“What is this?” Ricky asks students as he holds up my guitar.
“Una guitarra!” they all answer
“Let’s pretend that I am the creator of this guitar, and you tell me, ‘Ricky, that guitar is ugly! It’s deformed. It has a big hole in the middle. Your guitar makes no sense! Your guitar is a porquería (useless garbage)!’
Who would you be insulting? Me, or the guitar?”
Some students inevitably answer, “La guitarra!” while others say “You.”
After they answer, either right or wrong, he tells them to now pretend he is their art teacher, and that after asking them to draw something, he insults their creation saying it is terrible and belongs in the wastebasket. “Who am I insulting: Your drawing, or you?”
Since this hits closer to home for them, they all answer viscerally, “Me!” Passionate hand and arm movements often accompany this answer, as this is Puerto Rico, where we talk as much with our hands as we do with our mouths.
“Why you?” Ricky asks.
“Because I made it,” they answer with as much passion as if this had actually happened.
The next question leads each person in the room to look inward and self-analyze.
“What if I tell you that you are ugly. Stupid. Empty-headed. Useless. Worthless. Who am I insulting?”
Some in the group will answer, “Me!”
Ricky asks again, “Who am I insulting. You?…or God?”
The point hits home as they agree that yes, when we insult another person, we are actually insulting the Creator. The idea here is to lead students to understand that the destructive words we say to tear a person down actually weigh heaviest on God’s heart, because we are essentially saying His creation is worthless. Ricky asks them, “Raise your hand if you would stand before an Almighty God and tell Him, ‘God, your creation is a porquería.'”
You can hear a pin drop in the room.
“But you do it everyday,” he reminds them. “When you insult one another and mistreat one another. When you call each other names and push one another around, making yourself bigger by making someone else smaller with your words, actions and treatment. If you wouldn’t do it to God, why do you do it to His creation?”
This is how Ricky begins his ‘anti-bullying’ message in the schools. Soon, he moves on to show them two coffee mugs, one large and one small, again asking them to imagine he created both: one large, strong and full; the other small, fragile and filled with less.
He asks, “Does one mug have the right to say to the other, ‘I am better than you because I am bigger, stronger, and have been given more while you are small, weak, and have so little.”
“No,” they reply.
Smaller kids often say, “Because mugs can’t talk.”
“Ricky corrects them saying, ‘Because I am the creator and it was my will to make one big, strong and full, while making the other small, fragile and with less.'”
At this point, he turns the message onto the students personally, telling them, “It was God’s will to create you exactly the way you are,” complete with all of their physical, emotional and intellectual characteristics. “Just as each of these mugs was created the way they are for a pre-determined use and purpose.”
But indeed, O man, who are you to reply against God? Will the thing formed say to him who formed it, “Why have you made me like this?” Does not the potter have power over the clay, from the same lump to make one vessel for honor and another for dishonor? (Romans 9:20-21)
After sharing some personal anecdotes from his childhood, and how he perceived himself to be worthless, Ricky holds up the mugs again in front of the children. He tells them, “Look at these two mugs again. One was made big and strong for a nice, robust cup of coffee early in the morning. The other was made by its creator for a nice cup of tea at 3 in the afternoon. Therefore, we see how how each cup was formed perfectly by its creator for a specific purpose. Hence, each of these is perfect in the hands of the creator.”
This is where we remind the children that in no way are we perfect, as our sin makes us imperfect, but by the design of the Creator, we were perfectly formed, according to His will and purpose. Anyone who makes you believe different is lying to you.”
From our own personal life experiences, as well as repeatedly teaching on this topic, we have come to the conclusion that there are three types of people when it comes to bullying:
- Victims of bullies
- Those who stand by and do nothing
If you are wondering why I did not mention those who defend the victim, it is because so few are willing, since they know they soon will become a victim. For this reason, victims of bullying, verbal abuse and character assassination often feel very alone.
There have been times during the course of this teaching where, by looking at the students’ faces Ricky can read who is who in the room. He will tell them, “I’ve been doing this so long, and experienced it myself for so long that I know who in this room is who. I hope this message is reaching your heart in the way it is meant to, whether you are the bully or the bullied.”
At one school we visited, we saw a 5th grade girl crying and hugging her classmates outside the room where we had ministered to her class. The social worker told me, “She has been apologizing to her classmates. She tends to be a busca-bulla (troublemaker) and your husband’s message seems to have impacted her.”
Social workers at schools across the island bring us in to bring a message with the theme discussed above. We do not tire of seeing middle and high-schoolers who came in with their guards up, softening their stance in self-reflection and realization, getting a kick out of Abuelo Paco rapping, or Jenny doing her ‘robot’ dance, then thanking and hugging us afterwards, and asking for selfies with our family. We are in many a young person’s selfie across the island. Below, some photos of middle and high school presentations from February through March.
