I often think of Mrs. P, my first-grade teacher.  She was a sweet lady, at least as far as I could tell.  I don’t remember her saying very much, only kids running around yelling, tipping over desks and chairs and a girl named Kathy who  barked and bit kids on the leg during class.  It was a pretty wild scene.  One of our favorite games was to steal Mrs. P's stapler that she tried so hard to hide and staple each other anywhere we could.  As for me, I liked science and sword fighting.  And I still have a pencil lead from a sword fight with Steven Adams stuck in my hand.  What I remember most is being filled with energy and craving contact.

I loved to hurl my body at things especially the floor. 

Beyond that, school was pretty boring. Reading was boring.  Math was boring.  Sitting at a desk among rows of other desks while Mrs. P talked and pointed on her overhead projector was boring.  My teachers thought I was impaired.  In fact, one day Mrs. E, my special ED reading teacher threw her book down in exasperation and exclaimed: "Brian, you are the stupidest boy I've ever seen!"  My mother was pretty angry about that.  I didn't quite understand all the hoopla.  Reading was boring, and I couldn't have cared less about Jane and her dumb dog Spot.   I never saw Mrs. E after that.

One day Mrs. P put her head down on her desk and started sobbing.  No one knew why.  So they took her away.  I never saw or heard from her again either.  I never gave any of this much thought until I was older.  Now that I am an adult and have  suffered my share of pain my heart hurts for them, and I wonder what was the cause of their pain?

My life as a six-year-old was in retrospect, a hyperactive mental fog.  Only I didn't know I was in a fog.  I didn't know that I was hyperactive either.  It just felt right to run around crashing into things and laughing until my belly hurt.

Getting in trouble for it wasn't fun.

I just always seemed to forget what getting in trouble was like until I was in trouble.

Even so, I did eventually learned to read on an eleventh grade level by the time I was nine, thanks that is to my mother and some books about the solar system. It turns out books about planets and stars were a lot more interesting than ones about Dick and Jane watching Spot run.

Josue is one of our special kids at the City of Refuge. He’s also one of our favorites. He is intensely friendly.

Actually, Josue is intensely intense and sometimes inappropriate. He's one of the inspirations for a recent "good touch-bad touch" class for the 4-8-year olds.

Josue loves to laugh and connect his body to people and things in impactful ways and at high speeds.

He will love you if you play with him.

But beware, he's very focused when he's in impact mode and has been known to pee at the most inopportune times. I find It's best just to smile when this happens and act as if it also happens to me. After all, urine is sterile, and a little soap takes it right out.

Shame can last a lifetime.

If you've seen our videos, then you know that Josue's mom was killed while attempting to immigrate to the United States.  That left his dad, Josue and his brother alone.  There's no social safety net in Honduras,

and single parents are often faced with choosing between working to provide for their children or keeping them safe. 

 

So they come to us.

Josue has some type of yet to be defined learning disability.

Or so they say.

What we know is that Josue is a worshipper

He's Cathy's flagging partner on "Soaking" nights and other worship times.  And If Cathy is on her knees praying then Josue probably is too.

He also loves to sing. He doesn't always get the words right, but his heart is definitely in it.

While Josue does prefer impact related types of interactions, calm tactile, kinesthetic activities can be magical too.

We've found that there's almost always a way to meet kids where they are and redirect their behavior based on their strengths instead of reacting to their negative behavior

in terms of how it makes us look or feel in the moment.

This is what opens the door to relationship and trust.  Relationship with an adult who knows and loves God is often the key to a child's future relationship with God.

There are several Honduran staff members who think that Josue does not belong here, that he'd be better served if he were in an orphanage with more kids like him.  I'm not sure if I buy that.  But then I'm not in charge, and it's not my call.  Life in Honduras is hard.

It’s a place where suffering, not success is expected.  Honduran children become strong and resilient, or they don't survive let alone thrive. 

My own approach is rooted in one of the most poignant lessons I learned as an adolescent substance abuse counselor.  That 60% of any change that takes place during treatment is the result of  relationship.  Nothing else we say or do matters apart from the connection that is established through relationship.  It’s a connection that frequently cannot be established with words alone.

More often than not what kids like Josue need is a good strong hug, one that squeezes them hard and doesn’t let go, one that says we aren’t going to give up on you

and you can not make us “unlove" you.

Some people imagine missionaries as human fire hydrants pumping Bible verses into people who never heard the gospel.

Others imagine missions as an endless activity.  The harder they are serving and the more they accomplish in the natural, the more spiritual they feel especially if the working hurts.  Still, others see it as formulaic as if we're a syllabus based curriculum.  Granted there is a time and place for all of these things, and they do serve a purpose.  But long-term missions is different and more like regular life albeit under harsher physical conditions.

For me the answer to the question; what does it take and what is it like to be a missionary lies with Josue.  I identify with Josue.  I can empathize with how he feels when he's hurling himself on the ground, when he's excited, when he's causing trouble, when he's in trouble.  I can see his heart and his love for God.  I can comprehend God's love for Josue

and in that comprehension I can understand God's love for me.

So often people arrive here with an honorable desire to serve those whom they see as worse off than themselves.  While this is often the case in the natural, Jesus exalted the poor, mother Teresa strived to identify herself with them, and the Sermon on the mount is pretty clear that the material world  is not the Kingdom.  Please don't be mistaken. I'm not saying that living in a grass hut with a dirt floor and eating worms will bring you closer to God. That would mean that leaving people to suffer is the best way to help them.  That's what Hindus and Buddhists believe.  What I'm saying is that God will bring a person closer to Himself through their identification with Him in the life, suffering, and joys of another.  Whom that person or group is is entirely up to Him.  Our job as missionaries is to know Him well enough to recognize His voice when he speaks through the life of a child here at the City of Refuge, an old man in the community, a single mother in the dump or the teenage girl next door who simply wants to stay in school. The definition and key to being a long-term missionary for me today is found in Josue.  Because at the end of the day,

I am Josue.

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