May 2021

A little girl died last week, one of three children injured by recent shootings in our community.  The other two lie in the hospital in critical condition. Vigils are held daily in prayer and protest of the violence plaguing our streets, but the violence continues. There are lots of reasons and excuses and plenty of blame to go around. Community residents protest and petition city officials and police to do something substantive. City officials point fingers at each other and debate and posture.  Meanwhile children die.

Some look on from the outside and say, “They bring it on themselves. They are killing their own people”, or “It’s your own fault for choosing to live in such a bad part of town”… yes, we hear those things, and people actually say them. But to act as if we as a society are not culpable for the ravages experienced among our poor is to be disingenuous at best, and willfully ignorant at worst.

This week will mark the anniversary of the killing of George Floyd here by the police. You’ve heard about the protests and the riots and the trial, but you don’t hear much about the exponential increase in crime and violence here, unless you live in these neighborhoods.  Shootings and violence every night, lack of police presence…, you wonder when it will be someone you are close to, if not you yourself.

After a year of Covid, distance learning, and ever escalating violence our children and youth have suffered a terrible toll.  After a year of trying to maintain connection with our kids this year through family support, food distribution and one on one visits I’m finally able to gather them together in a limited fashion and do things like basketball and church.  I’m shocked at what I see…  kids who have given up, kids who are shell shocked, kids who are depressed.

Some, not having the support to engage in distance learning have just given up on school altogether… at best going through the motions.  Some barricade themselves in their homes, afraid to go outside because of the frequent shootings. Others have carried on with the façade of doing well on the outside but are terribly depressed on the inside. 

I pray and ask the Lord, “What should I be doing right now?”  The Spirit tells me that we should keep doing what we are doing… feed the hungry, lift up the poor, befriend the friendless, and love our neighbors.  Visit the youth, engage them in uplifting activities, help them have fun and take their minds off of bad situations. Teach them how to negotiate difficult situations, show them God cares for and loves them, model Christian behavior for them and give them hope and a vision for their lives.  This is what we’ve been doing for thirty years.  I ask, “Lord, is that enough? Will it make a difference?” God tells me, “I am enough, I am the difference.”

So we keep on keeping on.  I find one of my kids sitting on his doorstep in a daze with a blank stare on his face…, I get him to smile and we hop in the van to go to basketball practice.  I arrive to pick up a pair of siblings at their house and find them hiding in the bushes because just before I arrived there were gunshots nearby. I wake up each morning and drive to pick up a young man to take him to school so he can make up missed work and graduate on time. We recognize birthdays and other events to remind each other that we have things to cherish and celebrate.  Lisa coordinated an eighteenth birthday party which was a much needed respite for a young man and his friends who have had a tough time this year.

I recently did the marriage ceremony for a young man who when he was a kid lived under similar circumstance as our kids do today.  Lisa and I have known him all his life.  We saw him through growing up here, graduating high school, going to college; now married with a home, family and a good job.  When you’re deep in the trenches it’s hard to notice if anything is changing… but sometimes you look up and… there it is! 

This summer we will take kids to camp.  We have 25 spaces and it will cost us $400 apiece to fill them all. If you can help with any part of that it will be greatly appreciated.  The Lord bless and keep us all in this time, and see us through to the other side.

April 2021

Justice…

What does it look like?  We thirst for it but what does it look like? Does it look the same to everyone? Is it the same to the oppressor as to the oppressed? Is it the same to the mainstream as it is to the disenfranchised?  Justice is supposed to be blind, but is it really? Hundreds of years of systematic racism in America would seem to say no. The idea of justice seems to be a human construct, enforced by those who have the power to do so.

In the ancient near east, and in the old testament the concept of justice was simple, “an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth”.  Whatever injury I suffer from another I have the right to exact that same penalty upon them.  Our legal system today evolved from that ancient code. But Jesus introduced a different concept, “turn the other cheek” (Matt. 5.38-39).  Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. emulated that concept, and as a result led a movement that changed things for black people in America forever.  Jesus changed the concept of justice… that is, if you want to follow God’s way.  Through the Law God proclaimed His justice for us to live by, but it turned out we all were condemned by that justice.  None of us could meet the standard. So God instituted a new brand of justice, a new way for us to be in relationship with Him, through Christ.  He is our Justice.