A social worker in San Juan let us know that she had seen a visible change in the students’ behavior after their time with us. We are humbled to hear this sort of report, but we make sure to let school administrator’s know that we are planting seeds, not trees. We are under no illusion that anyone walks out of our presentations completely transformed. We do this work because we trust that God sends some to sow, others to water, and when the time is right, He gives the increase as only He can. Below, a selection of photos from all the pre-k and elementary school groups we ministered to from February thru March.
BAD BUNNY, PERFECT LAMB
It is a very short distance from what we see and hear, to what comes out of our mouths and hands. Ricky exhorts congregants gathered in the churches with a message about guarding their hearts as the Word tells us to.
If what we claim to believe is not what we actually live in our homes, communities and places of work, then we are what God’s Word calls a hypocrite. This is a message that has resonated greatly with families in churches.
Based on the things we see happening on the island, and how islanders are currently being portrayed by the music and artists who, for better or worse, represent us to the rest of the world, we have seen the need to target hypocrisy among professing believers.
As Ricky teaches groups about the effects of the media we consume, he gives them present-day examples of television shows we know are very popular among islanders that offer nothing in the way of valuable input. As an example, he cites ‘reality’ television shows that depend on gossip, vulgar feuding and profanity-laced discord to entertain their audiences.
For music, he uses a the very relevant example of Bad Buddy (the suddenly-world-famous ‘trap music’ artist from Puerto Rico.) He breaks down some of the topics that Bad Bunny’s lyrics glorify, showing why he and other artists like him do not deserve a believer’s money or attention:
- Drug use: Drug trafficking is the #1 cause of murder on the island of Puerto Rico.
- Love of money: Drug trafficking, the #1 cause of murder, stems from a love of money.
- Violence: The majority of homicides each year on the island are attributed to the constant battle for ‘puntos,’ which is the word used for neighborhood points of drug trade on the island.
- Misogyny: Trap and reggetón artists use a specific word to refer to women, which is a profane word for ‘prostitute.’ Ricky reminds young girls that not only are they repeating this insult when they sing it, but so are their future husbands, who will one day treat them the way these artists teach them that women should be treated.
- Adultery: A large number of the students who sit before us on any given day are products of a home in which adultery has led to the separation of their parents. There are countless stories of abusive step parents which would not exist were it not for adultery having separated the family unit.
The list goes on, but the above is usually enough to do many in, shaking their heads in shame and disbelief. When Ricky mentions the names of these popular artists in churches, many young people and even parents of little ones slink down in their seats, or look around to avoid eye contact with him or their church leaders.
THE GOD OF OUR FATHERS
Ricky shares an interesting fact with the groups at this point: In December 2018, Puerto Rico’s biggest newspaper (El Nuevo Día) named Bad Bunny Puerto Rico’s new ambassador, indicating that he is the best this island has to offer…to the entire rest of the free world.
He tells them, “But many years ago, before you or I were born, Puerto Rico had a different ambassador. And he wasn’t a bad bunny. He was a perfect Lamb. So perfect that our forefathers placed him on the crest of Puerto Rico, sitting on top of a Bible. So perfect that He left his throne and riches in heaven to come down to earth and be made poor so that you and I might be rich in our hearts.
“But today, we’ve accepted a new ambassador. One who came to make himself rich in his pockets while you and your children become poor in your hearts.
“So I ask you today: Who is your ambassador? The bad bunny, or the perfect Lamb. Because it can’t be both.”
No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon. (Matthew 6:24)
ENTRUSTED WITH MUCH
This entry covers the 10 churches 15 schools we visited from the dates of February 15th to March 31st. Because of the number of invitations we receive to minister across the island, I am no longer able to post each visit to a place in its own set of pictures (or this blog would be much longer).
Still, we understand the importance of continuing to document each of these visits and ministry happenings on our blog for those of you who continually support us and pray for us. Your prayers are bearing much fruit, and as such, in it’s 5th year, the ministry is reaching more people than it ever has, praise the Lord!
Thank you to all who have stood alongside us in prayer and financial support of the ministry at any point along this journey. Thank you to those who have believed in the calling God has placed on our lives. Thank you to all who receive and read our updates with joy, and to those who respond in prayer, notes of encouragement and/or donations. We receive your support and love with humility and a renewed commitment to continue serving the Lord where He has placed us.
To make a contribution to RAME Ministries of any amount (no amount is too small), please click on the image below:
Thank you for reading, and may the Lord bless you richly.
Below, a video we recently posted to YouTube that is a cover of a well known song by a Puerto Rican artist, but with our own lyrics. Enjoy!