Twelve boys. Ready to play basketball. 1 1/2 hours early. Like me. I guess we are all pumped to begin this new adventure in the neighborhood. But we have to wait for my adult colleague to show up. Accountability and security are important in mission, as they are within a church program. One of the boys just stopped me as I typed that last line. He wanted to use my iPad. I smiled and told him I needed to finish some work. He ran off to play hoops in the back church parking lot. Single basket with threads of net remaining, the most recent remnant of rough treatment. Most nets last barely a few days. I have higher hopes for these kids and their families. My journey is intertwined with theirs as we learn to do life together based on common ground. In our case, basketball for now. But I pray for opportunities promising greater depth.
It’s a strange gig, this journey into the margins. It doesn’t feel like the margins at all. Maybe it’s because I feel like I belong here. Perhaps it’s also because I feel so honored to be with these people with all of their cultural, linguistic, and religious diversity. So much talent and creativity; so much intelligence and social acumen.
Sixteen young people ended up participating in basketball tonight. Full court. Three teams. Attitudes were good most of the evening. A few tempers flared. One F bomb dropped. We got past it.
I conversed with an adult neighbor who participated. He asked me if this is a church. I said it is. He pointed out that most of the kids are Muslim. I asked him whether he is Muslim. He said yes. I then said that we try to offer fun things for the neighborhood. He agreed and said that is good as long as it doesn’t get into religion. I told him I respect that distinction; we just want to benefit the neighborhood with the use of our facility.
We continue to forge common ground. I handed out high fives and fist bumps as the night progressed. There were smiles and a growing understanding. There were also a few rough patches from kids who got out of hand and stopped following directions.
Mission tends to be messy at times. Frustrating, too. Aren’t all relationships? Opportunities to die to self abound. So that others may be introduced to new life in Christ. Doing life together in the margins: it’s painful and joyful, plus a lot of hard work. To find common ground and till the soil so that good seed might bring forth life eternal.