So many in our civic leadership: presidents, governors, mayors, etc., are quick to call for peace at the slightest potential of rioting and looting; but are slow to denounce or affect change in practices leading to mass shootings, gun violence and yes, the killing of young black men by police. It’s like the prophet said, “Peace, peace they say, when there is no peace.” (Jer. 8.11), or, as the protestors are saying in the streets, “No justice, no peace!”  You can’t allow young black men to be indiscriminately killed and then when people grow angry turn around and say violence is wrong, like you have a moral high ground to stand on.  We’re all guilty here. 

We, as a society, are guilty; so we have to look somewhere else for authentic justice.  But where do we find it?  My whole community, city… along with others all over the country are waiting in anxious anticipation for the jury’s verdict of the Chauvin trial to come out. Some are worried about rioting and looting; some are worried about a lack of justice for George Floyd, being shown once again that our lives don’t matter. 

But justice is not about revenge or vengeance… justice is about “does my life matter?” In the vast scheme of things do I matter as much as anyone else? Do black lives matter as much as white? Do poor lives matter as much as wealthy? Do female lives matter as much as male?  We all just want to know we matter. Although some say our country is built upon the prospect that all lives matter, history demonstrates that all lives do not matter in America. Ask the immigrants, European and otherwise, ask women, ask the original Americans, ask the descendants of slaves…

So we work for justice, for all to be treated fairly; but there is only one place where we can find authentic justice and know that our lives matter, regardless of this world’s circumstances, and that is in Christ.  If you are in Christ you matter…  maybe not to others; maybe not to the police, maybe not to the landlord or creditor, maybe not to politicians, but you matter to God.  In fact, you are of paramount importance to Him.  He gave His only Son to die for you. As followers of Christ, we have the moral high ground to seek justice for all, and we must pray for and act and seek God’s justice in the present circumstance.  But if things don’t go the way we think they should, we have to trust that His justice will prevail. God says “vengeance is mine, I will repay” (Romans 12.19).  To my brothers and sisters I say, “do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good”.  As Christians we are called to seek justice in our society and to ensure that those around us in our daily lives are treated fairly. We have to trust God, and keep working for justice, no matter the outcome. And then we can know peace.

Support the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act! it’s in the Senate now. Call your senator!

March 2021

Lisa:

Chris recently had to undergo a rather delicate surgery and it caused me to reflect on our life together. Because of the nature of our life and work, most often we are the only people who see and know what the other is doing. We are the only ones who fully know incidents and efforts that comprise the story of our lives: trying to be the love and heart of Jesus wherever we are.

As I was thinking about Chris and all the stories that I know about him, most of which even our children have never heard, I started to remember so many things and I thought of this story, which is so emblematic of our life and what it means to be in the same place for such a long time. It speaks to the way that being somewhere, investing your life and love, gives you a credibility and authority that carries a special kind of significance, a special kind of weight, even with young people you have only known casually, tangentially.

So, after the surgery, I said to Chris, “Remember that story, from all those years ago…it made me sad to think I will be the only one besides God who has ever heard it. I want our boys to know it.”  So, here is one of our many stories, a precious one, that I asked Chris to write down for our children.

Chris:

The diversity of our south Minneapolis community is one of the unique characteristics which makes it a place I love to call home.  We have friends and neighbors here of Black, east African, Mexican, Latin American, southeast Asian, native American descent and communities.  Usually we all get along… sometimes not. The boys I work with are sometimes in conflict with young Somali teenagers and espouse prejudicial attitudes. I take every opportunity to teach and educate them out of those prejudices.

One day I passed down a street near my house in front of a local Muslim mosque and drove into a huge conflagration. The street was full of about two dozen dark skinned boys squaring off to fight each other. I put my car into reverse, meaning to turn around and find another way home when I recognized a few of the boys.  On closer inspection I saw that some Black kids were going to war against some Somali kids.  I stopped my car in the middle of the street and got out. “James!” I called, “What’s going on here?”  “Coach Chris!” he cried. “Man, we’ve had enough from them! We’re about to have it out right now!”  I said, “Well not you, you’re gonna go home!  You don’t need to be caught up in something like this!”

