January 2020

Happy New Year everyone! We hope you had a merry Christmas and a happy holiday season.  We hope you have experienced the blessing of Christ and God’s presence this Christmas. We’ve had a blessed Christmas this year.    Our family was all together, as well as our extended ministry family which came together for our annual Christmas service/party.  Yes, our Christmas has been blessed.  It wasn’t always a merry one though.  A number of our people have experienced loss or crisis so that our time together, while meaningful and heartfelt, was not always merry.

In our community we celebrate Christmas with those suffering from chemical addition, homelessness and often street violence… and during this holy season I wonder, what does Christmas mean to those who suffer?

What would Christmas mean to me if I was forcibly separated from my children?

What would Christmas mean to me if I knew that it could well be my last…?

What would Christmas mean to me if I was in bondage to a drug addiction which had completely sapped all emotional and physical strength…?

What would Christmas mean to me if, a loved one lay sick or dying…?

What would Christmas mean to me if my mother had told me that we wouldn’t have Christmas because she had no money?

What would Christmas mean to me if I felt alone and had no real connection to anyone… no sense of community?

What would Christmas mean to me if my life was in danger and people were trying to hurt me?

What would Christmas mean to me if I didn’t have a job, couldn’t pay the rent, didn’t have any food…?

Jesus said “Blessed are you, when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you…” (Matt. 5.11).   That was hard for me to understand for a long time… until I was suffering and persecuted. Then I discovered Christ was right there with me.  Through my suffering and struggle he became more real, more relevant to me.

What would Christmas be like if it was a time of struggle and suffering for me, as it is for many? If we read the Christmas story it was not an easy time for Mary and Joseph… angels and shepherds and wise men notwithstanding.  But it ushered in the time of Emmanuel, God with us, apart from whom I cannot know God. So, I have discovered what Christmas means to me.  This is what we try to share with our friends who are struggling now and all through the year…  Blessed are you! God is with you through the gift of His Son Jesus Christ.  A very real help, a very real Presence, in time of need.

October 2019

Summer is long past us and fall is here.  Although I grew up in the dry southwest climate of El Paso I’ve grown to appreciate the change of seasons here.  But c’mon y’all, six months of winter?!

I do want to take a moment and share our blessed summer with you.  Our camps were wonderful, in that we filled our capacity and were able to bring forty kids out of their stressful environments and into the country to experience new things… from archery and rock climbing to horseback riding and canoeing. My wife and I made sure our kids had a chance to do these activities from a young age so we kinda take it for granted, until we have one of our youth out at camp and they become a totally different person.  The thrill of new challenges and experiences, absent of the fear and stress of sudden and unexpected emotional and physical turmoil in the house or street.  Our kids become different people because they become unguarded.  For just a few days, they become open to new things. They begin to trust people they otherwise would distrust.  Just the simple act of knowing that you will be fed three times a day brings a sense of well-being often not experienced by our kids.

We did our sports camp at Kids Across America, our mentoring camp for black boys in Manhood Camp, and we were able to give our young children and siblings a camping experience at our Family Camp.  Each camp engendered a sense of love and community in Christ.  Kids return home and what do they do with these new experiences of love and community?  Many return to dysfunction and turmoil, but they are all equipped just a little better to deal with their surroundings and challenges, having had the peace of God instilled in their hearts to aid in their resiliency. And they do not return home alone… Lisa and I and our volunteers are present and accessible to them.  We are intentional about maintaining contact on a regular basis through church, outings and celebrations.  Community endures.

So, thank you for your contributions and prayers which allow us to do God’s work in undergirding our children and families with a sense of community in Christ.  The best litmus test I’ve found for its effectiveness is the adults we have in our ministry now who have shared in these experiences as children.  Any gathering is an opportunity to tell old stories and relive shared experiences which lifts hearts and strengthen resolves. We do our summer work now mostly with these adults serving as staff and volunteers.  We were particularly blessed by one young woman who graduated college and landed a good job.  When we celebrated with her she expressed her desire to contribute so that kids could go to camp.  Another young man who is a college graduate took a week of his vacation to help us run one of our camps.  Your contributions and gifts are magnified.

This past summer we celebrated twenty-five years of doing this ministry.  Twenty-five years of loving children, reaching out to families, and effecting change in people’s lives through lifting up Christ.  You have walked with us in this ministry for twenty-five years and we are deeply grateful.  We will continue to serve God in this place, with you, for as long as He wills.  To God be the glory!

