Sadly, another young girl died in the streets this week. Her name is Raianne. She was nineteen. This is the third person to die in this streets this year. Mary and I never met this young girl but the team had been ministering to her since she was a young child. On Sunday, she and another girl had a fight over a trivial incident. One girl pushed the another in anger and Raianne fell and hit her head on a rock. We know the girl who was involved as well which makes it even more tragic. Raianne left behind two young toddlers.
Needless to say when we met the children in the streets they were upset and pensive. Whenever something like this happens, the question about their own mortality becomes alive. Raianne had survived many dangerous situations in the streets but it only took a misplaced rock to end her life.
Nobody wanted to talk when we arrived, but they did not ignore us as well. It seemed like they wanted us to be there but they did not know what to say to us. We stayed and waited. Then Eduardo, one of the older teens, opened up. He asked us what happens to our soul when we die. He wanted to know whether we lose our identity or does it remain intact. This started a long and serious conversation about God, life, and the resurrection. Our conversation lasted for almost an hour and it was truly a conversation and not an one-sided lecture. Personally, we were amazed at the profundity of the questions Eduardo asked.
One of the things he wanted to know was whether our memories remain with us for eternity. He especially wanted to know that if we would remember negative events and continue to bear grudges against the people that hurt us for eternity. His concern about this made sense. Eduardo’s life has not been easy. He has been in the streets since he was a young child and it was unfair circumstances that brought him here. He wants to shake all the negatives memories of his life and live a new life. He doesn’t want to continue a life of crime, but he is big and intimidating looking young man who is 19 years old. Not many people want to give someone like him a chance. He does not rob but we suspect that he deals in drugs. However, despite his tough exterior, there is a tenderness in this young man. He wanted to know if, in the afterlife, he would be free from all the baggage of this difficult life.
Speaking about the afterlife is not easy. No one can speak authoritatively about this subject. We told him that we can only speculate but we can know something about Resurrection because there is One person who resurrected from the dead. The Resurrection helped us to address the question about memory. The Resurrected Body of Jesus bore the marks of the hatred and anger, but its resurrected state changed the affects of its scars. We told him that the act of Resurrection is truly a divine act and it can only be understood by faith. Jesus believed that He was to be resurrected by God and this influenced the way He lived his life in the body. He did not succumb to hatred and anger even though he was assailed by these. Instead He chose to find His strength in the Love of God. This Love transformed the scars of hatred into symbols of victory. However, only through faith we can understand the meaning of this.
We told Eduardo that whatever he does in this life with his body will bear the mark for eternity like in the Resurrected Body of Jesus. He can decide in this life what he wants to be remembered for eternity. His past memories do not have to determine everything he becomes now. God is able to take what we have and transform it into a miracle.
Eduardo asked us how our bodies would restored if they suffer decomposition. We told him honestly that no one knows how this is going to work but it is not impossible to imagine God using these materials to create something new and wonderful. This, of course, served as a wonderful analogy of the bad childhood and rejection that Eduardo had and how God is able and willing to use all these materials to create something great. We told Eduardo that the Bible has examples of people whose histories were radically transformed; people who suffered great injustice like Joseph. God used the rejection and injustice and made it into something wonderful. Even St. Paul who persecuted Christians and the Resurrected Christ changed his history forever.
There were several moments of our conversation which moved Eduardo to tears. Perhaps in a strange way, Raianne’s death opened the door for us to speak about Life to Eduardo. I believe that something happened this day. We changed the nature of our relationship with these young people. They know now that we are willing to converse with them on serious and complex questions about Life without pretending to know all the answers. We don’t need to know all the answers and we don’t want to give easy answers. We can only share with them what we have and we have Hope in the Living Christ that transforms our lives in the here and now.