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A Transformed Life

By March 23, 2009 No Comments

A Shy Beginning. Jasper started attending the Elkhart Crossing a couple months before the conclusion of the 07-08 school year. I could see his nervousness and his insecurity from the moment he arrived. Despite his apparent discomfort, Jasper’s presence in my classroom was like a breath of fresh air. Every morning he would give me a shy grin as he entered the classroom, then he would make a beeline for a computer and get right to work. He rarely spoke and hardly ever left his seat. Even when chaos was swirling and churning all around him, there he sat, diligently completing one assignment after another. In his first three weeks at The Crossing he had hammered out an entire semester of Health: fifteen chapters of reading and comprehension testing, computer assessments, essays and all. He was a brilliant kid and a smashing success. While his academic progress was astounding, I worried about his quiet demeanor. It was his protection; something else was lingering just below the surface. I knew he was having to make difficult decisions outside of school because of his gang affiliations and I hoped that by God’s grace he could at least find some solace at school; maybe make some new friends or establish a positive support system. I watched him sometimes while I taught during our daily Family Times. I tried to make him feel comfortable, accepted, but I could tell that he was feeling out of place in this new environment. Although he didn’t often talk, he was always engaged, ever watching and observing; everything he saw and heard was soaked into his sharp mind like a sponge. A Gentle Transformation. He didn’t start opening up until roughly four weeks after his arrival; we began a Thursday Bible Game tradition. I would make lists of different New Testament Scriptures and call them out one by one. The students were poised and ready, each with a copy of the New Testament, fingers itching to rip through the pages and be the first to find and read the specified passage. It was absolute chaos, but the kids loved it and the Scriptures of the New Testament were becoming more and more familiar in their malleable minds as weeks of Bible Game Thursdays continued. I was surprised when Jasper started to participate enthusiastically in the game. He began making jokes with the other students, threatening his superior skill at locating verses before anyone else. It wasn’t long before he was dominating everyone in the game, winning lots of candy and reading lots of Scripture. He was our grand champion for at least three weeks in a row. The next week after class I asked Jasper if he had ever considered what it meant to have a relationship with God. He pondered the question and his response surprised me. He had actually given the subject a great deal of thought and conveyed to me his understanding that a decision to follow Christ was a very serious matter. He expressed that he didn’t want to become a Christian until he was certain he fully understood the decision he was making and would be able to whole-heartedly follow God. He would not make a decision to follow God yet, but he was very interested in learning more about what it meant to live the kind of life Jesus offered. From that day forward, I had the privilege of watching Jasper embark on an incredible journey. He began to make better life decisions, leaving his gang affiliations to the past and striving toward a new, hope-filled future. He came alive in the classroom, interacting with other students, helping them with assignments and digging through the Bible to find verses he thought we should memorize as a class. All the while he was unaware that God was blessing him for diligently seeking after Truth. Almost unknowingly, he had begun a journey with God and it was transforming his life before our eyes. Planted Seeds. Jasper took a camping trip with the Crossing the following summer. One evening during the trip while sitting around a camp fire, he began reciting all the verses he has memorized while in Family Time at school. One after another he quoted: “And we know that God works all things together for good…” “Do not be conformed any longer to the patterns of this world…” “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds…” “Love is patient, love is kind…” “Behold, I stand at the door and knock…” “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son…” Seeing no end to his recitation, one kid interrupted, “Hey—how do you know all that Bible stuff?” With a grin Jasper shrugged his shoulders, “I dunno. We learned it in school and stuff. I am not even a Christian!” It is All About the Journey. What I love about Jasper’s story is the warmth that fills me each time I remember his silly grin and his gentle transformation. It always points me towards hope. I believe in his time at the Crossing his life became fertile soil and he allowed many good seeds to be planted and take root in him. These new seeds left little room for the bad seeds that had previously held residence there. Not only was he given an excellent education, but he was filled with hope for his future. A hope that unfolded gently at first, but transformed into boldness and belief and life change. Jasper is still on his journey, but it is my belief that he is now better equipped for the challenge. I believe Jasper learned discipline and the power of making positive choices. I believe he has been instilled with principles that will sustain him. I believe he will stand out in a crowd. I believe his voice will be heard. I believe he will not conform to his old life style. I believe he will choose love over hate. I believe he will persevere through difficult situations. I believe he will respond to others with patience and kindness. I believe that the God who gave his son for the whole world, will one day welcome Jasper into his family. For reasons none of us could neither understand nor reconcile, Jasper was not able to attend school at The Crossing the following year. Despite his absence, I know the season he spent with us had great purpose. For now, I remember his transformed life while I teach the students currently in my charge. I watch them grow and learn and experience a different way of life and for some reason, I find that my face has a silly grin of its own.]]>