August 2019

Violence…  wars and rumors of wars.  Violence in our cities. Violence in my hometown, El Paso, Tx (prayers for y’all!). Violence in my hood… Violence in my backyard.

I respond to insistent knocking at my backdoor, hustling down the stairs from my bedroom where I was reading a book and just on the cusp of falling into a delightful nap. I know it’s one of our kids, otherwise it would have been the doorbell from the front.  I open the door, experience has taught me to be prepared for anything.

“Hey Chris…”  It’s P. , one of our wayward children who just can’t seem to catch a break in life, but he looks more messed up than usual.  “I’ve been shot” he says.  Apparently the night before he was walking down the street near our house with a group of people (we don’t know what he was doing) and shots rang out.  They all ran and after a few steps he realized he’d been hit.  The bullet went through his arm, thankfully not ending his life.  He’d been treated in the hospital and released and our house was the first place he came.  He was obviously still in a state of shock, although he tried to play it off by affecting a street demeanor.  But in the midst of telling me his story he broke down in sobs… crying out to God, “Why does this stuff keep happening to me?!”

P. is one of two of our young men who have been shot this summer. Thankfully neither instance proved fatal. Unfortunately, violence is a part of life here.  You avoid it, you take precautions, but it will pop up anywhere, anytime.  Young black men in the city attract it like a magnet.  You can live your whole life in a way designed to avoid it, then, pow!, it’s right there. But the reality is in these times violence is never far from any of us. And we all begin to get a taste of what it means to grow up black and poor in the city.

I tell our young people at church, it’s gonna get worse before it gets better. Jesus foretold rampant violence in the form of wars and social and family dysfunction right before his return (Matthew 24).  You better make sure you’re living right because Jesus is coming soon.  Our responsibility is to be the people of God and love one another.  We want to be doing His will when he comes back.  We don’t want to be caught out, because Jesus will surprise everyone.  I want to be caught in the act of showing love to others, let God sort out the details.

So, in our corner of the kingdom, we are loving and encouraging P.  We are helping him to get back on his feet physically, emotionally and spiritually. We are offering solace and community in Christ.  We grieve and pray at every episode of violence, near or far.  We teach, we model, we vote. We try to make the world better… but we know this world will end.  We are not part of it, we’re just passing through.  We prepare for the next one and we proclaim with the apostle Paul… “Even so, come Lord Jesus!”  Or, as we say in the ‘hood, “We ready!”

May 2019

I’d like to tell y’all about Joe.

I met Joe because I was looking for kids to fill out my elementary basketball team.  This was two years ago. He was friends with some of the kids on the team and when I came to pick them up one day he was out in the alley playing with them.  I asked his friends about him, then approached him with an invitation to play.  He said he’d like to so I had him introduce me to his mom and after she gave consent I brought him with the other boys to practice.

Joe is not an athletic kid.  He spends most of his time playing video games.  He attends one of the harshest schools in the community.  A kid doesn’t go there unless he is unable to attend anywhere else due to severe behavior and emotional issues.  Joe is bi-racial, a blend of white and black parents  and the kids don’t let him forget it.  He lives with his mom and younger siblings and dad is not in the picture. I don’t know Joe’s whole story, but his past includes abuse and family violence.

Over time I gradually began to get a sense of Joe.  I knew the potential for extreme behavior was there because of where he attended school (that was fine with me, he’d fit right in with the rest of the guys), but he never had any episodes with me.  It was obvious he was a troubled kid.  He was very wary of me but the presence of his friends and other kids reassured him.

Gradually we got to know each other.  He liked what we were doing as a group so he committed to spending time with us and I had a chance to invest time in him.  We had lots of time to observe each other; at practice, on outings like bowling or sports events, or just riding around in the van.  We slowly began to establish a relationship of trust.  He was often hungry when he’d jump in the van.  I knew he began to trust me when he would ask me for something to eat instead of waiting for me to offer it to him (I always keep a box of granola bars in the car). Where initially he was silent around me he began to express his curiosity about me, my family, my work…  That was the first time I told him about the Lord.

Joe seemed perfectly fine with me, but I knew from episodes at school he’d tell me about that violence and turmoil were just under the surface.  He tested me.  We had an incident… a rebellion of sorts which resulted in him and a few others being suspended from the team until I worked it out with their parents and they were ready to apologize. This happens with kids and it is an important time.  They want to see if I’m for real, if my offer of community and friendship is genuine; but they also want to test my standards for behavior.  His response would let me know if he was buying into what I was selling or not.  He decided to apologize and submit to discipline.  Not all of them did.

