Akron Adventure · motherhood

The Lost Boys: One Mom’s Mission Field

I recently wrote about how my primary application for furthering the gospel would take place in the home. God has given me, it seems, a little mission field in our neighborhood that goes beyond my four children. There are an uncanny number of boys in this neighborhood. They all happen to have a passion for playing football. Our yard happens to be the best suited for football. Because of this, there are many days when I have a group of boys ranging from 9 years old to about 13 in my yard tackling each other. My boys, who happen to love football, make up a good sized chunk of this group. Is this a coincidence? I don’t think so.

This is new territory for us. Until now, my boys rarely interacted with the neighborhood kids. The two year old girl next door hardly held their interest, and the two kids across the street rarely came outside. I admit, I have been grateful to not have to deal with unbelievers and their potential harmful influence on my children. But when we came to Ohio we did it for the sake of the gospel, and Jason and I agree that this includes the opportunities he provides with families in our neighborhood.

So far, we are navigating our approach to the neighborhood kids very slowly, deliberately, cautiously. I’d love to get your feedback on what I’m about to write. Here are a few thoughts on our attempt to reach the lost boys.

1. Strength in numbers. Our boys aren’t allowed to go outside alone. They have to stick together. We find that this is the best form of accountability for them. If one of them acts in a way that is unbecoming to the gospel, the other two let me know. If one of them is trying to be cool to fit in, the other two let us know. If one of them is a poor sport, the other two let us know. Between the three of them, we get a thorough “debrief” on what happened that day playing ball.

2. On our turf. We haven’t let the boys venture out of our yard. It hasn’t become awkward yet, the fact that they aren’t ever allowed to go to their buddies’ houses, but I expect it to. I’m not really sure what the best way to address this with other parents without being offensive, but we really don’t want the boys going into other boys’ houses at this point. My main strategy is to make our house the funnest house on the block. Any ideas for how this might happen? Jason tells me to keep making chocolate chip cookies, hot cocoa, etc. I want my house to be the Kool Aid mom’s house.

3. Spy Mom. When my boys have one of the neighborhood boys over, I play the role of the spy mom. I am always within earshot to be sure that the conversation doesn’t go to inappropriate topics. Also, if the boys stop playing football and are standing around chatting I make my presence known in some way. Gotta love boys though, they aren’t generally chit chatting, they are pummeling each other into the ground. Much easier to deal with in my opinion.

4. The Mouth. I have a “mouth” in the family. You know this kid. He’s the one who gets the most spankings because what he thinks comes straight out of his mouth. But the same “mouth” has no trouble asking each boy if they are a Christian and getting the general down-low. The very first football game Mouth discovered (between plays): one boy was a Christian, and believed that Jesus died on the cross for his sins but doesn’t go to church; that same boy’s mom is a Christian, but his dad is in a band that sings songs with cuss words in it; one boy’s parents are divorced and he is only here during the week and every other weekend; one boy is Muslim and doesn’t care if his words please God or not; etc. My Mouth has no problem sharing the gospel with his friends, inviting them to church, informing the boys of language not allowed in our yard (usually it’s taking the Lord’s name in vain), telling me exactly what went down on the ball field. There was one time when he came to dinner and announced, “Gay doesn’t always mean happy, does it, Mom? And queer doesn’t always mean odd.” (I always told him gay meant happy; queer meant odd). Well, one of the lost boys told my little guys that gay means when a man loves a man instead of a woman, and queer means gay. This was scary at first. I had feared moments like this, but honestly the fact that Mouth and his brothers felt perfectly comfortable telling us about it was a good thing and Jason was able to walk all of the boys through it. Gotta love Mouth. I don’t think we could do this without him.

5. Reminding my boys of their commission. I try to make a point to tell the boys every time they go outside that they are representing Christ. Jason and I have discussions with them explaining that these neighborhood boys do not have the grace in their lives to be genuinely kind, humble in sportsmanship, etc. We remind them that they (our sons) are sinners too, but they have a Savior who forgives them and grants them grace to obey Him and honor Him. We are finding that their tendency so far is not so much to be tempted to act worldly, it is more to be self-righteous, so that influences how we talk about poor sportsmanship that permeates the football field.