I spoke to a couple of the other boys I knew and succeeded in pausing the imminent fight, at least for a moment.  On the other side of the street the Somali boys were shouting and waiting.  I went over to them and basically told them what I had told the others, asking one of them to go into the mosque and get one of their elders to come out.  When the Somali elder came out, we worked together to pacify the group.  I got the boys on my side of the street to go home and he got the Somali teenagers to go into the mosque.  Before I took James and a few of the other boys home in my car, I went over to the elder to thank him for coming outside. He gave me his thanks as well and we shook hands and parted.

Lisa:

Chris’s surgery went well and he’s well on his way in his 4-6 week recovery. God has seen us through so very many scary, dangerous, challenging and painful times. It has not been an easy life, but it has been a beautiful life. Thanks for being one of the people who cares about our stories and about God’s presence here in the city.

Chris: 

Speaking of stories… I want to give a shout out to Marcus Hunter II. His op ed piece published in the Star Tribune about his experiences growing up Black in north Minneapolis preface my new book, Not Forsaken.  He’s had another piece published along with a go fund me link to raise money for college.  https://bringmethenews.com/minnesota-news/donations-flood-in-for-north-minneapolis-teen-who-penned-star-tribune-column

February 2021

Hello all! I hope this letter finds you and your family safe and secure this winter. The Lord knows many of us are feeling unsettled with what is happening around us, or dealing with personal struggle or tragedy.  The Lord’s peace and grace to all of you.

With the new year always comes change… and with change comes the hope that things will get better.  An English poet coined the phrase, “hope springs eternal”.  Most of us harbor the hope that things will get better in our society, our lives, for our families.

Hope may spring eternal but it seems a long time coming where I live. Driving through my south Minneapolis neighborhood these days is a bitter experience… I see the rubble of burned and demolished buildings, all covered in snow.  I pass by vacant lots once occupied by stores and businesses I used to frequent. The signs of winter, ice and snow, gives things a peaceful prospect… but they serve to remind me how much time has passed since our neighborhoods were in turmoil, and little restoration has been done.  I recall the injustice, and the anger it provoked. I remember the protest, and those who exploited it to foment anarchy and fear.  One block away from my house I pass the makeshift memorial one family made to mark the violent passing of their teenage son to a street gun battle, a lasting image before I turn down the alley to pull into my driveway.  I hope for things to get better but reminders of the injustices which face the poor surround me.

The physical manifestations are the least of it. 2020 is over but its vestiges linger. Covid 19 vaccines, a change in government leadership, vows of police accountability, the dampening of street activity by the onset of winter (not much!)… so much promise but no real change yet.  We still hear gunshots at night here in the dead of winter. White people are allowed to wreak havoc in our nation’s capitol with no fear of punishment or reprisal while young Black men continue to be shot down by police for the slightest provocation. This is America.  It doesn’t seem as if things will change at all, but maybe I’m looking in the wrong place.

“I lift up my eyes to the mountains… where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth.” Psalm 1.1-2

I’ve just completed a book on the trials facing young Black men growing up in the city (Not Forsaken, available in March).  Its premise is that young Black men must look beyond themselves and beyond this world to find vindication and deliverance.  And then use that Power to overcome the world and their circumstances.  They must look to Christ and be subsumed by His life in order to be who they really are.  This is true for each of us, no matter the gender, ethnicity or income level… but especially relevant for those who have nothing in this world. It is a spiritual principle that the less you are invested in this world, the more you are open to Christ.

So we lift up our eyes to the Lord, from whom our deliverance, our Hope, comes. And it may come soon or it may take awhile, but it will come. And while we are waiting, Jesus is right here with us. He empowers us to keep on keepin’ on, to overcome!  We hold on to God’s promise in Psalm 30.5, that weeping may linger for the night, but joy comes in the morning .

