Yesterday we ventured into Alexandria, VA, a neighboring community just beyond the Potomac River. One of the things that makes DC and its policies so unique is that three separate jurisdictions come together in localized area: Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, DC.
The purpose of our visit was to meet some more unique kingdom laborers. Incidentally, it seems like every day here has brought its share of incredibly gifted, passionate, and obedient kingdom servants who are just seeking to be obedient to God. This day we met a community living intentionally in a predominantly Hispanic/Latino community called Chirilagua (named after a state in El Salvador where many of the immigrants are from). We met at two of the homse of this community, and had several discussion and meetings about immigration from the perspectives of the Bible, politics, and our responsibility. For lunch, we enjoyed pupusas, a Salvadorian treat!
The three ladies we met have lived in the community for about 4 years with the purpose of living, listening, learning, and loving their neighbors. Interestingly enough, the ladies were grads of Wheaton College and Taylor! Out of this simple relocation came a vision for reaching the kids of the neighborhood. They started an after-school program called Kids Club that consists of mentorship, homework/tutoring, and a Bible study. Half of our group served there for the afternoon while four of us guys made rounds to the local community stores to pick up food donations for the kids’ snacks.
After preparing the snack, the four of us went back to the house to tutor some of the 4-5th grade boys who were not enrolled in the program because of space. There were about 4 of them. After homework was all done, we ended up going to the local playground in the apartment complexes to play some pick-up baseball (or stickball, as I call it). Suddenly, what started as a four-on-four game turned into a four-on-twenty game! Kids started coming out from the woodwork, and it was a rousing time of teaching the rules of baseball, encouraging kids, challenging them to play as a team, and teaching them to deal with decisions or outcomes that they don’t like (not to mention how to stop play for a car coming down the road, and what “Game on!” means).
I’ve had experiences in these spontaneous kinds of games before (even in my own neighborhood), and it never ceases to amaze me how a child’s eyes glow when he gets his first hit, or she pitches a strike. The sense of accomplishment a kid feels when crossing homeplate and getting high-fives from his teammates. There’s something beautiful, meaningful, and unifying about sports that I was reminded of, something that I lamented is often lost in the suburbs in the name of winning, scholarships, or competition. Have we lost sight of the purpose for our sports?
I wondered as the game finished, “How could a little league baseball league affect and influence these kids for the future? How could it bring an entire community and their parents together? What kind of character could it form as these boys become men?” Your guess is as good as mine. For now, I’ll choose to be touched and impacted by the sights and sounds of little kids forgetting about their lives for an all-too-brief moment and enjoying a rousing game of stickball.