I’ve been reflecting on how God has been gracious this summer… We’ve been blessed to do many things and spend a lot of quality time with over sixty kids this summer. We’ve had two camps, many activities and strengthened many relationships. We’ve seen our boys triumph over circumstances and we’ve seen them fall as well. We’ve helped young men in crisis and seen many overcome obstacles to continue on the path to manhood. We have seen many come to Christ this summer. God is good!
When I think about how the summer has gone, I think about a comment one of our high school boys made: “I can’t believe we’re seniors already. It seems like just yesterday that I met you guys and met Chris. We’ve been through a lot together… you guys are like family.” And another one: “Man, my life is so different since I met God! Before I met Chris I didn’t care about God but now I’m cool with Jesus.” And yet another: “I remember when I met Chris back in the fourth grade… I’ve never known an adult outside of my family who I trust like I do Chris.”
Longevity and permanence….relationship. These are the things that come back to me when I reflect on this summer of ministry and our work in Christ. I’ve begun pulling together a new group of nine and ten year olds to bring up. I have known one boy’s mother since she was in elementary school herself. As I was explaining the activities I wanted to involve her child in this summer she cut me off… “Oh I told him all about you, Pastor Chris. How you do basketball and mentoring, and how you will be his friend for his whole life.” We are blessed to interact with many different kids here in our inner city community, through sports, mentoring, camps, school. We offer a lot of kids a lot of different opportunities for positive pursuits. Some respond and some don’t, but every young person who comes into our purview by God’s grace gets introduced to Christ.
I listened to one young urban youth worker this summer share about kids in his program who didn’t have enough to eat at home and could not read. His concern was the kids would come to the Bible study program and be cussing up a storm. A young man who grew up in our program and recently graduated college spoke up and said, “They don’t have enough to eat at home and can’t read and you’re worried about his language?” He went on to share about his experiences in our ministry… The gist of it was that since he had met me and Lisa at a young age we had always been there for him, through good times and bad, and that is what made a difference in his life. What we’ve learned in our ministry is that what kids remember most as they grow older is the time spent with them and the example you set over a long period of time. Relationship matters, permanence counts… especially when sharing the gospel.
Our lifestyle of ministry is certainly not a bed of roses, and sometimes we see more despair than victory. For the second time this summer a young man with whom our kids were aquainted was killed through gun violence. I checked in with our boys, telling them, “Y’all be careful out there.” One of them responded, “We know how to stay away from trouble, Chris.” I guess they do, or they would not be here now. We teach them to stay busy with positive activities, to hang out with each other, and to hang out with me (or someone like me). So they grow older, into manhood and they remember. Even when they get into trouble they remember. They remember us. They remember Christ.