6. Fresh Commitment to Adorn the Gospel through biblical womanhood. It is so easy to forget that my pursuit of biblical womanhood particularly in response to Titus 2, is to put the gospel on display for any unbelievers with whom I may come in contact. So pursing biblical womanhood is my primary strategy to “witness” to these lost boys. I want them to see something different at my house: the affect of the gospel on a Mom saved by grace. I am hoping that these lost boys are an inroad for me to befriend their mothers. I am re-reading Feminine Appeal for inspiration. I found a quote today humbling and inspiring:

Can you conceive of anything that sets forth the beauty of the gospel jewel more brilliantly than the godly behavior of those who have received it? Consider the loveliness of a woman who passionately adores her husband, who tenderly cherishes her children, who creates a warm and peaceful home, who exemplifies purity, self-control, and kindness in her character and who gladly submits to her husband’s leadership – for all the days God grants her life. I dare say there are few things that display the gospel jewel with greater elegance. This is true feminine appeal. – Carolyn Mahaney, pg. 21 (from Feminine Appeal)

So far, we had one little boy spend the night last week so that he could come to church with us. He wants to keep coming to church. Another boy, the first boy’s cousin, also wants to come to church. Please pray for us and pray for these little boys. We know that bad company corrupts good morals, and our children’s well-being is our first concern. We also want the boys primary relationships to always be with other believers, particularly from our church. But we also see that God has sovereignly placed a group of little boys who are dead in their sins literally in my back yard. We are here, even our children, to proclaim the glorious Gospel of Jesus Christ. Any thoughts?

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17 thoughts on “The Lost Boys: One Mom’s Mission Field

  1. Maybe it was the neighborhood we were in in Akron, but it seems to me that parents were much more willing to send their kids to church with you there than they are in New England. The “religion is a private matter” mentality here was a bit of a culture shock for me. If the kids feel that they are safe and welcome at your house along with it being fun, than your yard will be the one that draws them.
    May the Lord bless your efforts.

  2. Hey Laurie! IN CG, we prayed for you, Jason, and the boys as you are becoming the “Kool Aid” Mom! 🙂 We are praying for many more opportunities to open up especially with the parents of these boys that you are all connecting with! We love and miss you!

  3. 1. Continue doing what you are doing.
    2. Pray, pray, pray!
    3. Finally, trust God.

    I think this is just an awesome opportunity. What an encouragement to me to be preparing to do the same with my kids.

  4. Sounds like you’re doing a great job. There definitely is a balance between protecting your kids and letting them interact in the real world. One thought came to mind, and that’s for you to get to know the moms of these boys. That way it’s less of just the kids getting to know each other, but more of the families getting to know each other.

    Josh and I have loved getting to know our neighbors. We had a neighbor who was Christian for a while who was very rude to our non-Christian neighbors. He said was rude about our non-Christian neighbor’s music, complaining about it being loud (which was true, it’s loud and contains bad language), but then he played his Christian music loudly. We were really sad about his poor demonstration of Christ’s love. We on the other hand, we don’t condemn this guy for his actions, because he’s not a Christian, so we can’t expect him to act like one. Instead, we engage with him about the things he enjoys – like his music. He drinks regularly, is tatooed, but is an awesome guy who needs to know the Lord. We hope our kids and his will play together often. I think Josh and I hope a lot of our kids friends actually will be an equal mix of believers and non-believers, so they never get in a “bubble.” Anyway, sorry for the long neighbor story.

    An awesome book is Mark Driscoll’s “The Radical Reformission: Reaching Out Without Selling Out.” Josh and I just read it, and it’s one of the best books I’ve read on this subject of balancing being in the culture but not of it. Can’t recommend it enough! I’ll be doing a review of it soon.

  5. Awesome! I’m taking notes from you…as usual! 🙂
    It’s good for me to think this way already even though my boys are only 3. We’re “out there” so often, and instilling a God-centered, redemptive worldview starts now…already, even at 3 yrs. old. I appreciate the point about biblical womanhood; I all to often underplay that impact and probably need to spend most of my effort growing in that area.

