One Thousand Hours
I must start with a caveat about the following article. The ideas I am sharing are simply thoughts to be pondered and reflected upon and not a commentary on any specific group or individual.
I was listening to several podcasts this week while painting some walls in my home office. A few of which mentioned the recruitment of youth and young adults into extremist or terrorist cells, specifically Isis. The ideas and tactics they were sharing were hardly different than that of national gang recruitment.
A study “Tackling terrorists’ recruitment of youth” by Jessica Trisko Darden delves into and communicates the recruitment systems used by extremist groups.
The author speaks to the vulnerability that is taken advantage of when recruiting young individuals. These youth have several things in common; Vulnerability, loneliness, and marginalization from their immediate community. These youth seek connection, community, and above most else, belonging, which they receive through connecting with these terrorist groups.
The recruiters will often use several people to recruit one young person, which is never communicated and misrepresents that the youth is always connecting with the same person. Often over thousands of hours through chat rooms, calls, and emails. Trust and belonging are built over this time. Slowly and methodically.
Without going too much further into the specifics of the scenario, I will say this. I have some experience working with youth who were gang involved. These individuals never saw it as a flawed system, not once. They felt more protected, cared for, and connected there than they ever had at home or in the community, which does not say much for their home life or experience within the community. They understood the surface dangers of it; they knew there were risks involved, but what “family” doesn’t have some give and take?
These are all human needs, all things God created us to need! We will all search for these life essentials until we find them.
The introspection came quickly after listening and digging into this idea. I am profoundly challenged by the thought of one thousand hours. This idea, one thousand hours, at its simplest, is the idea that 1000 hours will be spent with any given child or youth to ensure they feel safe, cared for, and protected. This type of intimate time spent then creates an indebted relationship that can quickly be taken advantage of. When was the last time I, or ministries, spent this kind of time connecting with an individual?
Do we offer these individuals the same things? Do we offer the youth, community, protection, belonging, and judgment-free relationship in a Christ-centered and healthy environment?
Many of these are rhetorical questions. I genuinely don’t have the answers to them. I know that evaluating how we share God’s love is crucial to reaching people. Understanding what they seek and the places it is found allows us, as Christians, to understand some of what they are going through.
As we approach each other, understanding our humanity and collective brokenness allows us to connect, listen, and share life without the implications or expectations perpetuated by unhealthy or self-involved relationships—a challenge for all of us, only attainable through a vibrant and earnest relationship with God.