When you enter the high school through the main door at street level you walk into a hallway. From this entrance there is only one way up to the classrooms, a set of stairs. On your right there is a wall with a depiction of a tree with leaves naming those who support the school. At the base of the tree are cut outs of children who are learning, playing, and praying – activities they want the students to feel the freedom to do at the school.
Hanging alone on the wall above the stairs is a large replica of a Rembrandt painting which depicts the prodigal son returning home to his father. Less prominent, standing in the background, is the older brother. Bohdan recounted the conclusion of the prodigal son story to us, how the father accepted the younger son just as he was, and demonstrated his desire to enjoy the older son as well. In the Biblical story we don’t know if the older son accepts the unconditional love of the father and comes inside to celebrate with his younger brother who has returned home, or not. We only know the father left the celebration of his younger son to pursue his older son, to call him in.
Bohdan explained that the painting was hung in that very spot on purpose, so that all who entered the school would see it. He told us the picture is a reminder that they love and accept all of the children who come to the school just as they are. As he shared this with us I could not help but to well up inside with emotion. Over my life I have been both the wayward younger brother who recognized my need for a Savior and came running home only to find myself embraced- just as I was – by our gracious Father. And, I have also been the older brother, jealous and self-righteous – failing to recognize my need for the father, lost.
Each time I have passed the painting I have remembered what Bohdan said, “we want them to know that we accept them just as they are, because that is how Jesus accepts us”. My table group, two boys and three girls, ranging in age from 10 to 12 and having limited English skills were challenging. Of course they were, I expected that. What I did not expect was how Bohdan’s reminder would affect me and they way I would see the students. It wasn’t “what would Jesus do” but “how did He love them”.
Bohdan finished by remarking about the replica versus having the original painting, and said he if he had the original he would sell it in a moment so he could build 10 more schools like this one.
Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” Matt 19:14
Then Jesus told them this parable: 4 “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? 5 And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders 6 and goes home.” Luke 15:3-5