When Does a Boy Become a Man?

When does a boy become a man?

when does a boy become a man

He becomes a man when he needs to.

When Ann introduced you to Jonathan on Saturday she called him a child. I call him a man.

Even though Jonathan is just 15 years old, he is a man. He has to be.

Jonathan’s mother abandoned the family when he was 4. And his father walked out of Jonathan’s daily life not long after.

Jonathan lived in the jungle with his grandparents when his father moved to the city to find work. But last year when death took his grandparents, Jonathan’s father didn’t return. He stayed in the city — with his favorite son — and left Jonathan alone to care for himself.

picture collage of house on stilts, baby oil, clothes hanging on line and cooking area

Living in the jungle is isolating, which is why most people in Jonathan’s community are quiet and reserved. However, Jonathan is quiet for another reason as well; he’s hurting deeply.

And this is why I say he is a man. Jonathan refuses to succumb to the temptation of silence and isolation.

When we visited him on Friday, he allowed us into his home and shared his story with us. He embraced vulnerability, trusted us, and rose above the lies poverty is trying to convince him are real.

In the midst of poverty, from a life of loneliness, Jonathan demonstrates a rare nobility. He stands tall.

Although his life is incredibly difficult, Jonathan is maturing personally, spiritually and morally in the Body of Christ.

When a boy needs comfort he turns to his mother, or he turns to things in this world. When a man needs comfort, he turns to the Lord.

hammock on a porchJonathan told us that sometimes when he’s lonely he rests in his hammock and sings to God.

Jonathan isn’t a man because of his wisdom and behavior in desperate circumstances, although those are characteristics of manhood. He’s a man because he knows that God’s grace is sufficient for him, that God’s power is made perfect in human weakness.

When does a boy become a man?

He becomes a man when he needs to, regardless of age. For some, manhood comes at 15. For others, it may come at 50. And for a few, it may never come at all.

Being an adult male and being a man are not the same thing. A boy becomes a man when he understands and consistently demonstrates through humble surrender to God that the Lord’s strength abounds in human frailty.

From what I saw in Jonathan, I think I can learn a thing or two about being a man.

Sponsor a child in Ecuador.

Sponsor a child in Jonathan’s child development center (EC-273) or a center near him.

21 Comments |Add a comment

  1. Mesele Yitbarek November 23, 2011

    Great ! God has a great life for you. You can be sure of that because of what He says in Jeremiah 29:11 — “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ says the LORD, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.'”

    God Bless World !

  2. Patricia November 16, 2011

    Hello, Chris! Thank you so much for sharing this with us. This boy is so blessed to have compassion in his life and bringing Jesus and God and Holy Spirit to his life. Many thanks to you. For with Jesus, he will never be alone or forsaken.

  3. Kees Boer November 16, 2011

    You know, Chris, this is a very good point. I agree with you. Someone can be a man at the age of 15 and others might not even be there at 50. Sometimes, I wonder about this even with some child statistics, what is meant by them. Because of the very point you make. I don’t believe that someone becomes a man at 18. For some that might be the case, but for probably most others that’s not the case and then it’s a bit of a process too for most. I think the big change from child to young adult really happens from 12 to 15. That’s probably when it changes the fastest and maybe even for most in a period of 2 years, ages 13,14…. But I’m generalizing here. Of course, that’s not to say that someone at the age of 16 is a fully functioning mature adult. But I almost do see them as immature adults. They are no longer the children. I think that this is a very vulnerable time too for the children in the centers. And it is so important to really be there with them during that age. But I’m rambling a bit (all over the place)

  4. Amanda November 15, 2011

    It just breaks my heart that this young man is living all alone in the jungle. I wish there was a way he could be taken in by a loving family. Is there any way (other than prayers) that we can help him? I know we can donate money to our own sponsored children. Is there a way to help Jonathan?

  5. Sara November 15, 2011

    Are you sure that Jonathan is in project 431?

    If I am not mistaken, that project is in the mountains near quito, and Jonathan is in the jungle. I thought that he was in project 270 or 273….

    1. Chris Giovagnoni November 16, 2011

      You’re correct. He is in EC-273. Thanks for catching my mistake. I got the name of the center right, but the number wrong. I corrected it.

