Devaun is a big guy, 6 feet 3 inches tall and 275 pounds. So, one of the first things people always ask him is, "You must play football." The football coaches certainly went after him all year trying to get him to come out for the team. But, with a friendly voice that you would not expect from such an imposing guy, he responds, "No, I don't play football."
It was much of the same during most of camp at Woodleaf this past summer, especially with an assignment crew that was composed of former NCAA Division I football players. Everyone was surprised to hear that "Big D" did not play football. In fact, he would respond with minor disgust and say that he had no desire to play. Kids, leaders and even summer staff would approach him in disbelief asking him to put his big hands out, which were sizably larger than even the biggest adult hands at the camp.
Devaun's cabin mates, however, did not really ask him about playing football, even though many were missing an important week of football practice to be at camp and were worried about how their coach would respond when they returned. They did not seem to care about him not playing ball and for the most part, accepted him as "one of the guys." He had never spent the night, let alone a week with 15 other guys, most of which were serious football, basketball and track athletes.
Being in a cabin with these guys seemed to have an impact on him. When it was brought up that he actually loved to dance: Afro-Haitian, performance dance and, of course, hip-hop, the guys began to encourage him in that and wanted to see some of his steps. It is quite a sight to see such a big guy go, and one wonders how he moves his body with such rhythm! This sort of acceptance he received from his peers continued throughout the week, from the first night's obstacle course, to the mud fights, in cabin times and free time. It seemed, for the first time in a long time, he was experiencing how good it was to have male friendships. Then one day, as if he were asked the football question for the first time, Big D said, "I want to play football." The guys, true to their behavior all week, started to encourage him, saying he would be an asset to the team.
There wasn’t any doubt in leaders' minds that this love and acceptance was one of the main factors that helped Big D choose to also follow Christ that week.
When school started this past fall at Berkeley High School, where more than 3,000 kids from very diverse backgrounds are enrolled, Big D never went out for the football team. But he walks around with a new confidence, as if he’s more accepting of himself. There is a noticeable change in him. He is experiencing real life in Jesus Christ.