For the past few days, I have been in Wilcox County, Alabama. I’ve been down there for years (this was our SEVENTH year–wow! Time flies), we just usually go to Pine Hill. This year we moved things to Camden so that we could be at Wilcox Central High School, the school all the kids in the county go to (except the white ones, they go to Wilcox Academy).
I went down early with a few other people to scope out the school and get as much set up as possible before the rest of the group came down. Of course after an almost 3 hour drive, the first thing you need to do is use the restroom. Only the restrooms at the high school are missing doors, don’t lock, and are just in bad shape. The school itself was kind of a mess: really dirty, broken desks, swastikas and graffiti on the desks, broken lockers, lockers with weaves hanging out of them, etc. The kids in that area really don’t have a lot of a pride and respect for themselves, so why respect their school? Definitely not Spain Park High School. We seemed to find everything wrong with the school and criticize it and talk about how that would somehow hinder what we were going to be doing.
Fast forward to when we got to where we were staying in Thomasville: our hotel reservations got messed up so my mom and I ended up staying at the hotel across the street. A little frustrating, especially since it had been a really long day, but it wasn’t that big of a deal. Then we got to our room, which smelled like pee. Then we found some other things to complain about.
Well THEN I started Jesus Juking myself, and boy did I need it! These kids we were hanging out with in Wilcox County really don’t have much. Somedays, they might not get all three meals, most of them probably don’t have air conditioning or heat, many of them won’t finish high school. What right do I have to complain about ANYTHING? Sheesh, was I being insensitive or what?!
This year, I helped out with the 7th and 8th graders for most of the time. I was not excited because, if you know me, you know I like to hang with the little kiddos and that middle schoolers aren’t really my crowd. BUT I was just happy to be wherever I was needed. Well, these kids weren’t the most well behaved…even for middle school kids. Yesterday afternoon, I had had enough of the disrespect and rudeness.
So I kind of snapped.
We had a come to Jesus chat.
And I told them just how they were acting and how not okay that was.
I told them they were being rude and sassy. I told them that a lot of people had given up a lot for them to be able to come to this 3 day camp, that we really wanted them there. I told them we wanted to hang out with them and teach them some cool and important things. The day before we had talked about gratitude; I told them they apparently weren’t listening at all. Mainly I just kept informing them that they were rude and sassy.
I was pretty upset.
Then I walked away, trying to process it all.
It broke my heart that they were so inconsiderate I had to “use a tone” with them.
Then I realized that tough love is usually the only thing that works with these kids.
Then I remembered that the reason tough love is the only thing that works is because it’s all they’ve ever known.
Then I reminded myself that a lot of these kids don’t have parents or family members that truly love and care for them; they’re on their own at a young age (Tommy, who just graduated high school and has been coming to our VBS/camps since the very first year, shared with me the other day that he grew up too quick….he basically raised his brothers, sister, and cousins).
This led me to remembering that these kids don’t have positive role models or positive influences in their lives.
And that broke my heart.
It’s a vicious cycle that doesn’t have a clear solution. I really wish it did; I love these kids and adults and this area. There’s so much potential down there, but kids in Wilcox County don’t really hear that they can do big things in life.
The past few days have reminded me to be grateful for what I have but to not keep that for myself, to share the love that I have been so blessed with. These days have also reminded me that life isn’t going to be easy, even if you’re doing what the Lord has called you to do (there were seriously a few times during the trip I thought, “maybe children’s ministry and/or missions are NOT for me”). John 16:33 has been on my heart a LOT lately (…and I think it’s for a reason):
I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.
So for now I will continue to process and pray for these kids, some of whom I’ve known for seven years…