I was blessed to grow up in a peaceful home. I had the love and affection of two amazing parents and an understanding brother. I had the counsel of both my close and extended family, and I learned these people in my life were trustworthy. This was a firm foundation for me. Sometimes I ask myself who I would be without that stable home. I wonder if I would be as strong as these youth are. I wonder if I would have been as brave as they are. I wonder if I would have been as lighthearted. As happy. As welcoming.
These youth are my superheroes.
You see, on the one hand they have the streets of Jaco and her influences. Their backyards are essentially the streets. This would be fine if say, the town was positively influencing and raising these children and youth, however, to put it simply: it is not. There is nothing family friendly, it seems, about these streets. The openness of prostitution is glaringly blatant, the use of alcohol and drugs is impossible to ignore, and the clubbing scene is a popular nightly pastime. For many of these youth, their families live this lifestyle. They are influenced into trying these things and getting involved in these habits. At a young age they have big choices to make. Things they need advice on, but for many, their parents are not around enough to give that advice. Many are single parents and work full time to provide for their kids, many leave their kids to themselves while they work. Many of these youth come home from school to an empty house.
On the other hand they have the Church, Casafé, and the ever growing christian community. The Church is offering something good. The Church is offering an escape. It’s offering the life that Jesus died to give us, an easy yoke with the Father. These are all good things. However, the Church and culture of Jacó clash. Man, do they clash. These two cultures are constantly fighting. One shames the other. One judges the other.
Imagine knowing no matter what you do, someone will look down on your decision. Someone you respect.
Now imagine doing all this without a stable family to help. No one to answer all the questions raging around your brain.
Why are drugs bad, when everyone I know is on them? Is swearing ok or not? Why do some people say I can drink and others don’t? Why do some people say tattoos are bad and yet their friends have them? Why is everyone telling me something different?
There’s no family at home to answer the hard questions. Mom isn’t around to tell you not to swear, or to say it’s fine. Dad isn’t there to tell you about dating girls, so you go and ask your pastor at Church, but also your buddy on the street. Your parents aren’t home enough to notice you aren’t doing your homework at all, or that you’ve been sleeping all the time. That you slept through your last exam. That you’re failing you class. That the missionary at Casafé is the only person pushing you to go to school and work hard. They don’t notice you’re sick.
They balance two worlds at war, on their own. They walk the tightropes of uncertainty and no right answers, they make decisions well beyond their years, they grow up earlier than they should have to; and yet, they are gracious at their core.
These youth are warriors.
They get caught in the crossfire.
All. The. Time.
A war, a spiritual war, is being waged around them.
It is uncomfortable to think about the Church contributing to this war, to the crossfire these youth get caught in. Trust me, I know.
To fight the war they fight. To make the decisions they make. To accept the scrutiny of their peers no matter what decisions they make. This is brave. This would be hard even with a strong family supporting you. Without it? Impossible, at first glance. And yet, here they are, making those decisions every day.
Jesus has peace for them.
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. John 14:27
A calm. A for sure. A stable. He isn’t ever gonna be too busy for them, he won’t ever not be there when they get home and he will always take a second, or a thousand, to listen to them. Casafé is a place of peace. We want to remind them of the gift waiting for them to receive. No matter what stage of life they are in, they can rest and enjoy the peace God has given them.
This is what we want this season to bring them. More than the trivial decorations and songs. We want our youth to come to Casafé and feel peace. We want to share that incredible gift with these who need it most. We cannot take this war away from them, but we can offer them the same gift offered to us, offered to all believers, peace. Pure, unadulterated, peace.
I can’t think of a single gift better for our youth at war with the dark side of this world.