      1. Sara November 16, 2011

        Thanks for checking that. I have traveled in that area a few times, and it is beautiful. Thanks for sharing his story with us.

    2. Nina November 16, 2011

      This confused me, too. I thought he was in EC273.

  6. Beatty Collins November 15, 2011

    You and others went to Ecuador expecting to see children, understand how the program works in that country, experience new things, see the Lord at work, marvel at the labors of the local church groups, and for so many other reasons … all wonderful and worthwhile. But in the midst of all of that anticipation and planning, I think that God had an additional agenda. He wanted you, and us, to meet Jonathan and to ponder in our hearts how we can serve Him more faithfully. I don’t mean to minimize the impact of all of the rest of your journey; it was a labor of love and faithfulness. But the story of Jonathan is something that has already impacted hundreds, if not thousands. Thanks to you and to Ann for sharing this with us. No, that’s not strong enough. Thanks to you and to Ann for challenging us with this. Jonathan should be in our prayers, and his story should be in our hearts.

  7. Gail November 15, 2011

    Thanks Chris for your insight into manhood. I watched the movie Courageous twice at the cinema last week and one of the thought provoking questions in that is “when does a boy know he has become a man?” Something for me to ponder…

    Jonathan’s story is THE most movie Compassion story I have ever heard and I think it’s because of the very thing you’ve highlighted here – it’s his faith and maturity despite aversity.

  8. Laure Krueger November 15, 2011


    I am praising God for your discernment about manhood in general and Jonathan’s in particular.

    The gift from God that you and I and countless others received in learning about Jonathan would be misappropriated if it were received with acute emotionalism.

    God has shown us something eternally important (and may I say … for such a time as this) and we need to seek Him to understand how He would have us respond in prayer.

    I know that God is powerfully at work in Jonathan’s life as He is in all of ours. There are reasons our Lord has had our lives intersect with Jonathan’s … albeit virtually for the majority of us.

    I thank God for entrusting what He has to us. May we be found faithful.

    1. Gail November 15, 2011

      Thanks for sharing your insight Laure. I too believe that God has introduced us to Jonathan for a purpose. For each of us it may be different but we need to ask Him why and what action He wants us to take in response.

    2. Chris Giovagnoni November 15, 2011

      Thank you Laure.

      1. Laure Krueger November 15, 2011

        I want to make it clear that I am NOT accusing anyone specifically of being acutely emotional. My first response was very much so until I spent some time in prayer.


  9. Christine November 15, 2011

    It encourages me to see his faith through your eyes. I know women all over the world are aching to adopt him right now–since Sophie’s post first introduced him. I was one of them.

    But after reading your account of his faith–from a man’s perspective–I see that he can use our prayers more than our homes and our open arms. He would probably hate civilization, besides.

    Judging from the moles in my backyard, however, I think we could probably come up with some grub worms for dinner. 🙂 I believe you could give some tips on how to prepare them?

    Thank you for your post and for your own vulnerability. God will redeem this fully, I believe. Jonathan needs many prayer warriors!

    1. Lizzie November 23, 2011

      I read Ann’s post about Jonathon. What is Sophie’s blog? Thanks, Lizzie
      (proceeds from my shop go to compassion)

      1. Christine November 23, 2011


        This link is Sophie’s post about Jonathan. She is the author of the Boo Mama blog and went on this Ecuador blogger trip, and another Compassion blogger trip to Uganda in 2008.

        1. Lizzie November 24, 2011

          Thank you…and Happy Thanksgiving!

    2. Chris Giovagnoni November 15, 2011

      I’ll pass on the worms. I envisioned earth worms when I heard what lunch would be; however, that is NOT what we got. Yuck!

      Jonathan’s story is a powerful foil for the qualities God has placed in us, which make us men and women. It was quite apparent to me as I observed how Ann, Sophie and the other women in the group responded to Jonathan.

      Thanks for your comment.

  10. Crystal November 15, 2011

    Wow. That was well put and thought provoking. Thank you so much for that post!

    1. Chris Giovagnoni November 15, 2011

      My pleasure Crystal. I’m glad you thought it was worthwhile. Jonathan’s story is one of the most moving I’ve personally seen in traveling with Compassion.

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