To Sam’s new small group leader or youth pastor,
Hey you, I hope this letter finds you well. I’m sure this has to go all the way up to New York since he has probably moved up there by now, but I wanted to give you a little insight on this awesome dude.
I met him as Jamal, and he’s leaving us as Sam. In the 2 years I knew him, he got baptized through another church which traditionally requires you to change your name to a more Christian name. Hence, Samuel.
Let me tell you a little bit about Sam. He’s not going to talk your ear off. Quite the opposite actually, but when he does talk be sure to listen. Ask him anything you want to know about him and he will open up and tell you everything. He’s an excellent listener, and observes every little detail about his surroundings. He is very aware.
He’s an exchange student, and when asked he’ll tell you all about his family back in Africa, and his struggle with his parents sending him off for a “better education.” I never did quite get that, but if you just sit and listen and let him know you’re there, maybe you’ll understand this mystery more than I did. Also, he’s hesitant to spend time with the group outside of Sunday’s, but you just might be able to visit him on his turf just as long as you get a schedule of his activities either through his guardian or maybe a friend.
What broke my heart about Sam, is every year Transit does a series on starting the conversation about Sex. During one of our group discussions, it was obvious something was stirring up Sam. He shared with me that he has nobody to talk to so a lot of his questions about sex, or even faith go unanswered because he was always told to wait and ask his parents. His parents are still in Africa, and with him living here it makes it extremely difficult to get any sort of parental guidance. He’s not comfortable with his guardian, and his friends… well, they’re his friends and their advice is based on their life experience of a whole 12 years.
Nobody ever told me about situations like this, so I had no idea how to handle it or if I handled it well at all. I just told him that if he was comfortable enough to talk to me, he had my number and could call any time. I never received a call.
Maybe you’ll get lucky and reach through. Maybe not, but as a father who wants the best for his son, I know Sam’s father wants the same so while he’s still over here stateside, all I can ask of you, is please love on him, listen to him and be there.
Letter 1 in the Hand Off series.
(names changed to protect identities)