Later last year, Stephen and I felt like God put the “youth” of the community on our minds. We have so many opportunities to get to know the kids–our doors are always open, and their schedules often are, too. We have lots of toys the kids like to play with, they have no reserve for invading our home, and we have just about their level of vocabulary. It was a destined success.
And we’ve watched our opportunities with adults in the community increase, through tea shop visits, market trips, small business ventures, and adult bingo nights. And while these are good, growing relationships, they are often messy and complicated, too.
But we found there was a group in the middle: the kids too old for playing in our house and yet not quite old enough for business ventures. They often get left out of events we hold as they are left with responsibility for the younger children, laundry, or making meals. Or if they do get to come along to bingo or house church, they bring crying children. They often have to leave in the middle to get a bottle or new pants.
And we often found this group was a pretty vulnerable one. They are vulnerable to huge responsibility in the family: they are old enough to care for needs of younger siblings, help with business, and take care of household responsibilities. It helps that they are often sober, and thus even more capable. If they are too capable, they often find themselves pulled out of school and loaded with even more responsibility, sometimes a full time job.
Meanwhile, others in this group aren’t given enough responsibility and manage to find themselves with free time to drive motorbikes without a license or helmet, drink & smoke with their friends, and other generically destructive habits.
We just felt there was a need for a safe place. For some, a place for safe, positive fun. For others, a place of fun and freedom, safe from responsibility and younger siblings and more work.
We just aren’t really sure how to create that, but we’re trying.
This week we hosted our first youth game night. We haven’t miraculously solved the problems of local youth, but it was a start. And they loved it.
They loved the old-school Nintendo games Stephen set up on our projector. He had Street Fighter & Rush 2 for them to play. We laughed as they kept choosing the truck to race with and then driving on the opposite side of the road, even when the game would place them on the right.
We attempted to teach Uno, Pass the Pigs, Sorry, Dutch Blitz and Sequence. Sorry was a huge hit; and Pass the Pigs brought a lot of laughter for some reason. Sequence was declared too difficult and turned into a gambling game; I didn’t think of the cards and three colors of chips setting them up perfectly. Thankfully, we’ve already addressed this on countless occasions and we have an official stance on gambling: it is not in the act itself, but the money involved. The kids are allowed to “gamble” with rocks, paper, and whatever other little pieces they wish, but “no money, no money.” (This is repeated by the kids often, similarly to “No fighting, no fighting.”)
The biggest hit of the evening might have been our stool that spins, rises, and falls. Y’know the 90’s desk chairs that fall when you lift the lever? It’s like that, and apparently thrilling. They’d come to us over and over, “It’s broken! It’s not working!” We’d simply have to sit on it ourselves, because even these teenagers don’t weigh enough to make it work. We kept telling them, “No, it’s not broken. You have to be fat. See?”
We had snacks, and I know next time not to include fruit with seeds as they were discovered everywhere for days. I also know not to wash the couch cover the week before: it’s simply discouraging.
Otherwise, it will be happening again!