Tag Archives: youth

The Insanity Continues and More Dead Bodies

In December, I wrote a post titled “Stop the Insanity” in which I shared a story of how one of our elderly community members was attacked, beaten and robbed and how no one came to her aid.  This week another disturbing encounter took place between another one of our elderly community members and the youth of Fairfield Court.

Our friend, whom we will call Mrs. B, was on her way to our community gathering when she tripped and fell.  Mrs. B is a large woman who is dependent on her cane to walk.  When she fell, she cried out for help, but no one came.  Mrs. B saw a group of youth standing close by and called out to them.  Rather than come to her aid, these young people began laughing at her and calling her names.  She realized that she was on her own, and began struggling to make her way to her feet, repeatedly falling which only caused the youth to laugh louder.  After about fifteen minutes of struggling, Mrs. B was finally able to get to her feet, find her cane and continue on her way.  However, the echoes of the laughter continued to torment her.

When Mrs. B arrived at our gathering, she burst into tears.  She shared how she had fallen and we all assumed she had been injured.  However, as she retold the story we realized that it was her pride that had been bruised.  The youth had not beaten her like our friend several months back, but their laughter had humiliated her and only further caused her to distrust and fear the youth of her community.  I wondered several months ago how anyone could be so cruel as to beat an elderly woman and I realized as she shared her story, that perpetrators of violence often start off with small acts of cruelty that only grows more intense over time as they dehumanize their victims.

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Filed under Stories from the Street, Urban Ministry

Empowering Youth through Mission

youth painting

For the past two months we have been doing home visitation with more than a dozen formerly homeless families all of whom live in Richmond public housing.  As we walk through these neighborhoods, I am always astounded by the number of children playing outside in the barren front yards littered with trash and broken glass, the gatherings of teens hanging out behind the buildings, and the number of adults sitting on the front stoops.  We come in contact with literally hundreds of people as we walk these communities.

The contrast to my own suburban community is stark.  Our yards are lush and green, we have nice safe hiking and biking trails that run around a lake with more than a dozen playgrounds.  However, I rarely see more than a handful of children outside and it is even rarer to see adults.  Our children are huddled inside in the air conditioning playing video games, texting their friends, posting on facebook, participating in organized sports, or listening to their IPods.   

The youth in the inner city lack constructive activities, the youth in the burbs are over scheduled, the youth in the projects lack opportunities, the youth in the burbs lack perspective, the youth in the hood lack material goods, the youth in the burbs are obsessed with consumerism and materialism.  However, both have the same needs; a sense of purpose.

In the book “Reclaiming Youth at Risk; Our Hope for the Future” by Brendtro, Brokenleg, and Van Bockem emphasize the dangers of this loss of purpose.

“Poor black youth who shoot up drugs on street corners and the rich white youths who do the same thing in their mansions share a common disconnectedness from any hope or purpose”  Marian Wright Edelman, Children’s Defense Fund

“More and more people today have the means to live but no meaning to their existence.  Young people cannot develop a sense of their own value unless they have opportunities to be of value to others. “

“German educator Kurt Hahn described modern youth as suffering from the “misery of unimportance.””

“Deprived of opportunities for genuine productivity, lured into consumptive roles, young people come to believe that their lives make little difference in the world.”

“There are many calls for a return to the spirit of service among contemporary youth to counter the attitude of “looking out for number one”. “

This summer we will be putting the ideas discussed in this book into practice as we bring together urban and suburban youth around the shared mission of being a blessing to their community.   

If you feel called to this mission of empowering urban and suburban youth, please contact me at wendy@embracerichmond.org. 

If you want to know more about the book “Reclaiming Youth at Risk” we will be discussing it  in more detail at www.unity-works.org.  Please  get a copy and join the conversation.

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What If…

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What if every impoverished child living in Richmond experienced true, authentic, unconditional love?   

What if every Christ Follower actually loved like Christ and was willing to follow Christ into the margins of society in order to see Christ in the faces of the least, the lost and the forgotten?

What if the Body of Christ stopped casting stones at one another but instead united to break the bonds of generational poverty by truly becoming the hands and feet of Christ in the world?

These are the questions that came to my mind when one of the speakers from the Exponential Conference challenged us with this question “What if God really could do what God did in the New Testament?”  He then asked us to formulate “What if Questions” that reflected the heart of our ministry call.

At the heart of Embrace is a desire to help individuals escape from poverty.  As I have had the opportunity to hear the stories of dozens of homeless men and women over the years, I have found an alarming pattern.  Many of those who are trapped in homelessness are there due to wounds suffered as children.  While this is not always the case, I have seen this pattern more times than I care to count.  Those who suffer from these scars are among the hardest individuals to work with because many have never experienced unconditional love and often do not believe they are even worthy of this kind of love.  So the question I most want an answer to is “What if every child in Richmond experienced true, authentic, unconditional love?”  Would it make a difference?  Would it break the cycle of poverty?

You may be thinking to yourself, “How could this ever happen?”  That leads to my second question “What if every Christ Follower actually loved like Christ and was willing to follow Christ into the margins of society?”  If those of us who profess to be Christians actually did what Christ did and spent time with those impacted by poverty; we would come to know the children and the Christ spirit that dwells in us would empower us to develop real, authentic relationship with these children which over time; would allow every child to know they are loved.

I know that these children are still going to be wounded but my belief is that once they know they are lovable; they will be able to heal without the magnitude of long term damage I currently see.  I do not want to give up on the adults, we need to continue to work toward healing but I think the church can have the greatest impact in the area of prevention.

So what does this look like?  I honestly do not know.  I am just starting to ask the question.  What I do know is that it must be relational, not program or event driven.   I do know that there are others like the Micah Initiative and Youth Life Foundation who have come to the same conclusion; if we want to break the cycle of poverty we much invest in the children. 

In a recent Unity Works session one of the participants said “I really want to minister with my family.  Are there any opportunities for families to do ongoing relational ministry with families in transition?”  Sadly my answer was “not right now”.  However, as with all things Embrace, all it takes is one dreamer.  Please join us in asking some new questions and in dreaming some new dreams.  If you are aware of ministry opportunities that engage families in ministering together in relational ways, please let me know.

So what would the world look like if God really could do all the things God did in the New Testament? 

Jesus said “I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.”  John 14:12

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