Over the past four months the kids of Ohai street and the Ulu Pono Program have gotten to know me and I have gotten to know me and I have gotten to know them. I can now tell you their names and their surnames, their likes, dislikes who their friends are even some of their dreams and passions.
It was a daunting idea, taking over a program that I had never even been a part of. Beginning to lead kids I knew very little about. I also had the responsibility of leading another staff member, an apprentice in the Leadership School and a dozen interns. The interns’ first day in the Ulu Pono Porgram…was also my first day in it. I was more nervous than they were, but I couldn’t let them know it. I had to walk boldly and confidently into the large home that is broken into many apartments where a majority of the kids we work with live. I had to confidently talk to all the parents and all the aunties and uncles and confidently run my first day. On the inside I was shaking, but God’s strength was with me and I was able to pull off the first day without too much disaster!
Now it has been four months, and the kids and parents now know me well. Even the littlest who speaks no English at all yells some form of my name when she sees me. It is really fun and truly exciting to get to know more about these kids over time. I love learning something as small as someone’s favorite book or movie because it gives me an insight into who they are. I love to see what makes them laugh and know exactly where to tickle them to bring them to the verge of peeing their pants.
But unfortunately kids getting to know you also comes with it’s challenges. Especially with kids who are taught very little about respect at home. There have been times where the kids’ words will bring me to tears. I’ve been called ugly, mean, a bully, a horrible person, they’ve told me that want their old leader back and some even more inappropriate things. There have been exciting things that I have spent hours planning for them that they blow off or destroy. They constantly beg me for money and often do exactly what I ask them not to do with as much sass as they can muster.
Some days I walk back to my room. I crawl in my bed and lay face down in my pillow and ask “God, why am I doing this again?” On those days I wonder if my time is making any difference. I wonder if these kids lives will be any different for me having been a part of them. I simply wonder why?
I have never heard an audible voice from God, yet somehow he is always able to convey two words to me: Love and Grace.
My role here is to show unconditional, unexplainable, overflowing love. I cannot fix the lives of these children. I may not be able to keep them away from drugs, I may not be able keep them from failing the 3rd grade. But I CAN show them love. That is all I am called to do.
Then I painfully remember all the times I have thought that God was mean. That I have hurt Him, betrayed Him, called Him names and disobeyed Him. And all of a sudden His grace for me becomes bigger, impossible to comprehend yet even more powerful. I deserved death, but I did not receive it: that is God’s mercy, which is incredible. I can not do anything in this life to deserve something from God, yet he has given me so many blessings: that is God’s grace.
Romans 5 tells me that even while I was a sinner Christ died for me. It is because of grace that I am saved, and it is my responsibility to not let that grace go to waste but to allow it pour through me, to define me and run over out of my life into the lives of these kids.
That is the answer to my questions. I am here in Wahiawa, working with the children of Ohai street for not other purpose than this: to show love and grace.
It is simple. It is radical. It is my life.