A Chance to be a Kid AgainWritten by Trudy Chun
- Published: April 15, 2019
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DBU Students Bring Christ to the World in Ft. Worth
“Can I come in?” The dark-skinned boy tries to peek around the door. He has already caught a glimpse of the spectrum of balloons floating around the World Relief Clubhouse at Ladera Palms Apartments in Ft. Worth.
“Not yet,” the volunteer responds with a smile, “but soon. And it’s going to be fun!” She watches as he scurries through the neighborhood alerting everyone that something is going on. She wonders what he’s come through. Getting asylum at all is a pipe dream for countless refugees. Making it to America is something few dare to dream. This little, bright-eyed African child made it, but today that is all in the past. Today, he gets to simply be a kid again.
DBU international students, under the direction of Adjunct Professor Russell Chun from DBU’s Intensive English Program (IEP), make that happen every month. The bevy of international students along with some mission-minded Americans form a reverent circle inside the clubhouse, and prayers like incense begin wafting to heaven:
“Nuestro Padre …” in Spanish
“Pai Nosso …” in Portuguese
“Istenem …” in Hungarian
In Chinese and Japanese and Korean
And finally, “Our Father…” in English.
Prayer in the languages of the world for the children of the world set the stage for DBU’s monthly outreach to resettled refugee children.
In 2016 alone, Texas became home to over 9,000 refugees, welcoming more than any other state. Many of those refugees are children. World Relief, who co-sponsors the monthly events, reports that of the 383 refugees that they have worked within the last year, 178 are children.
Renato Rossiter, who graduated from DBU with a Master's degree in Kinesiology, grabs the soccer balls and goals and heads outside as children of all colors and cultures swarm around him. The kids have won the heart of this Brazilian, and now he is their official soccer coach. Renato volunteers several days a week to train the kids and craft them into a competitive sports team. “I just love working with kids,” he explains. “And I believe God has called me to this.”
“Soccer gives us a good way to connect with the kids, to build community,” Johnathan Lara adds. A Computer Information Science major who graduated from DBU in 2018, Johnathan has a passion for both soccer and God. This ministry allows him to combine the two in beautiful ways.
Johnathan’s jovial personality makes him a magnet for the high-strung kids, but that connection may have deeper roots than meets the eye. The DBU graduate grew up as a child of immigrants himself. His parents came to the U.S. from Mexico before he was born.
When Johnathan begins strumming his guitar, the kids want to be part of the show. “It’s amazing how quickly the kids learn the songs,” he comments. “And they remember them when we come back.”
After crafts and face paints, playing with the parachute and with the soccer balls, the children gather inside the World Relief Clubhouse and Russell Chun begins the presentation.
“Today, I’m going to teach you three things you probably don’t know about Jesus,” he opens as the children take a seat on the floor. Some of the littlest ones crawl into the laps of the DBU students as they watch to see what will happen next. “And there will be prizes for the best listeners.”
Squirming boys in basketball shorts fight their natural instincts to punch their neighbor. Little girls in kurtas hide the pilfered playdough in their pockets or look up from under their hijabs as they try not to giggle. Everyone struggles to be still in hopes of being named “best listener” and receiving a stuffed animal. That is when Russell seizes the moment to share the hope and love of Christ’s gospel.
Having served as a missionary for over a decade in Central Europe, Russell (a Chinese-Filipino American who grew up in Hawaii) pulls from his bottomless bag of tricks a simple message of God’s love and Christ’s sacrifice. His message and the events of the outreach are all packaged in what he calls his “secret weapon” which is “having fun.”
World Relief has provided a platform where many DBU students and graduates have lived out their missionary callings. The organization’s Fort Worth staff include a number of DBU graduates including Kati Brandon, Becky Sayavongsa, Renato Rossiter, and Angela Hayward.
Pastor and well-known author David Platt has aptly warned, “We desperately need to explore how much of our understanding of the gospel is American and how much is biblical.” Here, in the Ft. Worth apartment complex filled with resettled refugees, that exploration is a living, breathing reality. The “All-American Image” has already fallen away, and as the children’s day progresses it is just the people of the world coming to reach the people wounded by the world with Him who “so loved the world.”
“God is bringing people to the U.S. from all over the world to hear the Gospel,” observes Shirley Porto, a Brazilian who is pursuing Master’s degrees in International Studies and Global Leadership at DBU. “The kids come back, month after month. Something is drawing them, beyond games and food.” And she should know for she is one God has brought to Ft. Worth to minister to the world’s most vulnerable people. Today, she and the other DBU students are truly missionaries.
As the event wraps up, kids eat hot dogs and fill a sack with fruit and yogurt as they head for home. And the group of volunteers again gather for prayer:
“Gracias Jesús,” in Spanish
“Obrigado Jesus,” in Portuguese
“Köszönöm Uram,” in Hungarian
Even a Burmese mother joins in the prayer.
And finally in English: “Thank you, Jesus!”
Christian author Robert C. Shannon wrote, “Never pity missionaries; envy them. They are where the real action is — where life and death, sin and grace, Heaven and Hell converge.” Today the real action converged in a clubhouse in Ft. Worth, between soccer and hotdogs as children who were once robbed of their childhood finally get to be kids again.