December 2021

A conversation at our basketball tournament last weekend:

So y’all we’re gonna take a minute here before lunch and talk about Christmas.  I know y’all are excited for the holidays…

“Yeah, no school! But we don’t really celebrate Christmas…”

You look around during the Christmas season and it’s all about Santa Claus and presents and Christmas trees and such… and that’s fine, but I want to remind y’all of what Christmas is really about. Do y’all know?

“Jesus died?” “Church?” “Jesus’ birthday?”

Yep! Jesus’ birthday!  So there was a teenage girl named Mary and she was engaged to be married to her boyfriend Joseph. You know among Mary and Joseph’s people the custom was for families to arrange marriages for their children at a young age.  Like if you were six years old and your mom and dad had arranged for you to be married to the little girl down the street when y’all grew up.

“What?! That’s not right!”

So anyway, Mary was a good girl and religious and everybody liked her. And Joseph was a straight up guy and everybody respected him.  Everybody thought they were a cute couple and would make a great family. But one day… people noticed a swelling in Mary’s belly. They said “Oooh Mary, what chu been doing?” And sure enough, Mary was pregnant!  Everybody was talking about it. Mary and Joseph were good, religious people, how could they let this happen?

“What’s the big deal? It happens a lot.”

Well, it turns out it’s not Joseph’s baby! Joseph said, “Nu ‘uh, that baby ain’t none a mine!  So Mary was in real bad shape. She was a young girl pregnant and not married. Like some of our mommas…

“She was a teen mom?” “My mom had me when she was fifteen.”

Yes. Everybody thought Mary had been bad… but what had happened was one night an angel came to visit her. He was a bright shining light and the Angel said, ‘Sup Mary! Girl you are so lucky! God is with you baby! He has chosen you out of all the women in the world to do a great miracle. You are going to have a baby and it’s going to be God’s Son! He’s going to be large and in charge forever.  You’re going to be the GOAT of women!

“So wait… God was Jesus’ dad?”

Yeah, it was hard for Mary to understand too. She was like, “Uh… I don’t understand how this could happen. I’m a good girl and I ain’t been with nobody!” And the angel said “God’s going to do a miracle and even though you haven’t had sex with anybody you will have a baby. The baby will be the Son of God.” And Mary said, ‘It sounds scary but I trust you. If you say that’s how it’s gonna be, then ok.”

So, Mary was walking around pregnant and everyone was talking about her. People were shaking their heads and saying, “Mm-mm-mm… what a shame.” Joseph’s heart was broken ‘cause he really loved her.  He decided he didn’t want to front and embarrass her publicly so he was going to quietly break the engagement.  But that night he had a dream…

“Man, I would’ve left her.”  “Ain’t no girl gonna cheat on me!”

In his dream, the angel came to Joseph and told him what was up. The angel said the child came from God and that Mary had been faithful to Joseph.  God wanted Joseph to be the child’s earthly daddy and raise him.  His name was going to be Immanuel, which means “God with us”.  He will save people from their sins and bring them back to God.  Joseph was excited. He even picked out the baby’s nickname, “Man-Man”.

“Just like my cousin!’

Joseph went to Mary the next day and hugged her and said, Guess what? I had a dream last night and God told me everything. We’re gonna be married and raise this baby together! And Mary was so happy, she cried.

So, they got married and everything was cool. But then the Emperor (like the president of the whole world) decided to count everybody so he could get more taxes from the people, and everybody had to go to their family’s home town. If it was me, I’d go back to Texas. Where’s y’all’s families from?

“I’m from Chicago!” “We’re from Louisiana.” “I was born in Minneapolis.”

Joseph had to go to a little town called Bethlehem, way out in the desert and a long ways from Nazareth. And there weren’t any cars, trains, planes or buses back then. People traveled in groups called caravans, on a donkey if they were lucky.  They had to walk long distances in the hot sun, and be careful to have enough water. Remember, Mary was close to her time of giving birth, so it would be a long and uncomfortable trip for her.

So, they made the trip, I don’t know how long it took, and when they got there

Bethlehem was packed with people from out of town! For a little town a lot of people were from there.  Joseph tried and tried but he couldn’t find a place to stay.  Every hotel or inn was full with no space.  He was like, “Please help us my wife is pregnant and about to have a child.” But people were like, “No room homie!”


So, you know what they did? They camped out in the street like those people you see down on Bloomington and 26th St.

“Mary and Joseph were homeless?!”

Yeah, for a minute. I know some of y’all have been at the shelter at one time or another.  Everybody needs help sometime.

Anyway, one of the maids from a hotel saw them and told them to go around back to the alley and she’d put them in the stable with the animals.  It was kind of smelly, but they could stay dry and warm. Joseph was like “Bet!”

So that night in the stable, in the middle of the night, Jesus was born.  There was no doctor, no hospital, no nurse, no nothin’.

“But how did the baby come?”

