Although we’ve had a difficult and heart wrenching summer here, the most severe we have experienced in our thirty years of ministry in this neighborhood; there was a particular moment which shines brightly for us and our community… the graduation from college of one of our young men, Aaron. His achievement cannot be overstated, because of the overwhelming obstacles he has had to overcome in order to accomplish this goal.
Aaron had a rough life as a kid… strife at home, evading drugs, crime and gangs in the neighborhood, and the prejudiced encounters one experiences as a young black man in urban America. Yet he overcame these significant barriers to graduate from high school. He got involved with us back in sixth grade, playing on one of our basketball teams. He subsequently went to camp and participated in several other activities, but most importantly he developed a relationship with his mentor, coach Tony. Aaron was a gifted athlete and had an opportunity to go to college on an athletic scholarship, but culture shock and lack of support resulted in him giving up his scholarship and returning home. He returned to college after some months but continued to have setbacks due to financial considerations and bad personal choices. He attended school off and on, taking courses at the local community college; but struggling to make ends meet. He became a father and was homeless for a while, but he did not give up his dream. That’s what amazes me about Aaron, in spite of humble beginnings and difficult circumstances he never lost his desire for a better life, and he saw education as a means to achieve that dream. With no family support, emotionally, financially or otherwise, he managed to find a program and re-enroll at a four-year college. Working a job to support him and his son he fulfilled his academic requirements, yet was barely able to pay for school in spite of a minimal scholarship and some financial aid. But Aaron didn’t quit. We went through some dark times with him and he had some serious setbacks but he didn’t quit. He didn’t quit on his hope of a better life, he didn’t quit on his belief in himself, he didn’t quit on his faith in God, even though it seemed sometimes like the Lord didn’t see his struggle.
We were able to help Aaron with his school bills from time to time through a scholarship fund begun by my brother in our mother’s name (Esther G. McNair scholarship fund). Aaron’s coach and mentor, who has been with him since he was a young teenager, never flagged in his support and encouragement. And Aaron’s involvement in our ministry from a young age served to motivate him as he strived to live out the principles instilled in him by Coach Tony and Pastor Chris. In the last few years Aaron frequently came to church seeking spiritual support and counsel on how to build his relationship with God. Due to his hard work, persistence and faith he is a much different person, living a much different life, than he was five years ago. So finally, this past summer, sixteen years after he graduated from high school, he finished college with a degree in Education. We are so proud of him!
So this year, having completed the horrendous summer of 2020, we wanted to celebrate his accomplishment, and share our joy with you. The obstacles Aaron has had to overcome growing up are similar to those of many young men who grow up in our community. Our mission has been to help young men like Aaron to realize that the hope of Christ is real. You can help through keeping this ministry and our young people in your prayers in these difficult times. Visit our website at christschildrenministries.org, or visit our Facebook page to see what we do or make a contribution if the Lord leads you to do so. Feel free to share it with your friends. Thank you and God bless!
PS- Recently a young man was published in the op ed section of the Star Tribune: https://www.startribune.com/imagine-you-are-a-black-male-teen-in-north-minneapolis/572719461/ His poignant story is the story of all the young black men we work with in our neighborhood and have engaged over the years.