For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. -Romans 8:5-6
Last Tuesday, all the men from the team went to visit a fifteen year old boy, Yuri, to teach him how to cook. You never know where this work in the streets might lead you. It led us to the kitchen in a poor neighborhood in the outskirts of São Paulo.
It was the first time I met Yuri even though I have heard about him for months. The team has known him since he was ten years old. His father abandoned the family at a young age. His mother remarried and her husband died suddenly which led to his mother having a nervous breakdown and disappeared. Almost all the kids in the Yuri’s family left for the streets except for their oldest sister, Suely. Yuri wasn’t always a pleasant boy in the streets and was deeply involved in theft and drug trafficking. Eventually he ended up in the juvenile detention center where our team spent months visiting him. It was in the center where Yuri had the chance to seriously think about his life. He wanted to change. He himself admitted that he needed to change the way he thinks.
Yuri was released from the center about a month ago. His sister was able to receive him into her simple home which she shares with her husband. However, he only stayed there for a week. Boredom got the best of him and he decided to visit his old friends. One thing led to another and Yuri almost got arrested. He did not succumbed to drug trafficking but he was with people who did. The police decided to let him go but it shook Yuri up. He got in touch with us and asked us to help him to change his ways. He returned to his sister’s house and we visited with him. We encouraged Yuri to learn how to be a contributing member of the household. We decided together that the best way he could help the family was to cook for his sister while she was at work.
My first impression of Yuri was that I could not imagine this sweet boy being involved in any crime. He cleaned the kitchen for us so that we would have a clean place to work. He was willing to learn even though it was a little awkward for him to be working in the kitchen. In his cultural environment, the women always did the cooking. We used our food preparation time to disciple Yuri. We spoke about practical implications of changing one’s way of thinking. Yuri wanted to change but he just did not have any idea how change would come about. We told him that changes can be gradual or radical and in his situation, he might have to make a radical change from his past which includes leaving behind friends who can be bad influences. Yuri listened intently. He did not say anything but he listened. This is the first step.
It is also our first step moving into an area that requires much reflection and thought on our part. No matter how we look at it there can be no genuine change without repentance. We need to preach the message of repentance to Yuri. However, we need to know how to preach it in a way that he can act upon it. No room for generalities. We have to speak to his heart. For this, we need to spend more time cooking with Yuri.