When I was 17 I went on a mission trip to Miami. My youth group loaded up on a single charter bus and headed east. We were going to be spending a full week running a VBS. Apparently our youth minister didn't realize we were running the show, surprise! That week changed the direction of my entire life.
That week I was in charge of 5 pre-k boys. Please reread that statement, this time slower.. A 17 year old in charge of FIVEEEEEE pre-k boys for a week! It was craziness! The first two days kicked me in the rear. But eventually I was able to take on that storm and have fun with these awesome little dudes! That week God showed me how to love and if I could love those kids that much then He must really love us! On the last night of that trip I was baptized!
Two years later I went to Mexico for a week. With a group of college students we were building a church and sharing the Gospel in a community about an hour away from Rosarito beach. What beautiful trip full of beautiful people! So while my team slaved away on the church I would sneak away for some soccer in the street. The local kids would come out and just hang out. I would make my best attempt to tell them to go get a soccer ball. Once they returned back we would kick it in the street for a long time. That week I met William. This little stud would play soccer, hang out, and just be awesome! We were able to talk to him that week and hopefully show him he is loved! I still remember the last time I saw William. He came out to our Fiesta, he made some art on a piece of paper. He put his hands in the paint and slapped them on the paper. His hands shaped a heart. (I still have no idea if he planned it that way) But he handed it to me. That piece of paper still hangs on my wall.
The following year I hopped on a plane to Malawi. To be honest I was completely unprepared for this journey. The whole experience slapped me right in the jaw. God opened my eyes to completely new horizons. On this trip two kids still stick out to me. The first one was "Green shirt kid" we laughed and played for two days. He clung to me and I was always on the look out for him. I pray that he knows he is loved. The second kid is David. Spoiler: The second year I went to Malawi I ran into him again. A big reason I am going back to Malawi this year is David. He lives in the community of Kalimbira and that is where we spend most of our days. So whether you're ready of not David, I am coming for you in July!! (God willing)
Nowadays I work at the Children's home here in town. As tough as these kids may be, they have my attention! I can hear them calling out for love and attention. I won't name names but there are a few kids that I just click with! However long I may be at this job I pray that I can just remind them they are so loved!
When I see adults I see them as children. It may be a weird thought, but that is just where my mind goes. So if they are angry, I wonder what hurt happened in their past. If they are joyful, I wonder about the people who poured into them as children. If I am honest I forgot most of the people who played roles in my childhood. I remember a few! Coaches who encouraged me, family friends, or even my theater arts teacher in 4th and 5th grade! (Thanks Gino!)
This mindset places incredible meaning into my life. So with Vladimir, Khalel, and Michael from Miami, William in Mexico, David in Malawi, or my friends at work. They will one day be adults. I don't do my job to be remembered, I do my job to guide them towards the heart of my savior. So my prayer is that you will see purpose in your own walk. Look around you. Each person is God's masterpiece. Children running towards Love!
Just like these kids came out of their houses and hung out with me. I pray that every single day I would step out and run towards Jesus! He is all I have.
People were bringing little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them, but the disciples rebuked them. When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” And he took the children in his arms, placed his hands on them and blessed them.
About 5 months ago I started a new job. It has been so awesome! I now work at the children's home in Round Rock and get to help out with after school care. We hang out with the kids on campus and also go pick up from a few different apartment locations. Each day is a different age group and I love how different they all are! The toughest part of my job is that we only get to see these kids one day a week.
It is actually a quite confusing schedule to explain without you being there so I will just say on Mondays we have elementary boys and girls from one apartment complex, Tuesdays we have the boys, Wednesday is middle and high school age, Thursday we have the girls, sprinkled in everyday we have about 5 kids that live on campus. To be honest I love these kids so much. It is a heavy job because these kids are going through real deep hurt. Some have been dropped off, a few are there as their mom gets back on her feet, and most live in a home where they barely scrape by financially. I never grew up with that fear. But God is greater than me and He has placed me here to love.
Everyday I go in I have to live intentionally. My job allows me how to love with purpose. To push through walls and show people I care. The majority of my time is spent playing basketball, throwing a football, playing tag on the play scape, eating snack together, or just simply hanging out. I have no special agenda or anything. I just get to do life with these awesome students!
Like I said I only see each kid once a week. So whatever we do is likely overshadowed by home life. So lately I have been talking to the kids intentionally. One of our younger boys who I will simply refer to as "M" loves basketball! I mean he simply wants a basketball and believes he is Steph Curry. It is awesome! M can get in trouble here and there, but I let it go most of them time because I know he doesn't receive much attention at home. The other day he would say, "Andrew watch this!" and he would throw his whole body into a basketball shot from downtown! He makes about 1 out of 8 shots. After about 10 times of him making me watch I felt as if God was reminding me to be patient and just watch. So I stood there and would cheer when he made a shot. He was soaking it up. I looked at M, grabbed his shoulder, and bent down. I looked him in the eye and said, "You are awesome. I am glad you come to group. I love having you here."
I will probably never see the fruit of my labor at this job. And I am not writing this to receive any praise of what I am doing. I just know that Jesus saved my life and now I hope to bring that hope and love to these lives. I would really die for these kids. They have stolen my heart, and I am okay with that. To be honest I have probably learned more from them! One thing I realized is that they have taught me to play. It is such a simple task but I think often a lost art. To play has no agenda, it is to just go and do it. There have been days I played dodgeball, talked about Pokemon cards, played knockout in the gym, and searched through the playground gravel for "crystals" (just shiny rocks, honesty I am not quite sure). I have learned that everywhere is a playground. Games can happen anywhere and usually laughter is there.
When I drop off the kids back home sometimes I just feel a weight press on me like a boulder. I hurt for these kids. We pick them up and we do our best to love them. But it is only 4 hours a week. I just know that some kids are getting dropped back off into the mess of home life. So in those moments all I can do is praise God for what He has done and cry out for these beautiful souls. So when they cry out, "Andrew watch this!" I will watch! When they ask me to teach them how to throw a football I will do my best. When I look them in the eye I will tell them they are loved. It is a special task to share the love of Christ.
My life is nothing special. It is just that, a life, which the bible describes as a mist. "For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes." (James 4:14) I pray that my life would be an offering to the Savior of the world. That though life is fleeting I would be able to point people to Jesus while I am here.
So get out there. Look people in the eye and show them that you care. We don't have long here so be intentional. I love you all and thanks for reading about my life.
My name is Andrew Berry! I am just living my life chasing after Jesus and trying to point others to Him.