Sticks, Stones, and Youth on the Streets

25 Aug


“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never harm me!"

I can hear this saying being yelled from one student to another on the elementary playground as hurtful words are also hurled back and forth. It’s a phrase said in defense, as a cover, in hope that others won’t notice the tears welling up in their eyes as damaging words sting all the way down to their soul.

I sit in the middle of a group of street youth in my living room. They look haggard and worn from the inside out. We eat pancakes together, sip some coffee, and prepare to eat of God’s Word together to fill our souls.

“Come meet us Lord,” I pray as I open the Bible to John 8.

We read about the woman caught in adultery. She was placed in the midst of the crowd, her dirty acts yelled from a megaphone for all to hear. Each accuser (there were many) were ready to throw a stone. She stands accused, caught, and ashamed as the crowd tears her apart with their words and glares.

The kids sit and listen; they know this scenario all too well. Accusing, hurtful words and stares are hurled at them on a daily basis.

But look... look at Jesus. He does not condemn or accuse. He has no stone to throw.

I ask the kids to close their eyes and remember a time when they were condemned or hurt by someone’s words. I invite them to place themselves in Jesus’ presence, in place of the woman in this story. I proceed to guide them to tell Jesus about that hurtful memory, to lay it down before him and let him speak to their hearts.

“Let yourself be caught in Jesus’ loving gaze where all stones disappear, all accusations are silenced, all shame vanishes.”

We sit there together in silence, soaking in Jesus’ love and healing.

Each one left my house that day with a stone in their pocket — a forgiveness stone, a tangible reminder that Jesus does not throw stones at us, but rather he draws us close in a forgiving and loving embrace.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Melanie Avila and her husband, Julio, have been with CRM since 2006. They served street youth in Xela, Guatemala for five years, then moved with their three daughters to the barrios of Caracas, Venezuela in January 2016 to serve with other InnerCHANGE missionaries in the areas of discipleship, addiction counseling, and trauma work.

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