Well, you gotta ask your momma about that…

At that time, out in the fields, the shepherds were watching their sheep. Shepherds were gangsta back in the day. It was a lonely job out there with the sheep but shepherds were tough.  They had to protect the sheep from wolves, lions, and coyotes. So it was lonely, and it was quiet; but then…  “HALLELUJAH!”

Suddenly the sky was filled with angels up in the sky… people with wings flying around and singing and having a party!  They were hollering, “Joy to the world! God is the greatest! Peace! Peace to everybody!  Peace and goodwill! Peace, love and joy to all!” The shepherds were freaked out! They were running around, bumping into each other, trying to calm the sheep, thinking they were going crazy having hallucinations…

But the angels said, “Hey y’all! Did you know that at this very moment, in the city of David, right over the hill there, is born the King of kings and the Lord of lords?!  The Savior of all people! Y’all should go see! Just go over this hill and when you get to the bottom turn left and you’ll come to a stable behind a big hotel.  Go in and you’ll see a baby lying in a feeding trough, wrapped up in some old towels. That’s the guy!” And then they disappeared.

In the sudden quiet the shepherds looked at each other and whispered… “You saw that right?” They agreed that they were not going crazy and decided to go see what all the fuss was about.

They went over the hill and turned left at the bottom and came to the stable and they found the baby Jesus just as the angels said. They told Mary and Joseph all that had happened. And they looked at baby Jesus and thought, “This baby is gonna change the world? This little baby is gonna be all that?” And they knew it was true. And they knelt and they worshipped him.

And that’s why we celebrate Christmas. Because God became a human being in the person of Jesus Christ. And Jesus was born to reunite us with God and to save us all from our sins.  And because of Christmas, God is with us… always.

“Oh… can we eat now?”

Merry Christmas!

November 2021(2)

Luke chapter 18 begins with the parable of the persistent widow… or we might call it the parable of the unjust judge… depending on your point of view. A widow oppressed by an adversary goes to court and petitions the judge persistently for justice, but the judge keeps putting her off. Finally, he says he will “see that she gets justice” just to get her off his back. And Jesus uses this parable to teach… what?

That we should always pray and not give up

“And the Lord said, ‘Listen to what the unjust judge says. And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?’ ”  Luke 18.6-8

Two things: One, God has promised justice for the oppressed. It doesn’t always come when we want it to, but He promised it would come.  Waiting for God’s justice to come has been a characteristic of an oppressed people… Witness the Hebrew slaves of the Old Testament, the Jews of the Holocaust, the suffering of the American Indian and immigrants at our borders, and the fate of enslaved Africans and their descendants. It seems like waiting for God’s justice is a necessary prerequisite to the spirituality of the oppressed. Which, as my enslaved ancestors demonstrated, is a more authentic spirituality than that exhibited by oppressors.

But this doesn’t sit well with those of us who are living through oppression.  We want justice and we want it now.  Which brings me to my second point.

Jesus says God will bring justice and He will bring it quickly.  But it just doesn’t seem to come quickly enough to satisfy us here on earth. True and lasting justice requires faith.  Not faith in society, or systems, the goodness of humankind or even our individual selves, but faith in God.  It is only this faith that helps me keep going after experiencing moments like the Rittenhouse verdict.  It reminds me that I can’t expect fairness in this world.  I’ve got to look somewhere else for justice.

God cares about the injustice we suffer now and motivates us to work against it, but He will not reach down and fix things… that is our responsibility.  God has a long game goal… the redemption of all creation.  Many of us feel like if we can get that one guilty verdict, that one acknowledgement of injustice done, then we’ll have turned a corner and things will get better. Well… still waiting.  We have to live for something more.  I felt vindicated when the men who murdered Ahmaud Arbery were found guilty… but does this herald a change in our society towards racist attitudes and unjust systems? I can’t afford to think that way, because the next “thing” is around the corner.

Jesus goes to the crux of the matter: “when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?”  How do we live life every day dealing with oppression, injustice, fear, and hate?  I guess I feel like I have to trust God and do justly, as he requires (Micah 6.8).  Yes, we hunger and thirst for justice, but we need His grace.

So, we should not give up.  As Christians we are to seek justice, but never lose sight of who we serve and the goal of our justice seeking. We should not give up praying for justice, nor working for it… for Justice will surely come.

November 2021

“…and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God, and heal the sick.” Luke 9.2

This is our goal in ministry here.  We respond to Christ’s call to proclaim the kingdom of God by lifting up the name of Jesus, who has declared that, if he is lifted up, he will draw all people to himself (Jn 12.32).

We encounter “the sick” and seek to heal them… people who are sick in heart and sick in spirit.  The violence, the stress, the crime… human trafficking, drugs and gangs… social injustice… the struggle to survive these things is real.  In revealing God to the world Jesus sent his disciples out to proclaim the kingdom of God and heal the sick.  People came from all over the country to be healed by Jesus, and then his by disciples.  And they heard the good news preached. 

