The Broken Healing the Broken

Last year Carlos and Cory Dimas found themselves at yet another funeral of a young teenager. Rantwan Smith had been in and out of prison since 2004; he had wanted to make the right choices, but could not resist the lure of the Syracuse streets. Now the Dimases were concerned about Rantwan’s younger brother, Shontez, who refused to grieve over the loss of his brother and was letting anger poison his heart.

“We’d been through a lot in Shontez’s life but this was different,” Carlos Dimas said. While still faithfully coming to club, and to the Dimases’ house for a biweekly “Latino” meal, Shontez had grown a little distant. Taking a leap of faith, they invited him to join them on their area’s trip to rural El Salvador.

A few months later Shontez boarded a plane for the first time in his life. With the help of a doctor and their Young Life leaders, these 58 kids from Syracuse cared for the sick, bought and gave out 35 bicycles and 930 chickens, built two wells, and so much more. These kids (including Shontez) had an amazing week, receiving far more in El Salvador than they had given.

Nathan Gunn, area director for Syracuse East Young Life, said, “The most powerful part of Shontez’s encounter was that early in the trip he said, ‘Why are these people so happy? They have nothing. I mean, seriously, it makes me mad, why are they so happy?’” Gunn and the other leaders challenged him to find the answer to that question.

By the day of departure, Shontez had exhausted all the Spanish he knew. “This African-American boy had fallen in love with the people of Rancho Grande, and was having a hard time saying goodbye,” Dimas said. “The tears flowed to no end as his body shook with every hug. His gratefulness for a people who welcomed him with open arms was evident, and we noticed something significant happening before our eyes.” At that moment the leaders witnessed the boy who refused to cry at his brother’s funeral now giving himself permission to grieve — a healthy beginning to his healing process.

On the last night, the night of his emotional breakthrough, Shontez shared with the leaders, “I’ve got the answer to my question. These people are so happy because they love God. I mean, they really love God. But it’s more than that. They love us too. I mean we came here, and we built a friendship.”

“That’s the amazing part of his healing,” Gunn said. “He was ministered to by people who ‘have’ less, but in their poverty, they have so much more to offer. He had been hugged and prayed with and cared for by all of us, but it was the touch of the truly broken that healed him.”

Since returning from El Salvador, Shontez has served on work crew at Lake Champion in August 2008 and expressed interest in being on Young Life staff in the future — demonstrating, as Dimas puts it, “what can happen when a hurting kid meets a compassionate Savior, who empowers him to make a tangible difference in the world.”