After several months and having passed this crisis I brought him to camp where he had lots of fun and was again introduced to the gospel.  At camp the kids have an opportunity to invite Christ into their lives but Joe declined.  He said he didn’t understand. Later when I had the boys together I explained the gospel message to them but Joe was not ready to make a commitment to Christ.  When we got back home he continued to stay regularly involved.  Apart from school we were his only activity outside of the home.  As our relationship grew he participated in overnight activities and this winter went on his first trip with us to Wisconsin Dells.  We consistently spent time together a couple of times a week. We had become a fixture in his life.

Over Easter I invited the boys over to dye Easter eggs with me and Lisa.  While we were doing it I explained the Easter story to them.  For some, including Joe, it was the first time hearing it.  I asked the boys if they wanted to join me in inviting Christ into our lives, and they all said yes, except Joe who said no.  I asked the boys if they believed Jesus had risen from the dead.  They all nodded except Joe who said: “I’ll only believe it if I see him right here in front of me.”  I told him that’s exactly what one of the disciples said and told him the story of Thomas.  I then asked the boys to join me in prayer if they wanted to, and Joe bowed his head…

Summer is coming soon and with it our season of camping. As you can see with Joe, the camps we do play a significant role in our ministry and brings a much needed respite to our kid’s lives.  It’s a chance to get out of their neighborhoods and experience nature and do new things.  It’s a singular opportunity for our young people to escape the trauma and stress which surrounds them daily.  We are asking you to give beyond your regular giving, or make a one time gift to enable a child to go to camp this summer.  It costs $300 to send one of our kids to camp.  Any amount helps! Thank you for your gifts of prayer and support!

April 2019

I’ve been thinking a lot about “making it”.  “Making it” I guess means different things to different people.  For the most part “making it” means to achieve a measure of success and prosperity in our culture.  Where we live and work, particularly among young black males, “making it” means to live to an adult age without suffering incarceration, death or drug addiction. There are often young men who are lauded as having “made it” due to being offered a scholarship to a division 1 school to play sports or an opportunity to play professional sports.  That’s good.  We are all proud of the young person whose skill and self-discipline helps him get to that point, but we all acknowledge it is a one in a million shot.  Young men with such opportunities are often recognized with “signing ceremonies” and such, but what about the other 999,999 youth?  I am gratified to see schools that stage celebrations for their student populations who gain college admissions to various post-secondary programs, demonstrating that these are young people who are on their way to self-sufficiency and productivity.

Who are the real “urban heroes”?  The guys who grind it out day by day, working against all odds and overcoming insurmountable obstacles to achieve success in life.  The guys who really shine…who work hard, make good grades, progress on to college or trade school, or acquire good jobs. These are the unsung heroes.  Their path is not glamorous or popular… but it is often dangerous and fraught with peril.  They have to negotiate a path around drugs, crime and gangs; they are compelled to avoid incidental contact with police, and even the appearance of unruly behavior in school or in the community.  The standards of acceptable behavior are set much higher for black males in our society as evidenced by the consequences they receive as compared to their white peers.  It’s hard out there for a young black man trying to make his way in the world.

There are many young men who have grown up in this ministry and who are “making it” today.  We are so proud of them.  They are professionals and laborers and white-collar workers and yes, some are athletes. They have all beaten the odds. Young black men who have grown up in this neighborhood with all of the aforementioned pitfalls and achieved success through high school graduation, then college graduation or some other job training, and are now working good jobs.  I want to give a shout out to our young men graduating and moving forward this year… Victory , TJ, and Jordan. I tell all the boys we work with: The most powerful thing a black man can do to help himself and effect change in this community and society as a whole is to grow to maturity and equip yourself to be a good husband, father or adult who can take care of himself and others.  If you do that you are a raging success.

These are the guys who really shine and are worthy of celebration.  These are the guys who lift up the hopes of a community.  Because young boys see that “if they can do it, I can too”.  And I’m not forgetting the ladies.  We have several “sistahs doing it for themselves” out there, doing what they’re supposed to  achieving success and change (we see you Joi and Keyvee!).

It takes so much effort for just one to make it.  Those of us who have relatively stable lives cannot imagine the energy it takes to overcome, to endure day after day of trauma, incident after incident, moment after moment.  It takes so much emotional, physical and spiritual effort.  Thank God we have a source who is inexhaustible and irrepressible in showing His grace, love and goodwill towards us.  Even our Lord Jesus Christ!

