A Boy and His Bike4 min read

Every day, I find myself checking the local news websites, trying to find out what’s going on in the city. We all know that the bad seems to make the headlines way more than the good. I have become increasingly annoyed by this. I love knowing about everything going on in the city; I just wish there was an equal amount of good and bad. I know most of us feel that way.

In March, so many headlines flooded our computers, newspapers, and televisions. One that stuck out to me was, “Two men killed, two others wounded in drive-by shooting on Detroit’s west side” (WXYZ 7 Action News). I wondered if people would read an article or stay up late to see the headline, “Young child walks to church, in rain, with no adult, to learn about Jesus, week after week.” These are the type of titles I want to see more of, so I decided to make this blog about my friend, Wyatt, who is the young child in the headline.

We met Wyatt last summer, while serving ice cream and snow cones to the neighborhood surrounding East Bethlehem Lutheran Church in Detroit, Mich. We had around 30 children join us in the parking lot on that sizzling summer day. Wyatt was one of those children. Wyatt lives about a block away from the church, and had never attended any event that we have organized. In fact, the only thing that drew him to our parking lot on that hot summer day was the ice cream. Wyatt arrived when we opened the snow cone machine and didn’t leave until we closed for the night. That was our first experience with Wyatt, and it left a mark on our hearts, and I think we left a mark on his too. He really loved talking with my husband, Jake, especially when Jake was teaching him the incredible “taking off your finger” magic trick. Wyatt was funny, smart, and full of life, despite his circumstances. I believe that parking lot moment bonded him to Jake, our church, and most importantly, he started to hear about Jesus.

Wyatt began attending our Sunday school program and events shortly after that day. I remember asking him about his family, because we needed them to complete the paperwork for him to attend. After several weeks of missing paperwork, we decided it was best to let him attend without any paperwork at all. Week after week, he rides his bike or walks to Sunday school, rain or snow, alone or with his friend, Wayne. I have seen this kid walk in a foot of snow and in rain that most people wouldn’t drive in, let alone walk in. He shows up week after week, event after event, with no adult, just a boy and his bike. Some Sundays, Wyatt will challenge everything an adult tells him. Other weeks, he is willing to listen and learn. Sometimes, after Sunday school, I wonder if Wyatt will return the following week. He always returns on his bike and with a smile, willing to give our rules and structure another try.

Most Sundays, he asks some pretty deep questions, at least for a 3rd grade boy who has never attended church or read the Bible. One week Wyatt asked, “Even if you kill someone, God will forgive you?” This is still such a hard concept for many adults to grasp, so I can only imagine how he is still processing. One day, we talked about how Jesus serves and respects others. This was a great topic for Wyatt, because he had been in several fights in school. Life is pretty tough for him, so I know serving and respecting others is the farthest thing from his mind. But the seed was planted and God was at work. He truly could not understand respecting or serving people until he got a small glimpse of serving. He helped us take care of a new 18 month-old child and he helped clean-up the classroom. As we locked the doors, he left the building carrying all the left-over lunches his little hands could carry. It was raining, so he put his hood up and began to walk home with a smile on his face and Jesus in his heart. (He will not take a ride home from anyone, in case you wondered.)

Some weeks I leave Detroit feeling defeated and other times I leave feeling inspired and hopeful. This particular day, it was the latter.

Photo (c) Brightside Creative/Lightstock, LLC.

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About the Author

Debbie A. Ellinger is a wife, mom of four children, a Christ follower, and the founder of Elli's House, a shelter for girls and women who are fleeing sex trafficking in the Detroit area.

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