Christmas 2020

I went to see Omar this week.  I hadn’t seen him in a few weeks. He and the other boys call often and ask, “Chris, when are you gonna come get us?”, and I can only reply, “Not for awhile, I’m not trying to have y’all catch the coronavirus.” I try to get around to see all of our core kids every couple of weeks but I’m not always able to get to all of them. A visit these days consist of a fifteen to twenty minute drop by… If weather permits we can go to the park or do something outside for longer. We’ll shoot baskets, toss the football, or just lean against the car and talk. We wear masks and stay six feet apart. We get a lot of visiting done though, and I feel like I’m able to let them know somebody cares about what they are going through, that God cares… Immanuel.

A lot had happened in Omar’s life since the last time I’d seen him.  His family had moved.  They had been living with relatives for a long time but his mom had gotten them an apartment in a different neighborhood.  Not that different though, he still hears gunshots every night. Another boy I know lived nearby and he came over when he heard I was there.  I had brought some McDonald’s for them and they ate on a bench in the courtyard. I also brought some treats for Omar to share with his younger brothers and sisters.

Omar was doing terrible with online school.  He had just started the ninth grade and completed his first quarter.  I was alarmed to discover he had no credits because all of his classes were incompletes. “Don’t you do your work?” I asked him.  He said yes, when he was online but not the out of class assignments.  I said, “You mean your homework? You gotta do your homework man!” He shrugged… “Once school is offline I just play video games.”  “Dude, you’re going to get way behind!” Again the shrug, like he didn’t care, there’s just no motivation.  Single parent mom is at work all day, struggling to make ends meet and provide basic needs for food and shelter… with no energy or time to provide the parental oversight online schooling requires for students like Omar. This pandemic is taking a serious toll on our families, apart from the obvious health risks. They are being pushed deeper and deeper into an already depressed condition both socially and economically…Immanuel.

Most or our kids and families are experiencing the same thing, drifting along, just trying to keep their heads above water. The one good thing happening now is that our kids are staying inside for the most part. I spoke with another boy a couple days later… I asked him if he’s staying out of trouble… “Oh yeah, I stay in the house.  Last week there was a shooting on that block, a couple weeks ago a boy got shot over there, then last night someone got shot in my alley.  I don’t dare leave the house”… Immanuel.

It’s hard not to get overwhelmed and discouraged for our kids. But they seem really encouraged when they see me or Lisa or when we bring food boxes. Our families are really gonna miss our annual Christmas party this year.  We are too! Lisa has thought of a way to bring the Christmas party to people’s houses. We will make holiday baskets to distribute, or people can pick them up, which include special treats and gifts reminiscent of our Christmas gathering.  We’ll bring some Christmas.

We try to bring Christmas when trouble arrives and people call on us for whatever they need.  We try to bring Christmas in our phone calls, texts and social media posts and messages.  We try to bring Christmas in backdoor visits at our house, meeting on the street corner or on their front steps.  We’ll celebrate Christmas with them, and they’ll know Jesus has come…Immanuel, God with us.

October 2020

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.

August 2020

One day recently I was in the backyard working and I heard a series of loud bangs. For the months of June and July such noises were quite frequent as people around us were shooting fireworks off in the street; but this was not fireworks, these were gunshots… ominous, threatening, and close by.  If you live here you learn quite quickly to tell the difference. Lisa came out of the house and gave me a worried look… the unspoken question lingering… was it someone we know?  We instantly do a roll call so we know where our sons are. When I hear gunshots I send up an instant prayer for whoever’s involved.  We heard sirens and not long after a police helicopter was circling our neighborhood. Rumors came to us that someone was shot at a nearby bus stop and the perpetrator was loose and nearby, hiding from the police. As it turned out a 17 yr. old boy had been shot and killed by another teenager outside a corner store less than a block away.