  6. No doubt you’ll be challenged in your hospitality to self-pity at some time when the novelty of being Kool Aid Mom wears off (namely feeling you’re always the one dong the giving, the watching, the referring on occasion). BUT what I found was that having the stuff kids like (games, food, basement) plus likeable kids of our own (always helps!) then the kids kept coming. If you make a blanket rule such as “our kids aren’t allowed in ANY neighbor kids’ houses” then it shoudln’t be a sticky situation. If, however, you discover along the line that so-and-so’s house is okay b/c they’re Christians, you run into offending other neighbrs (they will pick up on the holier than thou stuff). However, in my experience, most moms and dads are MORE than glad to send their kids away. Sad, but true. It takes far more work to keep an eye on them, not to mention all their friends. I wouldn’t go into debt to fund their food habit, though. Don’t feel pressured to serve something all the time. Water will do just fine for thirsty boys, with maybe some freezy pops by the cartload in the summer. ANd keep a CLOSE EYE ON MAGGIE. VERY CLOSE!

  7. I printed this one out for granny to read. I am so blessed to read of the potential for God to use you all there in your own neighborhood. Who says you have to go around the world to spread the gospel. In Experiencing God Blackabee says find out where God is working and join in. I am very proud of “Mouth.” Miss ya! Debbie

  8. I appreciate your thoughts and agree with them completely. The Lord has given us so much favor on our little block since we moved in four years ago. Two families have been saved and come to our church and one lady, who is a lesbian, has been coming to church with us on and off and is about to start our Life 101 class (our version of Alpha). Really nothing has made the Gospel more real and alive in my life then seeing God work on our block in ways I couldn’t have imagined. I will be praying for you & your boys! Gotta love the mouth! I definitely have one of those myself 🙂

  9. Tara, that is so faith-building for me! Thank you for your example of being a light in your neighborhood. I can’t wait for warmer weather when grown-ups will be outside as well.

  10. Our neighbors with kiddos recently moved away, but when they were here our rules were similar. Our guys had to stay in our yard – it never really became an issue because I don’t think anyone else wanted the responsibility of our 4 boys in their yard. The windows were always open when they were playing with others so I could hear.

    As far as hospitality, I would keep freezer pops and bottled water for hot days. We don’t have many visitors on cold days. I’d take a sharpie and write each kid’s name on a bottle and set them on the porch. Many of the boys wanted to come in the house and that was sometimes a challenge, but usually turned out ok.

    Our biggest problem came when the girls in the neighborhood starting floating over. Then the roughhousing would stop and the chatting would begin. I could hear the conversations and they were not good. I usually just called them in. That was tough because they wanted to be outside and I wanted them out there too, but that was a factor that made me uncomfortable.

  11. Laurie…Even though we were saved when our boys were older then yours we still had some of the same rules. Just cause I wanted to be able to watch my boys. I was the cool-aide mom. As Zo said I just made it fun…I however was big into the food part. Pizza was a Friday night staple for the “gang” that played ball in our court. We also had movie nights and lots of sleepovers. We would stay up late playing charades with the boys and their friends. Nick thought I was so cool. The other parents wanted to get “rid” of their children often. I always had New Years Eve with a HUGE spread of food and all of my kids could invite friends. I did keep an eye on KT BUT I found that my boys protected her really well and then their friends would do the same. I think this is awesome how you are handling this…To God be the Glory!!!!
    Miss you all
    Donna
    PS Tell Jason KT said the other day how much she misses him and his messages!!!!!

  12. Donna, you are the kool aid mom. I want to go to your house on Friday night for pizza 🙂 . I can’t wait to try some of your ideas.

    tell KT Jason was blessed to be “missed”.

    We miss you guys as well.

  13. Laurie, I am excited with you what the Lord is doing in your neighborhood. Much of our experience with “neighbors” – both near and far (i.e. from school), has been challenging, yet exciting for the opportunities to share Jesus.
    Having good communication is definitely key. My oldest shares her heart a lot, for which I am truly grateful. It has helped me in discipling her and teaching her as Duet.6:4-9 teaches us. This year among her friends at school she met a Mormon. It brought up a lot of discussions on what they believe, and what the Bible teaches. This girl has brought things to her that we had to teach her what the Bible taught. Some of these discussions brought tears to her friend’s eyes, as she shared with her. I believe the Lord brought her to school to meet this girl “for such a time as this.” This girl is in the honors program, yet my daughter has brought Scriptures that she has no answer to, by God’s grace.It has challenged her to know God’s Word more, and to pray for her friend.
    I am humbled by these things, because I feel I am constantly dependent on the Lord’s grace and wisdom and guidance. I appreciate the guidelines you outlined (it is much more organized than ours:) ) I will pray for you, in this, for the Lord’s wisdom and guidance. By faith, I believe we will know some day the fruit of our hands in matters such as these, to God be the Glory!

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