 

February 2019

On Saturdays Lisa asks me who is coming to church so she can be prepared to feed people.  It’s a difficult question because we never know who is going to show up.  We have our regulars, we have a few different groups of boys who I go get for church, we have our young adult men who pop in to see us, we have our families who try to make it; but on any given Sunday we could have a group of five or twenty-five.

Five to ten people is cozy… a small group, relatively easy to feed.  Ten to fifteen is challenging, but lots of fun. When there are more than fifteen it’s a whole different animal.  It’s like when the dwarves came to see Bilbo Baggins! Everyone enjoys the fellowship and community, but Lisa and I are generally running around making sure everyone is comfortable and taken care of.  On any given Sunday anyone can show up… but on any given Sunday if you come to church you will hear and experience the community of Christ, through preaching, fellowship with other Christians, and food for the body as well as the Spirit.

So last Saturday Lisa asks me who is coming to church. We had both had an exhausting day. We had a pipe burst and woke up to a basement flooded with water and spent the day cleaning it up.  Our house guest Jordan and Lisa did most of it because Lisa insisted I go get the boys for our scheduled basketball games instead of forfeiting.  That evening I was feeling too tired to pick anyone up in the morning so it’ll just be the regulars, so I tell her it’ll be a small group.  Lisa says ok, I’ll make such and such and so and so.  Then later in the evening, I think of some boys I hadn’t seen for a while and right before bedtime I tell Lisa it’ll be double the number.  She says, “oh my!” (Lisa talks like that), “well then I can just do this and that, it’ll be alright.”  And then in the morning, one of our young men calls me to let me know he’s coming to church, which is all good.  And then he says, “I’m bringing the other guys…”  Uh oh.  I tell Lisa and she laughs and says…  Well, I’ve got this and I’ve got that and we’ll make it work.

So we had a basement full of people on Sunday.  It was hectic, but it was fun. It was family. I can’t express how much I appreciated Lisa and her gifts of hospitality and service that day, as well as her ability to go with the flow.  In our ministry Lisa uses her gifts for teaching, counseling, and administration in significant ways.  And she conducts her spiritual direction ministry in addition. But when we have a houseful of urban youth and young adults… she shines.  Her gift is such that every single person feels attended, loved, cared for and their hunger sated.  Physically and emotionally as well as spiritually.

You must understand that when people come to church at our house they are hungry.  They are literally hungry, physically.  Our young people are coming from homes where mother rarely cooks.  Breakfast is a little Debbie snack from the corner store. When I get kids for basketball or other activities, they are always hungry.  Not hungry for a snack, they literally haven’t had a meal that day.  Many of them are in single parent homes where mom is working all day.  On a day when there is no school, meals are scarce. Lisa’s meals are probably a bigger inducement for kids and families to come to church than my preaching.  People come to church because they are hungry for fellowship, a place where they can relax, be themselves and have the familiarity and security of family and community.  The boys often tell me that the only time they experience a family meal at the table is at our house. People come to church because they are hungry for the Lord.  They want God in their lives.  They want to be encouraged, prayed for, even admonished… but they want to know God.  By God’s great grace it happens at our house every Sunday.

“Sweet Holy Spirit… grand heavenly dove! Stay right here with us, filling us with your love. And for these blessings, we lift our hearts in prayer. Without a doubt we’ll know, that we have been revived, when we shall leave this place.”

November 2018

I had known Michael for a few years, and had spent a lot of time and effort investing in him. We met when he was in fifth grade. We were just acquaintances then but he started coming to basketball practice with a friend of his. Our relationship grew in the usual manner. We spent lots of time together when I would pick him up for practices and events. He drew disciplinary action because of outbursts in practice, which led to interactions with mom and home.   I felt like I had him hooked. He would come to camp and retreats and discipleship meetings. He invited Christ into his life at one of these events.

Michael was short, much shorter than anyone else on the team and he didn’t like it. It wasn’t so bad though, because his best friend was just as short as he was. He was an oldest brother, with two younger siblings. He was the “man of the house” as there was no father in the picture. The basketball team was his group, his family outside the house. Although he was short, he played a crucial role on the team at shooting guard. He was our best shooter and everyone praised him for it. But after three years, when he was a freshman in high school, he stopped coming around. I went to his house and his mom told me she was having problems with him because he had fallen in with a bad crowd. I found him and talked things through with him and he started coming around again. That lasted for a while and then he stopped. I asked his friends, “What’s going on with Michael?” They just shrugged, said they didn’t know. Finally his best friend told me that Michael had started associating with some gangbangers and he was worried for him.

