For three nights every week my wife Kim and I welcome into our home a group of neighborhood kids who we mentor through Bible study, tutoring, church and other fun, relationship-building activities. We have been working with some of our kids for four years now. We have been through a lot with them, and they have become like family to us. We’re there with them at their basketball games and graduations as well as hospital visits and family funerals. I also work full time as an engineer to support my family, and Kim is very busy caring for our 2-year-old daughter Lily, running our ministry on a day-to-day basis, and volunteering at our inner-city church. In all of this I feel the favor and providence of God so strongly.
The last few weeks have been stressful, scary, exhausting, and amazing. We had to call Child Protective Services (CPS) for two of our boys (who we have been working with for the last 3 years) because of physical abuse in their home. Kim waited outside their house for two hours before the police and CPS arrived. The police arrested their mom and the boys stayed at our house for two weeks while their home situation was investigated.
While the boys were with us, they got into a fight with a group of local kids over some bikes. The next day these kids came to our house while we were out, smashed in the garage door, and stole the bikes. That evening, while Kim was filing a police report, I drove around the neighborhood and found the kids playing with the bikes they had stolen. The police took back the bikes for us, and we spent $800 to have the garage door replaced.
End of story, right? Wrong.
We love our neighbors and neighborhood but we had to deal with some very strong emotions of anger, insecurity, and bitterness after this experience. After a lot of talking and praying with Kim, I went looking for the kids again. When I found them, I told them about our ministry, explained that I fix up bikes to give away to kids that need them, and invited them to Bible study. I gave them all bikes. They have been coming to Bible study every day since then.
This has been the most powerful experience I have ever had with turning the other cheek. God is so good! The two boys staying with us were amazed to see how these kids could turn from enemies to friends in one day because of God’s irrational generosity. God has also healed our hearts so that we can forgive and love these kids.
Through everything I never doubt that this is what I want to be doing with my life. I know that the only reason I get to see Jesus do miraculous things is because I am willing to be where God wants to use me.
It was a rude awakening to realize that there was nothing in my previous experience to help me know how to respond to a situation like this and what would be the results of any given action. This has occurred to me in a number of circumstances recently.
As Kim and I were talking about what to do after getting the bikes back the first day, we both regretted getting the police involved. We discussed the need to have some sort of reconciling conversation with the kids but we had no idea what that would look like or even where to start. We hated that we now had kids in our neighborhood that probably felt like they had a beef with us.
I never felt the leading of the Holy Spirit as clearly as when he gave me the idea of inviting the kids to Bible study and giving them bikes. I was driving to work and praying for Kim and for the situation. I was going over and over in my mind what I would say to the kids if I saw them again. I was anxiously obsessing and feeling like my head was in a cloud. When the idea came to mind it was like a cloud lifted and I could see the situation with clarity. I was struck with a sense absolute certainty that this was what God would have me do--model grace and forgiveness so that these kids would do the same some day. I was overwhelmed by the beauty of the kingdom of God, especially with the juxtaposition of the worldly responses of anger, fear, and revenge that struggle in my heart.
Jon and Kim live with their daughter Lily in Milwaukee, WI. They took over as directors of the Christian mentoring non-profit God’s Kidz in the Hood in 2013. They host children and teens at their house three nights a week for Bible study, tutoring, and relationship building. Jon also works as an engineer at Rockwell Automation where he heads the diversity and inclusion team for his location. Their vision for life and ministry is to share God’s love and see lives transformed in their city.