So last night I played paintball. I’ve played a handful of times before – always in Colorado with youth and leaders from SCY (Summit County Youth – an awesome non-profit in Breck that invests in young people) – and have always gotten worked. It’s not that I’m THAT bad of a shot… I just get bored and then reckless, and take too many chances, and end up getting pelted. “It’s only a game,” I tell myself… and then I find myself repeating that, mantra-like, as I pick myself up and dab at the bloody welts raised by paintballs fired from scant feet away. (I like to think that my being shot instead of shooting others is prophetic and a testament to my sacrificial love for others – willing to get hit rather than hit these friends. But it might also be because i’m just a bad shot and a little too reckless when playing…)
A friend invited me to go with them last night – an eclectic bunch of guys who have a few common connections. There was Jason, the other American, who does discipleship with youth in several churches in the area, Ulysses, a Brazilian guy who works with him, a group of guys from one of the projects we partner with in the favelas (several of whom had already completed their mandatory military service, and thus knew their way around guns), a few guys who are living in a discipleship house with another American friend, plus a few teens from a local middle-class church… All in all, a fun group.
As we entered the warehouse (we played in an old warehouse with rooms, staircases, barrels, hay, a few burnt out shells of cars, and a couple of secret passageways), dressed in our helmets, vests, and cradling the paintball guns, it was decided by popular acclaim that I was Jack Bauer… And, all in all, I got shot about as many times as Jack Bauer WOULD be shot if he were a real person… It was fun though…
Ulysses said to one of the middle-class boys “you’ll see why so many people find guns seductive when you play…” Or, as Homer Simpson once said, “When I held that gun in my hand, I felt a surge of power… like God must feel when HE’S holding a gun…”
But it once again made me reflect on what it looked like playing games of violence among young men who have had the opportunity to enter into gangs here… and have chosen not to. I’m proud of them. And hopeful to see what might come of these men. There is such potential there. We’re getting together next week to play soccer… maybe this will open doors. At the very least, it will hopefully mean I won’t get shot up playing paintball any time soon.