**This blog has been approved by #teenagerville and is being used with their permission**

A lot of our blogs are about the passion and obedience to build these aquaponics farms here in the Philippines to bring change to families for generations. The struggles, the challenges and the faithfulness of our Father God in it all. But today I want to share a piece of my heart with you on #teenagerville and how God is using our boys here. It is not the expected way.

I grew up in the ’80s and ’90s when screen time wasn’t a thing and we colored, listened to music and read on car trips. The Sunday night Disney movie was long-awaited movie night each week and if there was Sunday night church you felt ripped off. Unless you set your VHS to record you missed it. Wow, I feel old just writing this out…lol  So now we have 2 teenage boys and we raised them in the age of Xbox 360’s and Ipods. We broke down and got a DVD player when they were 3 and 4 for car trips because my “ideal” book and coloring backpack was not doing the trick. And so the screen time began.

As the boys grew and played video games we were very careful. No first person shooters was a big rule, games like Lego Star Wars and Nintendo were good to go. Chores, School, Family Time and Attitudes were always required and forefront throughout the gaming phases. We also owned an IT / Online Marketing company and so laptops and iPads were always part of our lives and screen time counting wasn’t an option. Facebook, YouTube, researching, managing overseas teams…it’s all online. So our example was a bit of a wonky one.

As they got older and into junior high, they started to want to play with their friends online. We began to allow them to play online with their friends just the no first-person shooter games rule became no actual shooting people  – just aliens rule.  And so the online gaming began and with it A LOT of GUILT and when around other parents were around our home A LOT of CONDEMNATION.

The struggle was real! One friend asked, “so how much screen time do your boys have each day.” Well…we did online school at the time so that was a bit of an out but the truth is a lot. If they have all their responsibilities completed and school up to par and grades are good and they respect the house and the people in the house – their free time is all theirs. Which is usually gaming.

This Jesus girl who has MANY “ideals” for my family, marriage, parenting, and home has struggled with this lifestyle. But last year something shifted and settled in my heart as we began to hear stories from Jakin and Zac in their online gaming experiences. Jakin and Zac would ask other kids if they were Christians and did they know God. Zac was saying he met someone who is an atheist and he was asking “why don’t you believe in God” and talking to him about our faith and beliefs. Jakin began to have a HUGE heart for kids who were suicidal. In online gaming, it’s a joke to tell kids to “KYS” meaning “Kill Yourself” if they do bad or make a mistake in a game. All of a sudden their online gaming was a connecting point to other teens.

The final settling in my heart came last fall when Jakin called me into his room to talk. He said a friend online was talking about killing himself. He had a bad break up and was very upset. Jakin proceeded to tell me he had told him that God has a plan for his life, that there was hope for the future and then began to pray for him. He said he prayed angels over and around him, protection and peace over his heart. “I prayed what you pray mom.” We then prayed together for this young man and trusted for peace and protection. This young man did not kill himself.

For those of you not in the gaming world, this is a real community. Teenagers and young adults all over the world play for hours and hours online. They come in from school or work and they play. They connect with their friends and they play games online together. But the problem is many, many of these kids do not come from an open, loving home such as Jakin and Zac. They are abused, alone, depressed, suicidal and sometimes drowning in their lives. They don’t have family nights, they don’t have a support system or boundaries. They struggle in school and no one cares, they can’t talk to their parents or parent so they bottle up their hearts. Who will find these lost and lonely kids? Who will encourage them and bring light to their darkness? Who?

Well with humility and a giant deep breath I see that Jakin and Zac will. They are on Fortnite and Apex and gaming with people who don’t know about the Hope we have in Jesus. They are listening, bringing joy and talking about their adventures with us their family. I have many defenses to write and to express, to prove that we are good parents, I have good explanations and standards…but I won’t. For some reason, our kids were into gaming and we never shut the door. Now I see that the door we walked through has a purpose.

Of course, I still have near anxiety attacks when it comes to their online gaming, the expectations in this “Christian” world are far from where we live. The pressure to perform and explain “screen time” is high. But we see God using our boys in an area where the light and hope of Jesus needs to shine. Jakin has talked about setting up a website and going pro – imagine a Christian gamer that does not swear and has a passion for kids who are bullied and suicidal?!?

So ya….our family is a little out of the box. We don’t actually fit into the square at all and that’s ok. If I look at Jesus and see where he hung out and who he hung out with I am encouraged and excited for our teenagers’ futures. In Luke 15:1 it says:

“By this time a lot of men and women of doubtful reputation were hanging around Jesus, listening intently. The Pharisees and religious scholars were not pleased, not at all pleased. They growled. “He takes in sinners and eats meals with them, treating them like old friends.”

Our teenagers hang out with those who don’t know the Hope of Jesus, eat meals with them and treat them like friends. The only difference from then and now is that these friends are online.

 

**Disclaimer** This gaming path is not for everyone and I share my story to bring a new perspective and open the conversation for other families that may need to consider the opportunity and outreach that applies. There are real issues when it comes to video game addiction and the violence of the M rated games which our kids do not play. Many kids and teens are suffering and their lives are affected with lack of motivation, depression, suicide and many other side effects that can come with gaming for hours on end. If your teen struggles and is not communicating with you, hides in their rooms and their life is not well managed I suggest visiting https://gamequitters.com/ for help and find local loved ones or leaders who can help in the intervention. I also recommend https://qustodio.com  that we have used for over 2 years now that protect our boys as well as can monitor the time they spend on each app and even shut down their internet on their devices.