Part 4: Shawn

This is Part 4 in a series of update posts!  If you haven’t caught the previous ones, you still can!  Click through the links below and read them before this one.  They aren’t super long, and things will make more sense, I promise!

Part 1: Happy Tuesday

Part 2: Wednesday

Part 3: A New House


I mentioned before that the few friendships the boys have in the neighborhood have been hard fought. You don’t really know what challenges you’ll have when you move to the mission field (or anywhere really).  Leaving Colorado, pastors and other missionaries kind of gave us some ideas, but every situation, every country is different.

One thing I don’t think we anticipated, was how difficult it would for the boys to make friends here.  They’re both well spoken, enjoy doing normal, active things, and usually make friends pretty easily.  When we moved to Cobh, one of the things that seemed so awesome about this neighborhood, was how many kids, specifically boys, live here.  No joke – between our street and the two neighboring ones, there are probably close to 20 boys, all around Silas and Ethan’s age!  We thought about how great it would be for them – instant friends!

But from Day 1, it seemed like a struggle.  Kids excluding them because they aren’t Irish, LOTS of bad language (really normal for Ireland actually, and quite shocking out of even the littlest kids’ and oldest granny’s mouths), physical aggression, and a big lack of parental monitoring from most.  Now a lot of this is normal “kids will be kids” behavior (though still sin), and our homeschooled kids struggled partially because of their lack of exposure, but even the moms and people from church here (two of which are public school teachers) have said this is worst than normal.  I think it’s been harder too, because Silas and Ethan left friends behind and, before we arrived, consoled each other with thoughts of making new friends when we arrived.

Over the last fourteen months, there have been lots of tears and talks about sin and God’s heart for the sinner, how He has loved us and calls us to the same love.

One particularly difficult situation was a boy named Shawn.  He’s big, like Silas’ age and nearly twice his size.  He comes from a broken home (which is less common here as divorce was only recently legalized and still invokes that kind of “shocker” reaction) and shuffles back and forth between parents weekly.  He’s known among the neighborhood kids as a liar and a bully.

We asked Silas at some point, maybe a few months after we moved here, how things were going with the kids outside.

“Most of it’s okay right now,” he said, “except for Shawn.  When he doesn’t get his way, he just hurts everyone.”  We didn’t realize that it had turned into an actual fearful situation for Silas until he was sharing more details while we were hanging out with another family from church.  The other dad offered to show him some self-defense moves.  Outside they went, both dads and our two boys.  They came inside half an hour later trying to find all my pressure points!  But Silas seemed encouraged.

A few weeks later, I asked Silas how things were going with Shawn.

“Oh, he doesn’t bother anymore, not since the incident.”

I tried to hide my sudden concern.  “What incident?”

“Oh,” he said, as if he was sure he’d already mentioned it. “One day Shawn was mad at me.”  I pictured the large boy pinning Silas to the ground.  “He charged at me!”

“Mhmm…then what happened?”  I was still trying not to seem worried.

“Well, Mr. Alex (self-defense dad) said it would be good to make it funny, so I evaded his attack by moving out of his way, which made him fall.  Then I sat on him!”

I actually laughed out loud when he said it!

“All the other boys were there, and they all started laughing!  And then Shawn started laughing too, and I knew it was okay.  Yeah, he hasn’t messed with me since.”

I was so proud, and thankful that “the incident” hadn’t ended another way!  Shawn did seem different afterwards.  And Branden and I made an effort to be intentional with him (and the other neighborhood boys) when there was opportunity.  We’d take him along when walking into town, offer him something to drink anytime he was playing with the boys, and pray lots for him and his family.

One of the days we walked into town, Shawn came along for ice cream.  On the way back, he and Silas were walking together, and Silas called out to me, “Mom, Shawn says he thinks he’s a Christian!”  I knew they’d been talking to the neighborhood kids about Jesus and Christianity.  Talking about Christ is honestly taboo here, at least among adults.  Many people think Christianity is some kind of extreme cult.  It’s actually illegal for an adult to talk to kids in a public setting about Christ, or to invite them to church.  But kids…praise God…such laws do not apply!

“What does being a Christian mean?” I asked Shawn.

“It means you believe in Jesus and you live a good life,” he answered.  The boys chatted the rest of the way home.  Later, Silas and Ethan began praying about giving Shawn a Bible.  They’d asked him if he had one.  He didn’t, and wasn’t sure his mom would let him keep one.  Prayers for this young, one time enemy, now friend, began going up on a regular basis.

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