Sitting in the pew behind Weolthu I think about the conversation I witnessed minutes ago between him and his pastor.
I fold my arms over the long backrest and ask the worship leader of the Cookhouse Church of Christ, “What are you thinking right now?”
Weolthu slouches, with his head tucked down between his shoulders, as he looks away from where his pastor sat. I’m given the idea that he may have a variety of thoughts circulating his mind.
Leaning in, I’m waiting for the fourteen-year-old’s reply. Seconds pass and he doesn’t say a word. Thinking he didn’t hear me, I ask again.
“What are you thinking right now?”
The only audible sounds are the steps of the children running around the church platform.
I hear the wood creaking beneath the worn and faded blue carpet.
The acoustics magnify the sound.
Weolthu chooses to remain silent.
I decide to wait.
“I’ll be here. Take your time,” I said.
Compared to the church in which the two of us find ourselves, the community of Cookhouse is relatively the same.
The reality in which I find myself is a far cry from the expectations I had coming into this, the seventh month on the World Race.
I was under the impression that we would be revisiting the first world life: shopping malls, wifi, washing machines and all the other luxuries to which I had become accustomed to before beginning the Race. Upon learning the location of our next ministry assignment, while in Swaziland, I began to ask around.
“Where is Cookhouse, South Africa?”
Blank stares would follow.
“I couldn’t even find it on a map,” some would say.
Clarity came upon our arrival in the dead of morning as we pulled into the only gas station in town.
“What else do you need to know?” Pastor Patrick, our ministry contact for the month, asked us rhetorically.
Ten thousand people. Three schools. One clinic.
Composed of five streets, Cookhouse is arranged fairly simply; however, the problems that reside in this community are vastly more complicated.
Our neighbor, Police Officer Shawn elaborated on the condition of this town.
“Some of the things you see make you think this is not a small town.
“One of my first calls was a homicide. An eleven-year-old girl was raped by her nineteen-year-old HIV infected brother. She was then tossed in front of a train, and her body ended up in pieces.”
Stemming from fear: fighting, stabbing and armed robbery are some of the other problems that afflict the population in this town.
Fear will corrupt the potential that lies within this town. Impartial to age, race, or class, it prohibits any kind of positive growth, leads to apathy and devours the future that our Father wants for them.
Nine days ago, Pastor Patrick initiated a mentorship program for the month. He understands that the idea of making decisions based on faith, not fear, must be imparted into this next generation. He paired different members of his youth group with the seven members our team.
Weolthu is one of the two boys in my small group.
Within twenty minutes of our first conversation, I learned about his broken home life, the mockery that he goes through, his dreams and lastly, his struggle with a sin which I am one of four people to know.
After nine days of praying, conversing and encouraging him not to run, not to hide… Weolthu took a step of faith and let his pastor know that he is struggling with homosexuality.
The gesture that Weolthu extended was reciprocated by Pastor Patrick’s fatherly response.
“I’m your pastor, I’m like a father to you, and I will be here and pray with you and help you fight this battle.”
Pastor Patrick told Weolthu that he could continue to serve without fear, that he could worship more freely, that he has a pastor, a helper and a father to lead him through this part of his story.
I remember thinking that the hope for this young man is found in what the Lord gave him in this church, in this community. This teenage boy has just become aware of the haven that is his church. He has a place to work through the struggle that has led so many off from the narrow path.
The blanket of grace and understanding needs to be wrapped around the Weolthus of this world.
They need to know that they are loved, comforted and will be cared for by the bride of Christ.
They need to know that the ground at the foot the cross is level.
There is no partiality held towards sin, no condemnation in Christ.
They need to know that God looks past it all, forgives, accepts, and wants us.
All of us.
Silence, like the blank page, comes with a great degree of potential. The very next words inked onto the canvas will dictate the course of the story.
In the silence that spanned nearly 10 minutes, Weolthu finally begins looking up. I lean and listen as he begins writing the next page of his story.
Carefully, he asks, “What kind of man will be I be in the future?”
I reply, “You could be whoever you want to be, but as far as I’m concerned, you should be you. Whatever happened before doesn’t have to happen again. God has given you the freedom to choose. I encourage you to keep choosing faith. Keep choosing to trust.”