A twelve year old's very literal - and humorous - church experience.
Lightening the Mood
I would like to start off by affirming something everyone of my readers has most likely thought. I am aware that every one of my posts up until now has been rather heavy. They all express very deep, sobering realizations that I have had, and this is namely due to the fact that I love to think deep thoughts, ask the difficult questions, and ponder the circumstances that many people overlook in life. And in my moments of pondering I often have epiphanies that I simply must share with the world - hence the majority of my blog posts. I am a romantic and a dreamer, yet another quality of mine which comes into play here, on my blog, is my perfectionism. Each post on this blog takes at least three hours of writing, reading, editing, re-reading and re-editing. This is why I long forsook my goal of posting every week.
Today's post, however, shall be different than the others. The purpose is not to make you cry, or to have you reevaluate a certain area of your life. You will not get to peek into the scattered mess of my mind, or look at the world through my eyes. Instead, I only wish to put a smile on your face – if only for a brief moment. I wish for you to share just one of the moments of humor I often experience when spending time with my kids here in Toronto.
Before I begin describing the situation, I must first give some context. Part of my internship program working with the kids in an at-risk community in Toronto is to take any willing children to church with us interns on Sunday mornings. This began just a few weeks ago, and so far - in my community in particular - the turnout has not been superb. Many of the kids quickly shut down the idea of waking up two hours earlier than they normally would just to sit in a church service. Those who do show interest often tell us later that they've changed their mind, or they simply do not come to the door on Sunday mornings. I have quickly learned that urban ministry requires a significant amount of flexibility. However, there is two children who have dragged themselves out of bed on Sunday morning in order to go to church with over-enthusiastic interns. One is a young five-year old girl, and the other is her twelve year old uncle, Damien*.
Damien, is - without a doubt - one of the most hilarious kids I have ever met. I have a feeling that describing him is going to be near impossible, but I will do my best to illustrate Damien without disgracing his character. Damien has no boundaries, and no filter. Whatever comes to his mind, he speaks. Undoubtedly, this quality often gets him into trouble, but thankfully, it is nearly impossible to stay mad at Damien, because a beautiful, contagious smile is always plastered on his face. For example, the first day I wore my glasses instead of my contacts, Damien told me that I looked weird and that I should never wear my glasses again. Absolutely no filter. But his smile and the mischievous twinkle in his eye made it impossible for me to be offended. He is loud, bold, and slightly obnoxious, yet he would not be Damien without a single one of these characteristics. He has one of those laughs - you know, the kind of laugh that when you hear it you can't help but laugh yourself. A bubbling, rich, infectious laugh. I have never seen him intimidated, shy, or melancholy. Damien's character is, in a word, rare. I wish everyone I know got to spend a moment with this child, for I believe their life would be richer because of him.
Church vs. Damien
The church that we are required to take the children to is a quiet, reserved church. There is few children who attend, and the majority of the church's population is over the age of forty. However, I have never attended a church which is more of a family than this one. Nevertheless, many of Damien's attributes contradict harshly with this church's atmosphere. Namely, his charisma and his tendency to speak to speak everything five notches louder than everyone else. The words "Damien" and "whisper" will never be spoken in the same sentence.
This makes Sunday mornings an interesting but memorable experience. Admittedly, I got absolutely nothing from the pastor's sermon this past Sunday due to the fact that my attention was completely consumed with teaching Damien how to act in church.
No Damien, worshiping the "Lamb of God" does not mean we are worshiping a sheep. It's another name for Jesus. No, Jesus is not a sheep. It's a metaphor, Damien.
No Damien, we're not actually going to drink blood. It's just grape juice. Yes, I know he said that - it's symbolic. We're following Jesus' example - no, Jesus wasn't a vampire...
No Damien, just one cup of grape juice, Damien. And one cracker. No, this isn't lunch. It's communion. Shhh, chew quietly. No, you cannot have more. Stop licking out your cup.
Don't worry Damien, you don't have to give any money to the offering. No, it's fine you don't have to give - well, okay. Yes, the pastor did say give whatever you can. Yes, I'm sure they will appreciate that Tootsie Roll, Damien.
No Damien, when the song says "set your church on fire" it does not mean they are going to light the building on fire - it's a metaphor...we're the church. No, we're not going to catch on fire. Stop freaking out, I'll explain later, Damien.
A Very Literal Experience
In short, it was easily the most comical church experience I have ever had. However, one of the benefits of Damien's personality is that his comments are often the thoughts that other children have but don't vocalize. Having grown up in the church, phrases that I wouldn't think twice about are seen in a different light to those who did not have the same experience I had. Damien gave me a better look into the minds of the children that I am working with.
His experience was summed up in one hilarious outburst as we left the building: "Singing to sheep? Drinking blood? Setting churches on fire? What kind of place is this?!"
To say the least, I dedicated the ride home to explaining the symbols, metaphors, and representations used in the church, and thanking God for putting kids like Damien in my life to make it a bit brighter.
*names have been changed to protect the identity
As always, donations are always very needed and very appreciated so that I may continue reaching at-risk children in Toronto like Damien. Your donations allow me reach these kids spiritually, academically, and socially. If you feel led to give, please click the link below. Honestly, every single penny counts!
Thank you to all who read and all who give!