Our neighborhood has been in a state of heightened sensitivity since the George Floyd killing.   Angry rioting and destruction, weeks of loud, but peaceful protests, and now an escalation of street violence to unprecedented levels.  Almost every night there has been a shooting in the north and south side neighborhoods of urban Minneapolis. How can we live with this?  Ironically one becomes inured to the frequent violence surrounding us, at least I have. I am by no means comfortable with it, but over the years I have developed a measure of professional detachment, at least until I discover that it involves someone we know. This shooting was different.  It was so close to our house, at a corner store that my children and I frequent. Lisa and I pass it quite often when we go for walks. The victim was a Latino youth, a stranger to me; but not a stranger.  I didn’t know him, but I knew him.  I have young friends just like him. How did this happen? Why did it happen? We may never know.

There have always been challenges to living here, and this summer it’s been very difficult; but we do it out of love and obedience.  Love for Christ first, and then our neighbors; and obedience to God’s call on our lives.  It means something to be here. In small, yet significant ways God uses us to spread the aroma of the knowledge of Christ in our often troubled community during this tumultuous summer.  “For we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing” (2 Cor. 2.15).  And we are not equal to this task, but we know God is.  There is something good in this ‘hood. Even in the miasma of the failings of human society and institutions God’s presence shines forth.

A memorial shrine of a few flowers has popped up at the site of this boy’s murder. Lisa and I saw at on our way home the day after the shooting and returned to bring flowers and pay our respects.  A group of people had gathered, we didn’t want to intrude. As we lay our flowers down two men approached me. One told me that he was the boys’ father, and thanked us for coming. We shed tears and grieved with this mourning parent as we extended blessing and comfort to him. Although we did not speak the same language there was no barrier between us. We came bearing flowers, we came bearing Christ.

July 2020

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.

June 2020

Tuesday, May 26 Noon

I never have any words….never know what to say. Yesterday evening while I worked in my garden, two blocks away, the life of a Black man was being smothered out by a policeman’s knee on his neck. If you are not angry, if you are not outraged, if you are not sick, if you are not heartbroken, you are not paying attention. If you are not seeking and asking what your own contribution can be towards the promotion of equity and justice and opportunity in our city and state and nation and world for Black men and all marginalized persons, you are promoting the status quo. Please join me as I grieve with another mother who has to mourn a senseless and brutal loss, as I am angry and outraged at a system that allows police inhumanity to continue and as I pray to ask God what my part is in working for justice and love in this broken world of ours. Let’s pray and act.

Sunday morning May 31

Thank you for your prayers, we are fine here this morning except for the fact that I am clearly too old to be staying up all night!!!

It was a much more quiet night than the previous, but lest anyone think our local officials were alarmist I want to say that stuff was going on here in south Minneapolis night, there’s just no way for us to know the true level of danger. 

As we watched and prayed last night there were some things not uncommon in our neighborhood, lots of fireworks type bangs and a couple of nearby gunshots. We have now become accustomed to the presence of the helicopters over us. And even with the curfew, many cars were speeding up our street and some through our alley last night.

Then there were things we don’t usually see, white men in matching black hoodies running down our street, men in grey hoodies and helmets riding mopeds down our alley, a truck with white men with faces covered riding on the truck bed speeding by… a caravan of passenger vans speeding down our street going the wrong way. Quite a number of cars were driving the wrong way on both our adjacent one way streets last night. Friends in other neighborhoods report similar odd goings-on.  I hollered and yelled and scared off a white man in a grey hoodie moving amongst the cars in my neighbor’s driveway at 2am.

I say all of this to let you know that we appreciate your prayers- please continue to pray for us, for our people, our neighbors, for justice and change, for healing and recovery in our city and for the trauma that this week and so many other moments like it in our nation’s history has wrought upon the hearts and minds of Black Americans.

June 4 Thursday morning

Thank you to all who have reached out to see how we’re doing, who have offered to help, who have donated to support our ministry to families here in these difficult days. Because I haven’t slept well, I took a walk this morning in hopes of getting my body back to normal. I walked to the site of George Floyd’s killing….even at 9 am it’s filled with people, tents of 20 or more news cameras poised everywhere to catch the activity. The traffic is so thick around our house we have had a hard time getting in and out of here sometimes. It seems the whole world has now come to our little corner of the world. 

