What I am Learning from Middle-Schoolers

This weekend, I am one of the chaperones on a mission trip to inner-city Houston with a bunch of middle school boys. It has been a very interesting experience, so far. As we have now completed our second day, we have visited people in a homeless park twice, gone shopping for people at that homeless park with money that has been raised all year long, picked up trash in the neighborhood around the church building, prayed with people in an apartment complex, and served lunch to people who have very little to eat.

We have been busy. But we have had time to play, too, taking some of the young children from the church with us to an Astros game and to an arcade/mini-golf/go-kart place.

We have more to come tomorrow and I am looking forward to it.

I have some learned some things about the 35 or so young men who are on this trip. Watching them load into and get out of the vans, observing them line up to go to lunch, seeing how they prepare to depart for their rooms while one of the leaders is giving them details on what to do confirms something for me:

These guys are self-centered, immature, and smell funny.

But they love God with a desire and passion I long to have.

Yes, these 12-15 year olds push to be first in line. Yes, these young men talk and laugh late into the night. Yes, they moan and groan when they cannot play longer because they have to line up to take showers. Yes, they do not always listen or do what they are told.

But here is what else they are doing: they are making friendships with people many of us never want to talk to. They handed out water to a large gathering of homeless people and starting talking to them. They asked if they could pray for them. They asked what they would like someone to bring them. They held hands and hugged these people who have been cast off by so many. One person used to play football in college, so the guys who talked to him bought him a football and brought it to him on our return trip to the homeless park. They played football with him and several others for 15 or 20 minutes. Have you ever seen people with nothing smile and laugh and look like they have no concerns in the world? Because I saw that yesterday. I watched today as these young people lined up to provide food and drink and then clean up after everybody (although, Big Rob put a few young whippersnappers to shame when it came to mopping the floor!).

These young men often act their age. And for those of us in our 30s, 40s, and 50s, that can be quite frustrating. But quite often, they act with wisdom, love, and kindness that far surpass their years.

I really hope I can be like them when I grow up.