I asked the boys how that had happened. These guys had been his closest friends. Between them and me and basketball how had he slipped away like that? His best friend told me that Michael had always had a problem with being short and he thought Michael was doing these things to prove that he “wasn’t no punk”. It broke my heart, but nothing any of us could do would bring him back. His mom moved the family out of the city to a nearby small town to try to get him away from trouble. The last thing I heard was that Michael had been arrested for robbery and theft.

Looking back I feel like I did everything I could to keep Michael straight, providing positive relationship, peer group and activities. His mom went to extreme lengths to help him avoid trouble. His friends were loyal to him and challenged him about his choices. But he still slipped away. This is the hardest thing for me in working with young black men in the city. You can do everything you know how to do, but they can still slip away.

Because he lives far away, I have to move on. One got away, but there were eight of his friends that were still with me. They all grew up in the same neighborhood as Michael, struggled with the same dynamics in family, peers and school; but they have evaded the pitfalls that trapped Michael. I mourn for Michael but I have hope for him. I know that his conversion was genuine.   He has slipped away from me but he hasn’t slipped away from God. I know that God will bring him Home.

October 2018

“Coach, I saw a dead body today!”

“My mom’s friend got shot right by the police.”

“I can’t sleep at night…”

“He was right over there and somebody shot him!”

These are all comments I heard from kids this summer… most of them while riding in the van. Offhand comments made as part of casual conversation, about events and occurrences that were anything but casual. Hearing them, I am filled with grief for what the boys must be feeling inside. The statements they make reveal a state of crisis that besets them despite the calm demeanor they exhibit.

It serves as a shocking reminder to me of the close proximity and unexpected nature of violence in our kids’ lives. The potential for violence is always there… at any place and at any time. So whether I’m in a van full of kids on the way to basketball practice or with a group of kids on an outing, at church or visiting at school… I have to be prepared for the off hand comment that bespeaks inner turmoil. And I must be ready to offer condolence, comfort, support or even counseling.

Sometimes people ask me what our biggest need for doing ministry is and I reply that for me, it is to be prepared for these moments. I ask for prayer that I might be diligent to be prayed up so that I might be able to minister in these unexpected moments. I want to be used by God to offer comfort and assurance in these times of fear and vulnerability, to help the kids know that they are safe, they are loved, and that God sees and cares.

Recently when one of the boys was telling about violence he had witnessed, the boys in the van were talking about the need to carry guns. One of them asked me what I would do in that situation: “Wouldn’t you want to have a gun, Coach?” I replied that I wouldn’t carry a gun… I feel like Jesus can protect me better than a gun. Thoughtfully he said, “Oh that’s right Coach! I’m a child of God; I don’t need a gun.”

The blood of Jesus may or may not stop a bullet… I have no doubt it is capable. But it is certainly the only power which may engender a feeling of security, peace and well being in these circumstances.

In spite of the fun, goofy and sometimes raucous nature of our gatherings, in spite of our efforts to instill a sense of community and inner strength and peace, even in spite of the Christian teachings and behavior modeled for them, our kids live in an atmosphere of dehumanizing stress and fear due to random violence beyond their control. We want to bring a spirit of power, love and self-control in these circumstances, that they may experience life as God intends for them… abundant and fulfilling.

August 2018

I was sorting through old files today and came upon this letter I wrote over five years ago. I could have written it yesterday, as we are in that place of waiting for wandering sheep to come home again….so here’s a letter from the end of 2012- it still sums up so well what it means to stay rooted and waiting in the same place so that people may always come home.

*How do you communicate the love of God to those around you?  How do you respond when people make bad choices or make mistakes?  What do you do when kids walk away?  

Every single day, I ask God to help me be a communicator of the love of God in the world.  Lots of times my directions are simple.  God’s mother heart bestows lots of hugs and cooks meals, bakes treats, cheers at games, helps write papers…all actions that say, ”You are important. You are worthwhile.  I do this for you because you matter.”  And hopefully, that love and attention help people begin to notice those things come from the greater Source of all Love.