We distribute healing in many ways: addressing felt and basic needs, advocacy, counseling and prayer, but the main way God works in this ministry is by befriending people. The impact of relationship on a young person’s life cannot be overly esteemed.

Last week I drove by a construction site here in the neighborhood and someone hollered “Chris, Chris!” I couldn’t see who it was but I waved anyway.  After completing my errand, I came back to see who it was.  It was Junior, a child we befriended thirty years ago. He was active in our ministry as a child, but we’d lost touch as he became an adult. He wanted to tell me about how well he was doing, how God had blessed him and his family, and how much influence we had had on his life.

Jesus gave his disciples the power to heal the sick in order to draw them near to the kingdom of God.  The Lord allows us to cultivate life lasting relationships with young people for the same reason.  I see Junior in the eyes of a young boy I spent time with this week playing basketball who was so obviously thrilled to spend some time with me… he was so starved for attention from a positive black man.  Little things can have a huge impact; an impact of which we may never be aware. God uses that stuff! 

I see Junior in the face of the young man who we’ve known since he was a child who diligently worked hard to be able to go to college and make something of himself despite the long odds of growing up black and male in north Minneapolis.  He writes in his college application essay of how positive influences like ours helped keep him out of the streets. We proclaim the gospel at every opportunity… at church, basketball practice and games, camps, visits, etc.  We comfort the grieving and sad, we encourage the desperate and hopeless, we befriend the lonely and alone… we lift up Jesus at every turn.  Through friendship and presence, through relationship and longevity, and through genuineness and openness.  And we see the kingdom of God arising around us in this place, growing and flourishing.

August 2021

A lot of times I’m close to losing patience with them. They are wild, boisterous, and coarse… especially in a close van. Yet I am drawn to them.  These kids are fun, interesting and engaging.  I’m talking about my new group of players for my elementary age basketball team… cobbled together from families who come to church, mentoring at the elementary school, and younger siblings of older kids in our ministry.  It’s a lot of work to keep them together, but my goal is for them to build friendships and a sense community in Christ.  I know them each from different places, but they all live in the heart of north Minneapolis, and experience the daily trauma of growing up black and male in the inner city. 

Keeping them together is the challenge. The support of community and connection to Christ we try to provide could be the factor which makes a difference in their lives… enabling them to reach adulthood with the capability of living a full and satisfying life.  They each have different groups of friends, different schools, and different homes.  But basketball is the great attraction.  In this neighborhood most all little boys love basketball and want to play on a team, whether they show great aptitude or not. Through the medium of basketball I can bring kids together who would normally never bond. [I’m not even especially partial to basketball, I wish they responded so readily to track and field!]  The boys will gather willingly two and three times a week for practice and games.  They will even submit to timely lectures and “preaching” about life and Christian character.

As they grow older the challenge to keep them together grows greater. Middle school age presents its own unique struggles for neighborhood youth.  Through their peers and environment, they become exposed to gangs, crime, drugs, and promiscuity.  The attraction of basketball is still there but by itself is insufficient to overcome the lure of the ‘hood.  But by now the power of relationship can kick in.  The friendships they’ve built with one another, and their relationship with me.  Said one mom when her child became involved with us… “that’s Pastor Chris, boy! Once you start doing stuff with him, he’s your friend for life!”  A positive relationship with a male adult… a precious commodity among inner city boys.  We typically lose some in the transition to middle school but for the most part I’m able to keep my group intact.  In addition to basketball there are summer camps, trips to Chicago, and I’ve begun to introduce them to church… fun times but more importantly, precious opportunities for them to encounter Christ.

By the time they are high school age we’ve inevitably lost a few more… to the ‘hood, transiency, disinterest; but my core group remains.  The challenge now is to keep them engaged in new ways.  Basketball and fun trips are still available but they require more substantive offerings.  I have to go deeper in relationship.  I have to spend time individually with them and find out what their deep needs are and what motivates them. At this age they begin to realize that life does not hold much promise for them and they begin to give up, to settle for temporary distractions.  I work to instill a vision in them for their future, to put off momentary gratification for future goals.  We encourage them in developing their unique gifts. We do college trips and provide experiences of life outside of the neighborhood.  We offer leadership opportunities and work through jobs and participation in the ministry as junior counselors for the young. I am more intentional now about discipleship and male responsibility. Their peer group relationships which we have established helps to keep them in the fold.  But most often my interactions with them at this age are individual, helping them through family, school and community problems.  High school graduation becomes the brass ring of achievement.  Once they achieve that goal the future horizon opens up with possibilities for gainful employment, trade school or college.  Even then, we anticipate a year or two of maturation before they are on the solid ground of self-sufficiency.

It’s a lifelong process.  But this is our why we are here, to bring them along to the point of adulthood, to a place of self-sufficiency and self-knowledge as children of God.  We are not always successful and often experience heartache, but it is a formula that we have seen work time and time again, by God’s grace.  Child by child, family by family, generation to generation we seek to influence this community, to God’s glory.

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


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


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.


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.


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.


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.

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.