March 13, 2015

Bruised, Hurting and Dirty / George Kane

Planting seeds of faith and friendship with Dylan, Ryan and Kyle

George KaneMissionaries don’t always receive warm welcomes, but pressing through an initially cold response can sometimes yield surprising results.

One afternoon, when my roommates Rus and Gabe were out doing street evangelism, Rus felt moved to talk to a young man sitting in a white Crown Victoria. Rus invited Gabe, who was new to mission work, to start the conversation. Gabe was nervous and did his best to make a friendly introduction, but the young man only glared and said, “I don’t want to talk to you guys.”

Gabe asked why, and the young man retorted, “Because you guys don’t believe what I believe.” Undeterred, Rus squatted next to the open window and asked playfully, “How do you know?” At this, the young man cracked a smile, got out of the car, and introduced himself as Dylan. Dylan was thickly built and wore a bowling shirt, baggy jeans and bouncy dreadlocks.

Rus felt moved to tell Dylan about how God wants to use committed friendships to leaven the whole neighborhood, especially to heal it from the destructive effects of loneliness and drug addiction. He explained that these committed friendships would be the authentic version of brotherhood that gang life distorts, helping men conquer temptation instead of leading them straight into it.

This struck a chord in Dylan, who confided that he had a friend like that named Ryan. Their mothers were addicted to crack cocaine and absent, but their fathers had become fast friends in their joint struggle as single fathers. Right as Dylan finished talking about Ryan, he pointed behind them and said, “Hey, here he is now!” Sure enough, a thin young man with a faint moustache and a Bob Marley jacket walked up and joined the conversation.

Dylan and Ryan told the missionaries story after story about protecting each other from violence, temptation, and even suicide. Dylan told Ryan that when Rus squatted next to the car, Dylan had heard God say, “Talk to these guys!” Soon afterward, their friend Kyle walked up and joined the conversation, too. This group of five brothers, three African-American and two white, stood in the street by Dylan’s car for nearly two hours talking about the Lord, reading the Bible and laughing like old friends.

When it was time to end, the five men put their hands on each other’s shoulders and prayed that the Lord would establish their joint friendship as a light to the neighborhood. Dylan and Ryan also prayed for jobs, and to be able to see their kids more often. Looking around the circle, hands on Rus’ and Ryan’s shoulders, Kyle exclaimed, “Man, this is totally the Lord! The whole neighborhood needs this!’

Kyle’s perspective reminds me of Pope Francis’ call to those seeking to renew their cities to look “with a gaze of faith which sees God dwelling in their homes, in their streets and square. God’s presence accompanies the sincere efforts of individuals and groups to find encouragement and meaning in their lives” (“Evangelii Gaudium,” #71).

We’ve been able to see Dylan, Ryan and Kyle regularly since then, and I’m happy to report that, less than a month after we prayed, Ryan and Dylan both had jobs and were seeing their kids often.

Thank you, Lord!
 

(George Kane is a graduate of Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis and a former member of St. John the Evangelist Parish in Indianapolis. You can read more of his columns at georgekane.wordpress.com.)

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