This is a story that happened to me about 15 years ago. The names have been changed to protect the innocent and the guilty. You will understand more as the story unfolds. I write this story only to emphasize the fact that God answers prayer and sometimes in the most dramatic fashion.

Cast of characters:

Toby-one of my 5th grade students
Rodney--one of my 5th grade students
Monchez-Toby's teen-aged brother
Rita-Quinn's aunt, parent liason at my school and my friend
Quinn-her nephew from New Orleans
David--Quinn's friend and a former student from several years back
Kris-Quinn's friend from the crack house
Dan--Rita's husband and Quinn's uncle

Boy, it is really hard naming characters and these names are not very good--the story would be sooooooooooo much better if I could use the real names.

While teaching 5th grade several years ago in the projects in another city, two of my students were really acting up. Now this was not unusual for Toby and Rodney, but their antics on this day seemed to be worse than the norm, which was not norm for when I taught in the mid-60's I might add. Ever heard of antithesis or dichotomy??

Finally, I decided to take the guys out in the hall and see if I could find out what was really going down. They were good friends and lived in the same apartment complex so they were used to the other knowing all their business. Toby told me that his brother, Monchez (yes, I have changed the name but it was a name not unlike Monchez and one that I had never heard before--an important part of the story I think), was involved in a gang and that things were getting really hot and that he was afraid that Monchez was going to get killed. He started to cry. He was one of my toughest-acting kids so I figured it was probably true and not just some ploy to get out of the trouble he was in with me.

The ONLY thing I knew to do was to tell him that I would pray for Monchez. And as best as I can remember, that is exactly what I went home and did that evening. That really was my only recourse I thought. I wonder why our greatest resource seems like our only recourse at times? How can we get that mixed up?

At school the next day, our teacher-parent liason named Rita came up to me and said, "I don't know what to do. Quinn has been missing for over a week." Quinn was her teen-aged nephew from New Orleans who had been living with her family for a few months. I had met Quinn through my friendship with Rita. Her family, along with Quinn, had visited our church a few times. Quinn seemed to be mad at the world. He sat on the back row at church and seemingly dared people to come shake hands with him. But I did. And he would, very reluctantly, give me a cold-fish handshake and speak to me under his breath.

At that particular point in time, I was used to making home visits (we, as a school, implemented home visits in an attempt to create more parental involvement) in this crime-infested area of our city. Working in the projects was not easy but it was one of the most rewarding things I ever did in my life. And the kids, oh, how I loved those children.

When Rita told me that Quinn was missing, I told her that we would go looking for him that afternoon after school. She lived in the general area but not smack dab in the middle of the 2nd highest crime rate area of our city as so many of our students did. We figured that he was hanging out with gang members somewhere in that area. She had brought him from New Orleans to get him away from the gang members who lived in his area there.

We had no more than arrived in this depressing area, when from several blocks away, we spotted two older teen-aged boys walking towards us. We had taken my car so that Quinn would not be tempted to run away if and when he saw Rita's. Rita was slinking down in the seat so that Quinn would not see her so I told her that I would go get him. I got out of the car and started walking towards them. Of all things, he was with a kid that I had taught some years before and was now all grown up. Well, in body that is. The first week I had this kid, I knew something was terribly wrong and I went straight to his apartment one day right after school to find out what I could do to help him.

I learned that David had watched his father get shot when he was just a little tyke. His living arrangements on that particular day didn't seem to foretell of anything much better to come. Years before, someone had carved several letters into David's face. It was hard to tell because they hadn't healed well, but I don't think they spelled anything nice. He would end up in a straight jacket on the psychiatric floor of a hospital later on. I can't remember if it was the same year I taught him or not. His demeanor was quite menacing at 18 years of age.

David had on a pair of bright-colored fuzzy gloves. I won't say the color because it would give away the particular gang name. I think deep-down he had respected me as a teacher, but he was acting in his same old tough manner.

I walked up to Quinn and told him that his aunt was worried sick about him and that I had come to get him and take him home. Believe it or not, he compliantly walked with me to the car a block or so away. David, (I want to write his real name so badly) seemed to disapear into the background.

I told him to get in the car and he presented no argument, did what I said and we drove back to Rita' house. When we got there, I asked her if I could talk to him for a few minutes so she left and went into the house. I explained to Quinn that God had a wonderful plan for his life, loved him, and had sent His Son to die on the cross for him. We talked and prayed together and I felt like it was a very productive time.

About this time, he asked me if I could take him back to the old neighborhood to get some of his things. His uncle walked out of the house right then and I told him I would if it was okay with Dan, Rita's husband. Dan said it was okay so we left to go get his things.

He directed me where to go. We pulled up in front of an uninhabitable apartment building with all the windows broken out. It was a building used unquestionably for questionable activities. It was winter, the days were very short-- dusk was descending .....................

..............to be continued next Tuesday