Tattoos On the Heart: Not quite a book review…

Many thoughts have been making their way through my head today. I am currently reading a book that you will be able to find on my “books” page as one that is definitely impacting the way I see my role at Joshua Station as well as my role as a Christian in this world.

The book is called “Tattoos On The Heart” by Gregory Boyle. Boyle is a Jesuit who has dedicated his life and ministry to the gang members of his Latino neighborhoods surrounding his church in Los Angeles. His book is more a collection of simple stories than a ministry guide, but it has become that for me.

In this book, Boyle makes a statement that nicely sums up the way I have seen transformation in my ministry approach. He says,

“The Strategy of Jesus is not centered

in taking the right stand on issues, but rather in

standing in the right place–with the outcast and those

relegated to the margins”

As Christians we often focus on results when it comes to ministry. For example, the result could be that the kids you work with can better answer questions about God or about Christian responses to world issues. I confess that I have spent much of my time at Joshua Station looking for results. I feel like I need to say that I’ve seen some! They do exist! But, I also have to say that I realize now how I was missing the primary role I am supposed to play in the lives of these youth.

My mission, as I now see it, is that of Gregory Boyle and, more famously, Mother Theresa. My mission is to simply be fully present, look into the eyes of these kids and reveal to them the basic truth of God’s Love for them. My mission is to remind them that THEY are, in fact, made in God’s Image; that part of who they are didn’t get overlooked when they were born. My mission is to simply love and do life alongside these kids.

Some people believed that Mother Theresa’s ministry was a bit of a waste of time and resources. She wasn’t achieving any results. Nobody could change the fact that these people were going to die, so why waste so much time simply watching them do it? I believe that Mother Theresa’s gift to the folks she lived among was the same gift that Jesus offered to the folks he lived among (and through the Holy Spirit offers to us). They both offered the gift of dignity and presence. Yes, these people were going to die whether she stepped in or not, but she worked tirelessly to make sure that they died knowing that they were beautiful. Knowing that they were, just like her, made in God’s Image. Knowing that they were no less worthy of God’s love and her attention than the most royal of families.

Gregory Boyle spends much of his one on one time with his “homies” reminding them that they are loved by God and the people at Dolores Mission. Not only that they are loved, but that they deserve that love just as much as the next person. They are beautiful and God “can’t take His eyes off of them”, he loves them so much.

While this ministry approach might not seem very purposeful, I believe that the opposite is true. I have learned that many of the things Boyle says about his “homies” can be said about the youth at Joshua Station. Many of them, because of the hard things they have experienced, don’t really believe that God thinks fondly about them. I believe that before we can talk about much else, it is my role to help them see that He loves them so much that “He can’t take His eyes off of them!”

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