We want to let you know we are here. We are weary and a little frazzled at times. (For those who know us, you know that means me, not Chris!!)

But, We are fine. And we will be here, as we have been for the past 31 years, doing what we have always done. Checking in with all our people. Seeing who needs things and making sure they get them. Comforting, counseling, encouraging, supporting, loving Black boys and their families. Promoting and encouraging their health, development, minds, hearts and souls as they become strong men. 

When the cameras go away, when all the ills of racism and poverty are no longer on the forefront of America’s mind, we will be here. Loving God. Loving our neighbor. Lifting up the name of Jesus and giving ourselves to the work that God has put before us, this lifetime call of supporting young men and their families and building Christian community here in Minneapolis. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

May 2020

Y’all may be wondering how the pandemic is affecting our ministry and this community.  Lisa goes shopping and we deliver food to families weekly.  We go to the designated school sites and pick up boxes of school lunches and breakfasts for our kids and take them to their homes.  The public school’s response in this crisis has been terrific, but even though food is made available it is not always getting to the people who need it. The food drop-off operates for just a few hours in the middle of each day, at different sites, and many people are working during these hours.  If you are a single parent you may not have the time, or transportation, or someone to pick up food for your children.  There are families who are not getting food for a variety of personal reasons.  We try to step in the gap for them.  It’s the same with the online learning with school. The schools have made computers available to families for the children; but it involved a process that some of our families did not respond to, resulting in many of our kids not having computers and not doing school work.  We have a couple of generous donors who made it possible for us to procure computers for our kids who needed them.  A large part of our work during this crisis has been to get resources into the homes that need them.

In spite of the restrictions and crisis we all face as a society, the ongoing dysfunctional crises of our community has not slowed down at all.  We see drug dealing and prostitution in the same places and there have been several shootings.  Street violence has not taken a sabbatical during this time.  I see in the news how this pandemic has been affecting low income areas disproportionately in our inner cities.  The lack of access to healthcare and the effect of limited income on basic needs apply here as well.  We’ve had a couple of young men become ill as a result of working at their essential worker jobs but they seem to be recovering.

At times I feel like there’s not a lot we can do right now. I miss the quality time I’d spend with the teen boys multiple times a week picking them up for practice and going to tournaments.  I have a fresh core group of ten -year olds that I was bringing along, cultivating friendships and a group identity.  We have not met for church for six weeks and I worry about our parishioners’ spiritual development. Our ministry is relationship intensive and just doesn’t translate well to Facebook and Instagram and online church services.  I even miss my rough group of fifth graders at school… it’s taken me most of the year to earn their trust. I pray for all of them constantly.

We have one student who is on the brink of acceptance to college with a full scholarship included. His senior year has been turned upside down.  Just before this crisis he was coming to the end of a long struggle in court because of a momentary bad choice he made.  He is going through that, as well as not experiencing his senior year with his friends.   But not alone… we encourage and support him and he is moving in the right direction. Another young man was doing well in his college prep high school courses but due to the online learning transition and his family’s lack of resources he fell significantly behind.  We were able to get him a computer as well as teleconference with his school principal and teachers to get him back on the right track. When I visit my young guys… my middle school basketball players, they are always surprised when I show up with boxes of food for them and their siblings.  Before the crisis I couldn’t get them to sit still for a serious talk for five minutes but now they are reluctant to let our curbside visits come to an end.  Last week while we were delivering food we had a mother break down in tears as she shared her burden and stress with us… caring for a house full of children at a time when she cannot work. We prayed with her before we left and she was encouraged, knowing that God is indeed with her.  Another family was about to be evicted; would surely be on the streets now with her young children if we were not able to help her with the resources you provide.

So there is a lot we can do.  We can usher God’s presence into the lives of our troubled parishioners. I try to remember what Lisa told me when this all began and I doubted the efficacy of these small offerings. “Chris, when they see you they are reminded of Jesus”.  That’s what drives us.  Through your support we are able to spread the “fragrance of Christ” (2 Cor. 2.14), so that they might know that God is with them.   Thank you for your support and prayers.