more than 4 years ago, when we were first getting to know jhoni, he was around 9 years old.
my first memory of him is seeing him walking towards me with a plastic soccer ball. as he approached me, another kid came up behind him and popped the ball out from under his arm. without thinking twice, jhoni turned around and punched him in the face. the kid dropped to the ground, and jhoni kept punching. i remember pulling him off, and helping the poor kid that he was beating up.
when jhoni tried out for the rhinos, my first thought was "there's no way he'll make it." the boys academy would be focusing on character development and discipline. jhoni didn't have a chance.
to my surprise, and to God's glory, as we're finishing up our 2nd year at the academy... jhoni is flourishing. he is a leader. he is loyal. he is learning about jesus. learning about friendship, honesty, love, and acceptance. he is learning how to be a husband and a dad. he shows real signs that he's changing - that the things he is learning, hearing, and seeing, are making a difference.
jhoni is the youngest of 1 sister and 6 older brothers. his oldest brother kicked his pregnant wife and 2 kids out of his house last week. typical behavior for the men in this village.
while jhoni is full of charisma and talent, where he lives, the odds say that his charm will be deemed worthless. in fact, it will likely be used to cause damage and pain in the lives of others. it just so happens that his oldest brother is pretty likable guy himself.
we pour into jhoni and his teammates in hopes that they can break the cycle. jhoni is the very hope that can change things for his family once and for all. in jhoni, i see a husband who will adore and respect his wife. and a father who will lead by example. a brother, uncle, and cousin who will shine an infectious light of love.
in jhoni, i see a man of integrity who has the ability to change generations to come.