our weekly tuesday-night bible study with the boys turned into an emotional time, full of the Holy Spirit. there's no way i'll be able to describe it all, but i want to share one special part.
|enrique in NYC last year|
he has been skeptical and also cynical. throughout the years, he has said "christians are all hypocrites. they say they're different, that they've accepted Jesus, and they just do the same stuff as everyone else. its not for me."
he drives me crazy sometimes, but man, i love this kid. (i guess he's not a kid - he's actually 18 years old.) we've tried to walk him through it all. we've explained that in some ways he is right - no one is perfect, becoming a christian doesn't mean you stop sinning, and we're all hypocrites to some degree. also that the way each person responds, grows/not-grows after accepting Christ, does not change who Jesus is. we've also encouraged him that the beautiful difference between christian sinners and non-christian sinners... is the forgiveness offered through the cross. we've had more conversations with enrique about Jesus over the last 5 years than you can imagine. and he listens...
but he isn't buying it. every time we have great moments and conversations with him, he finds a way out. not long after, he's always convinced that its not for him.
enrique is a deep thinker in a village where there just aren't many. areas of malnutrition, poor education, and other generational problems just don't produce a lot of deep thinkers. but enrique is an enigma in this place. he takes what he hears, what he is taught, and he meditates on it for long periods of time. he's not a talker. he's a thinker.
over the years, jesus has been pursuing enrique in a big way. of course he learns about God every day during mandatory daily devotions at the academy, and every-day life at the academy. but it seems that every where else he turns, he hears about Jesus as well. at edbv (his school run by our friends the schmidts), he hears about Jesus. his best friends have accepted Christ. he just can't escape!
so... a few weeks ago during our trip to the U.S., he talked to me for 5 straight hours (driving from jacksonville to miami) about how he feels different. he explained how the men's devotions book i gave him a year ago is "starting to come alive". (we made an agreement a long time ago that he would read one each day.) he said that it used to be boring, but now its exciting. he explained that he used to read them real fast and head off to school, but now after he reads one he opens up the bible to research a little further what it said.
i asked him if he thinks the book has suddenly changed, or if he thinks his heart is beginning to open up to the grace of Jesus? "i don't know", he said, "we'll see."
last tuesday night, he showed up at our optional bible study discipleship program, which he has never come to. mynor caught everyone up on where we currently are in the study, then he welcomed enrique. i couldn't help it... and asked him directly before we went any further: "kique, you've heard about God for years. did you come here tonight to continue 'exploring' what Jesus is all about, or have you come to a point in your life where you already know that you need him?"
from that moment on, the night was on fire.
enrique prayed (and prayed, and prayed). in tears, he gave his life over to Jesus Christ. at one point he stood up to address all of us, and his knees literally buckled underneath him and he fell to the ground. he sobbed uncontrollably as he finally let go of all the abuse and suffering he has endured in his life. he took all of the weight and all of the pain, and put it at the feet of Jesus. he was free.
his best friend allan, cried hard and celebrated with him. he shared with the group as tears ran down his face that "everything is different now. now that we have enrique, we're going to be so much stronger." he shared how this has been his prayer for so long, and that this was one of the happiest moments of his life. they hugged strong, like men should hug. something beautiful that never happens in this village.
confessions, commitments, and heartfelt encouragements followed from julio, ivan, and josue. it was one of the most raw and honest moments with friends that i have seen. at one point, enrique looked at julio, eyes locked, and said "i owe you an apology. you have tried to help me several times when i was drinking and doing stupid things. and i just hated you more. i've always thought you were so stuck up. that you think you're so cool. but i see now how many times you've tried to help me. i am so sorry."
at that point, i think i broke. men don't talk to one another that way here. no apologies. no signs of "weakness". again, it was a beautiful image of true manliness.
last night was the opening night of the local fair here in town - a huge time of temptation for all the boys & men in the community. booze is everywhere, people come over from neighboring towns, girls are half-dressed, etc, etc. enrique came up to the living room where i was resting. he wanted to hang out and talk. i asked if he was going out to the fair and he looked at me like i was crazy. "man there is nothing for me out there. no part of me wants to go out there." after catching up for 30 minutes, he went down stairs and spent the rest of the night with my kids, playing games and listening to music.
this is a different enrique. he has always been a unique young man. other kids follow him. and like allan said... now that he has given his life to Christ, we're going to be so much stronger.