by Martha Stoltzfus

dsc08573.jpgIt’s 3:00 in the afternoon. The doors of the public school burst open, and the students pour out of the building. As I watch, there goes a young girl of about 12 years arm in arm with her best friend, who is in the same grade. They are laughing and talking. “What are they talking about?” I wonder. Then I see another girl, with her long hair flowing freely, as she walks down the street. It seems she has purpose, and has a destination. Yet, as I look into her eyes, I wonder, “What is troubling this young lady?” Next, I notice a boy, who is fast becoming a young man. He is walking alone, but he has his Walkman. As he slowly ambles down the street I question, “Where is this young man headed?” Then I see a group of children, all between 12 and 14 years old. They are laughing, and pushing each other as they go down the steps of the school. But, I can’t help but wonder, “What are they going home to?”

As I continue to watch the students walking down the streets, the group of youngsters has now separated, and most are walking alone. One boy skips down the street, seeming to be enjoying the beauty of the day. Then there is one who seems to be carrying the weight of the world on his shoulders, and he walks slowly, shuffling his feet, kicking at the stones on the sidewalk. A young girl catches my attention, as she seems to be engrossed in what she is listening to, her body swaying with the music. Then I see another young girl kissing a young boy, totally oblivious to the rest of the world.

I walk further down the street to the corner store. There I see youngsters going in and out. Some, it seems, are just hanging out on the steps leading into the store. I see a young man walk in, and I wait. Soon he comes out with a drink and a snack, and heads off down the street. The other young people pay no attention to him. “Does he have any friends?” I wonder to myself. Then a group of boys comes out the door, obviously excited about something. “What excites these young people? What makes them happy?” I ask nobody in particular. I turn toward the street, and on the opposite side I see a young man in his early teens, as he bends under the weight of his backpack. It seems he is also bending under the weight of something I can’t see with my eyes. “What is his eternal destiny?”

Just up the street on another corner is the barbershop. I watch through the windows as the barber expertly gives another young man a shape up. I look into the eyes of the recipient, who is paying no attention to the barber, and seems lost in thought. What is that I see? Is it hurt? Or shame? Is it fear? I’m not sure.

Soon I hear a siren wailing. It is a police car. I turn to the direction of the sound. There are already two other police cars there. And I see an animated conversation between the police officer, and a woman, who is standing above a young man sitting on the sidewalk. It is obvious he is in trouble, as he has his hands cuffed behind his back, and another police officer is standing guard over him. I look further down and see two more young men in handcuffs, with a few more officers standing around them. “The county prison is just around the corner; is that where these young men are headed?” I ask myself.

Then I remember one week ago. It was Tuesday night. We had dropped off all “our” kids already. We had one more stop to make. It was to Tiffany’s house to pick up her 16-year-old friend, Natasha. Her friend lived on the other side of the city, and wanted a ride to her neighborhood. As we were driving to her house, I began asking her questions about her life. I have known this girl for many years, but hadn’t seen her for awhile. I told her she should come to church again sometime, as it had been a long time since she was there. She said she had been thinking about it lately, and would like to come again sometime. I told her we would be happy to pick her up. She agreed she would probably come if we’d stop by. By this time, we were at Jasmine’s house, which was right around the corner from Natasha’s house. She jumped out of the vehicle and said good night.

The next day I got a call telling me that Natasha was kidnapped last night. “What?! You mean the one we took to her house last night?” I couldn’t believe it. “Yes,” I was told. I wondered what was going through the dear girl’s mind as she was with her “boyfriend” who kidnapped her. “Is she even alive yet?” I wondered. My mind was reeling. The only thing I could do was wonder, and pray that God would give her another chance.

Late Wednesday afternoon the young man turned himself in. Natasha was safe. Or was she? What about her soul; what is her eternal destiny?

I had to ask myself, as I was standing there on that street, “Who will tell these young people? Who will help Natasha? Some of these youth seem to have purpose, but most do not. Who will tell the young man with the burden, that Jesus wants to carry his burdens for him? Who will tell the young girl with troubled eyes that Jesus cares about her? Who will tell the young men on their way to jail that Jesus wants to set them free? Who will tell the fearful young man about Jesus’ love? Who will tell the young couple that true satisfaction comes from Jesus Christ? Who will tell the friendless that Jesus is a true friend? Who will tell these youth about the true gospel? Who will tell them that there is a heaven and hell? Who will tell them that there is a Savior for them? Who will tell them they are lost? Who will tell them there is hope for them? Who will tell them there’s a reason they are on this earth? Who will tell them simple Bible stories some of them have never heard? Who? Who will go?”