HELP FCA AKRON HAVE A CONVERSATION
A 1-year-old overdosing on heroin?! Here’s a glimpse of some of the issues kids deal with these days…
I walked into Buchtel Middle School with a smile on my face and two boxes of pizza in my hands. After showing up every Tuesday at 2:55 p.m. for a couple of months, the office receptionist came to expect me. We exchanged small talk, I signed the visitor’s log, and I exited the office.
The school bell rang just as I entered the hallway. At once, the previously quiet halls were buzzing with energy. Kids were walking, running, talking, yelling, fighting, bumping into each other, and engaging in a number of other activities. It was chaos. I love this environment. It’s energizing. It’s full of uncertainty and fun. Kids are simply being kids.
I arrived at Mr. Flossie’s classroom. He’s the teacher who lets us host our weekly FCA meeting in his room. Mr. Flossie opened the door. He greeted me with a smile and a firm handshake. I love seeing Mr. Flossie at the end of a hard day’s work. He’s exhausted, but in good spirits.
One more bell rang, and 5 boys made their way into the classroom. I greeted each boy and asked him about his day. Some told me the details of their day. Others were more guarded. Sometimes it takes them awhile to warm up to me. Of course, my willingness to share pizza with them always seems to make them more willing to talk.
We start the huddle with a quick game to continue to try to pry these young men out of their shells. The name of the game this week is “This or That”. It’s a simple game in which each person has to make a decision between two choices. PB & J or ham and cheese? Tacos or hamburgers? Math or science? Or a personal favorite in the city of Akron, LeBron or MJ?
We have fun making our choices. We laugh at the choices of others, and we learn a bit more about each other. The relational ice is beginning to melt.
After the icebreaker, we transition into more serious conversation. This week we’re focusing on allowing God to heal our wounds. Our verse of the day is Psalm 147:3, “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.”
And of course, because this is FCA, we use a sports metaphor to help the boys understand the message. Our metaphor this week is a baseball batter getting hit by a pitch. I explain to the boys that we all get hit by pitches in our lives. We all find ourselves in painful situations at times. When a batter is hit by a pitch, the usual response of the coach is this, “Rub some dirt on it. Walk it off.” However, I wanted the boys to know that this isn’t the proper response in life. I wanted them to know that we have a loving Father who wants us to seek help when we are hurt. He wants us to talk to him and others about our pain. He wants us to share our burdens with one another. He wants to heal our wounds.
After explaining the metaphor and answering a few questions, I decided it might be a good idea for each of the people in the group to talk about something that was currently causing him pain.
The conversation travelled around the circle as each person shared some of the difficulties he was currently facing. The tone of our conversation was a bit melancholy. But it was real life. We weren’t talking about the constant state of joy we’re living in. That’s not realistic. We’re human. We feel emotion and pain. We struggle at times.
The conversation started out fairly shallow, so I decided to try and drag the conversation deeper by sharing a portion of my childhood with the boys. I told them I was a victim of verbal, physical, and sexual abuse as a child. I told them how I used sports to avoid the pain, but how I’d recently began going to counseling to face the pain. I told them how God had already redeemed so much of my pain for the good of myself and others.
After I shared my story, one boy spoke up. He didn’t share much, and he didn’t go into much detail. He told the group that his brother was recently released from jail, and that his brother’s daughter died while his brother was in jail. She was only 1 year old. The group took a moment to digest this information.
The conversation continued around the circle. One man spoke up. In a somber tone, he told the group that his brother passed away from a heroin overdose 2 years ago. Heroin is affecting Summit County (and the state of Ohio) in a massive way. It’s never surprising to hear of someone who lost a relative to a heroin overdose, but it’s always heartbreaking.
After a brief pause in the conversation, the boy, who spoke up previously, spoke up once more. He told the group that his 1-year-old niece also died of a heroin overdose. While stumbling around the house (as I imagine toddlers do), she found an empty bag of heroin. She put it in her mouth, and the residue caused her to overdose and die.
Shock was my response. The conversation continued around the circle, but my heart was broken and my mind was swimming in a sea of questions. How could this happen? What kind of environment is this boy living in? How is this boy dealing with the pain of this situation? Where does he find hope?
Before I knew it, the conversation ended, and we prayed as a group. We prayed that God would heal our wounds, and that he would help us through the difficult times. We prayed that God would use us to help others through their difficult situations. We prayed for the hope that only God can provide.
This conversation was held during an FCA huddle at Buchtel Middle School on the west side of Akron.
FCA Akron is going on campus, and we’re taking Jesus Christ with us. We are living life alongside the youth in Summit and Portage counties. We are sharing their struggles, and pointing them to the only true source of hope.
Without donors supporting our cause, we don’t have huddles and these conversations don’t happen. We currently have 19 huddles set up on 18 campuses in Summit and Portage counties. Our goal is to reach all 75 campuses in our area. Please help us continue launching huddles and having these conversations by making a donation to our efforts.
$400 a month will help up provide food and Bibles for our University of Akron huddle.
$100 a month will help us provide food and Bibles for our Buchtel Middle School huddle.
$50 a month will help us provide food for one of our huddles.
$10 a month will purchase 1 Bible a month to be given to FCA huddle participants.
Of course, any amount more or less than those listed above will certainly help us too.
To make a donation, go to the following website: https://my.fca.org/donation?name=tristangriffin
Please let Tristan know if you have any questions or concerns (firstname.lastname@example.org). Thank you for your consideration.