This is Pichi (pronounced Peachy), he’s 9 years old and is one of the neighborhood boys in our after school program. When we first moved to our new house last January, Randy started playing baseball with the gangs of boys who roam the streets and Pichi was one of the first ones. Pichi is, well, he’s a bit wild. In fact, Pichi is the reason the first practice had to stop. Pichi hit a ground ball and was getting thrown out when he decided to do a flying Liu Kang jump kick at the kid who was playing first base, then the two boys rolled around on the ground fighting in the dust like they did in the old cartoons.
Pichi lives with his 24 year old mom and her boyfriend who looks like he’s 18 or 19 in a one-room house that’s connected to two other one-room houses. The house is probably around 12 feet by 15 feet and often has drunk people sitting outside the house drinking rum at all hours of the day. When it rains hard, the house floods. The roof leaks and so does the blue tarp they have over the roof. This is life for Pichi.
Pichi loves our after school program and loves going to church with us. Early on, Randy gave Pichi the title of Captain of the Chairs and it’s his job to make sure all the chairs are set up and organized. He takes this job really, really seriously. A few weeks ago, one of the other kids tried to rearrange the chairs that Pichi had meticulously set up. The result was a fight that quickly escalated into one of the boys choking the other until we stepped in to stop it.
Pichi’s real name is Yohan, but everyone calls him Pichi–except for at our after school program because we outlawed nicknames and at church. Maybe I’m reading too much into it, but I see two boys in those two names. Pichi is a neighborhood punk who’s too young to fit in with his moms friends, but too rough to fit in with kids his age. Pichi is constantly fighting and doesn’t have many people who care about him. But Yohan, Yohan is the Captain of the Chairs! Yohan is always on time, knows all the words to the songs we sing, always has a prayer request, and is succeeding where Pichi always fails. Yohan is the kid sitting in the front row at Sunday School wearing a nice button up shirt (even if its the same one every week), while Pichi walks around the neighborhood shoeless and dressed in raggy clothes and is often the butt of many jokes by his mom’s drunken “friends.”
I don’t know what’s going to happen to Pichi or to Yohan or to his mom, but I know I’ve seen a transformation in his life already and I’ve seen how differently his mom looks at us. Before, his mom treated us like we were the weird gringos who for some reason wanted to help out poor kids. Now, we’re still weird gringos, but I think we’ve convinced her that we genuinely want to help. I love it that Yohan goes to church with us, but my hope and prayer is that he accepts the free gift of grace through faith in Jesus–and not only him, but his mom as well. Yesterday, Emilie invited his mom to church with us. She said she’d think about it but didn’t seem too interested and I suppose I understand why, church people in this country aren’t often very kind to women who drink heavily, who had a kid at 14 or 15, and who are living with a boyfriend. But isn’t that what’s so amazing about Jesus? He chose us in our sins. And like the earthly example of Pichi and Yohan, his mom can be transformed by the blood of Jesus!!!!
“For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.”—Romans 5:6-11
Please pray for Yohan and his mom.