Since the death of George Floyd two blocks from our house a month ago, our city has experienced unprecedented upheaval. This, on top of the devastation to normal life caused by COVID-19, has created a summer like no other. We usually experience an increase in gunshots and crime in the summer months and this summer has been no exception with shootings and shots fired being a common thread in news and neighborhood circles. As our city leaders grapple with police reform and plans to dismantle our current system, as volunteers run encampments with hundreds of long term homeless persons in our neighborhood park, regular citizens are dealing still with the inconveniences created by closed businesses, road and street construction and the difficulties of job loss or changed circumstances. We are praying and hoping that solid, substantial, constructive change that is designed to meet long term needs and address long term ills, will come forth out of all this upheaval. Many voices are loud, but we need substance and details for change or nothing built will end up creating more justice or more equity. Please pray for our city.
Our usual summer with boys would involve three camps including our annual Simba Rites of Passage camp, outings to museums, parks and recreational sites, service opportunities and various individual sports and enrichment camps that we would sign kids up for, pay for and transport them to.
But this is the summer of COVID-19. Camp, museums, rec centers and many other sites are closed. Almost every activity we have always done involves driving around the city with a minivan or 12 passenger van full of kids. Due to poverty and the related transience in housing, our kids are scattered in neighborhoods all over north and south Minneapolis, not conveniently clustered within comfortable walking distance.
So, we have spent the spring developing new ways to meet and connect with kids and families. It’s time consuming because where we might normally have connected with 5-9 kids at a time for an activity like basketball practice or a trip to the Science Museum or an adventure at the SkyZone activity center, now we are meeting with 1-2 kids at a time at their homes or nearby parks. We have been bringing groceries, delivering school meal boxes, Chris is throwing the football around in the yard, going for walks and talking, texting, video meeting, phone calling…
We ask for your prayers as we reimagine summer and find new ways to connect, have fun and build relationships. We are exploring using some of our unemployed 20-30 year olds to assist us and developing plans for smaller group outings where we can provide more social distance for safety with any kind of transportation. We are hoping to use some bikes and are doing way more outdoors…
As you can imagine, this is all challenging. It’s not the summer any of us want or the summer our kids all look forward to with great anticipation, year after year. But, what we do have on our side is long established relationships with kids that are actually greater than the fun activity that we help provide. We have on our side the trust of parents who know that we are always going to be thinking about the health, safety and welfare of their kids and family. We are in it for the long haul, doing what we have always done. Loving children and their families. Mentoring, supporting, encouraging and advocating for their physical, intellectual,
social, emotional and spiritual development. We know that it takes God to be a Black man and we are with our young people from their elementary years through life.
Also, in this season of COVID-19, we have young men looking for jobs and needing help starting careers…high school grads, college students, recent college graduates. If you have entry level career opportunities or summer work opportunities that we could make known to people, please contact us.
We are grateful for your gifts and support as we press on with our work of building up young men here in Minneapolis. They need your prayers and so do we as we call upon God for help in this very difficult summer. I confess, I(Lisa) am weary and burdened and very much need grace for the living of these days.