    But it is so hard when, after days, weeks, months, years of sharing the love found in Christ Jesus and trying to help young people know and experience love and truth themselves, they lose interest, choose other pursuits or spurn the love that is offered by us.  Once in awhile, kids disappear because they have screwed up and they feel ashamed.  That one’s not so hard…who among us can cast the first stone?  A few persistent invitations, a little space, sometimes a clearing of the air or a modeling on apology, forgiveness and reconciliation are often enough to restore our connection.  But, sometimes, the space is real and definitely chosen.  We are often identified with “God stuff” and a decision to separate from us can also signal what is really a choice to head out to see what the world offers instead of a life with God.

    And really, aren’t there lots of grown-ups who have gone the same way?  There is a time of growing in the love of God, but then we hear the call of power, money, influence, sex, success, etc. and we see if we can attain our share of all that and our paying attention to the still, small voice that calls us to our true home gets lost or drowned out.  Sometimes the cares of the world, fear, and what feels like the fight to survive, can choke out the light and life that has come alive in us and we become lost, if even for just a little while.

    There are people both young and old wandering in the wilderness.  The prodigal-wilderness can fill an hour, a day, the time it takes to spend the inheritance or forty years.  But the Father is always home, waiting, watching, in a place so near that we can be there instantly, just ready for the moment that we turn and listen to the voice of love.

    Fear took hold of me today and I spent some moments in the wilderness.  But I have learned through many years and much wrestling, that what is truly Real is always so much bigger than the things that make me afraid and I can return home where I live and move and have my being in Christ, where everything is ok, come what may. My true home is in the heart of Jesus and no place can be better.  So, I understand the wandering and the wilderness and right along with the One who loves them best, I watch and wait and keep the porch light on for my wandering friends, hoping and praying that their time in the wilderness will be of short duration and that they will come on home so we can all have a party and enjoy being fully alive together.

    Please pray that we would have wisdom in signaling the porch light is burning. That is often a much trickier exercise than getting to do straight-out-hands-on loving in Christ.  We appreciate your prayers for our family and ministry.  While costs are ever increasing, our funding is not, but we are trusting that as God calls, God will also provide.  It is the season when we reflect with gratitude upon the persons who have chosen to support us financially in the past year….*

And, God continues to provide and we are grateful for your prayers, gifts and love offered to Christ on our behalf. May God’s peace and joy be yours.

July 2018

Here’s a letter we forgot to post as we prepared to celebrate the graduations of our group of seniors–some of whom we have known since elementary school. It’s been quite a summer and it’s not over yet!

Me: “Hey man, just one month til you graduate!”

E: “Yeah, I can’t believe it.”

That’s how he said it. Not in an exclamatory tone, but with somber reflection. It made me pause, wasn’t he excited about this accomplishment? He went on to say that he never thought he would graduate. Then I realized… He didn’t think he would live this long. Now it was my turn to soberly reflect…

I wasn’t surprised. He had grown up in a violent part of North Minneapolis. His eight year old brother was killed by a stray bullet from gang violence which came through the walls of their house. He was thirteen years old at the time. Ever since then he has struggled with grief, loss, fear and survivor’s guilt.

His mom tried frequently to move them out of that neighborhood but was not able to for a long time. He was afraid to go out of his front door for school or anything. In order for him to participate in activities with us, I’d have to pick him up from his doorstep and drop him off there. If he was dropped off a block from his house he would run til he was home. He would call ahead to have his mom unlock the door so he could rush right in and not have to be waiting outside on the street.

We were so thankful when they were finally able to move out of that neighborhood, but violence seemed to follow him. When he was sixteen he watched his girlfriend’s mom be brutally murdered and was threatened by the perpetrator when he was asked to give his testimony in court. This young man was never involved or associated with gangs, never did drugs or committed crimes. He is a good-hearted person. School has always been a struggle for him due to behavioral and emotional issues stemming from obvious reasons. His experiences are common for many of our youth who grow up here in the city.

On my birthday he sent me this text (slang translation in brackets):

“& frfr [for real, for real] like… Iont know where I would be if I ain’t meet you man you really help me a lot on the low [confidentially] god has blessed you so many ways thanks for showing us a positive way to everything not many men like you to show the youth the right thing to do thanks for the motivation & being hard on us when it’s time to amen it’s a blessing to be in your life 1k [I really mean it!]”

So now he’s about to graduate and he can’t believe it. He has been active in our ministry community since he was a child: playing basketball, coming to church, going to camp… He has found, with our group, community, safety, acceptance and even joy. He’s found identity in Christ and purpose for living. He has plans and hope for the future. He will probably always be afraid, but he knows the perfect Love who casts out all fear.