I felt it as soon as I set foot on the school grounds: Chaos.
It started in my big toe as soon as it landed in the overgrown grass, and it reverberated through my body until my ears were ringing.
I have been volunteering with Arise Cape Town, an organization that believes what we believe: thriving families create space for healing and changing lives. Arise is impacting a pocket of Cape Town that faces tremendous obstacles like sickness, poverty, violence, abuse, gang activity, and heart wrenching family stories.
On this day, we were going into a high school to teach anger management to a group of teenage boys. They stand at the brink of losing control as they mature into violent generational cycles that descend like tornados, destroying everything in their paths.
As we made our way to the classroom designated for our group, we walked through clouds of the teachers’ cigarette smoke and past the malnourished dog lying in the driveway. I ignored the whistles, profanity and gestures from the students, and my heart lurched for the girls whose school dresses stretched around pregnant bellies. Class was in session, but you never would have known it by the amount of unattended students roaming around.
A teacher met us with a key and apologized that we would have no lights today. The school was robbed over the weekend, and the lights were stolen. The classroom was filthy, a disregarded junk room with a toilet sitting on the counter. We managed to find enough wobbly, dirty chairs to pull together in a circle.
Immediately, the boy who is thinking of joining a gang started to try to create his own domain. The boy who is illiterate tried to distract everyone from having to read or write anything. The boy who feels insecure started making sexual advances.
Chaos was in control.
I could only imagine how this group would go, and how their life stories would be written. These boys were made for more than gangs, drugs and untimely death.
But do they know that? The chaos has never told them. Has anyone?
Suddenly, the Prince of Peace stretched a hand through the madness to give me a tap on the shoulder. He told me to tell the storm to be still.
I felt an overwhelming calm come over me, and I leaned all the way in to the smirking, scowling, sneaking boys and said, “My name is Kacy, and I came here today because I respect you.”
Suddenly, the chair-sliding, pushing, poking, distracting… stopped. The clanging of chaos silenced. Ten future fathers, husbands, and men of South Africa leaned in and listened.
“You made a choice today to change your life. You have decided to be men who don’t have to react to your environment or circumstances. You decided to learn how to take control of your life so you can become the man you want to be. I respect you for that. You should be proud of yourselves. I am proud of you.”
I went on to share with them that I am a wife, mother, counselor, pastor and volunteer with Arise. I asked them to respect me, my husband and my family the way I respect them. There was not another inappropriate comment.
The rest of the group time was only mildly wonderful. Angels did not descend and a rainbow did not appear to replace the stolen fluorescent bulbs. Fear-based reactions, deeply engraved patterns, and general teenage boy-ness crept back in. But they heard, probably for the first time ever, that they are respected. They heard they can be men who determine the direction of their lives. Their life circumstances don’t have to determine their future.
We took one step in the right direction that day. We uprooted one chaotic weed, and replaced it with a life-giving seed of Truth. They can’t un-hear what they heard, no matter how loud the rest of life gets.
You are respectable.
You are not a victim to life. You are a victor.
You have what it takes to change your future.
It looks a lot different in the neighborhood we live in and the area we are called to plant the church in. Chaos brews behind high walls with private security guards. Expensive drugs, expensive drinks, expensive parties, and sexual recklessness wreak havoc through perfectly manicured streets. We ring doorbells, reach out and do everything we can to reach through the walls around us.
The demographics don’t matter. We’re all made for perfect peace, and we all have storms that cannot be silenced without Jesus. We have Jesus. We know life without chaos.
So every morning at 6am, my handsome husband puts our puppies on leashes and steps into the chaos. He walks up and down the streets of our neighborhood speaking to storms in the souls we cannot see. He commands them to be still.
Chris will walk every morning until every storm has stopped, until every person has a chance to meet Peace. And I will go back to that high school next week. I will speak with light until the darkness is gone.
Imagine if every one of us who has Peace within us stepped into the chaos. Imagine how much ground we would cover if we all walked in Peace’s authority, if we all silenced storms and uprooted lies with Truth. Better yet, let’s all stop imagining and start stepping.