have to be jumped into are so appealing to these kids. He, understanding their mentality, told me it was because the gangs give them what they are thirsty for - loyalty, appreciation, and family. FAMILY.


Last night at our small group, we watched a segment from Francis Chan's BASIC series about fellowship and how that is really supposed to look in the church. He mentioned a story about a guy who was in a gang but came to their church and decided to give it all up and follow Christ, but after a while he quit coming to church. When he was finally asked about his absence he told him it was because he thought that when he joined "the church" that it was going to be like a family where people let you in, are loyal, appreciate you, and would do anything for you, but that he must have gotten it wrong. Francis' reply was that no, he got it right....the Church has gotten it wrong. 


The juxtaposition between my conversation earlier yesterday and that video last night was not a coincidence. God was trying to open my eyes to the reality right there in the four walls of my classroom. The other comment my co-worker made was that they (the gangs) simply got to them first. 


That...breaks my heart. And it should. Because Francis is right - the Church (the body of believers that calls themselves Christians) has gotten it wrong. 


This is why I am so thrilled to be a part of Fuel Community Church where their target is young people...where the VISION is to reach every young person (30 years and down if I'm not mistaken) in Lakeland. Impossible, you say? Not with my God.


Because here's the thing - gangs wouldn't have to exist. They could stop recruiting. IF...IF...IF...we, the CHURCH, do what we're supposed to do.


What does that mean? It's really very simple.


WE HAVE TO GET TO THEM FIRST!


...and then we have to stay there...