I remember when you were living at your grandpa’s place, your family was homeless, and you didn’t want to be there because your grandpa was an alcoholic and got violent when he had a little too much to drink. You were angry at our after school program that day and I didn’t know why because you always came in bright and smiling. I stopped to chat with you after, and probably not in the best way, and you shared all the burdens you carried so young. Your family wasn’t getting enough food, and I would later find out there was tension in your parents’ marriage because nobody was working, and money was tight. Your parents were the only married couple of all the families in our program. Broken homes characterized our kids’ lives, fathers leaving when things got hard. I don’t judge. I’ve known what it is like to not have money—but only for a moment. I can’t possibly imagine the years upon years of stress and pain, debilitating one’s pride. You got through it all, all the trauma and pain and things kids should never go through; you got through it better than I ever would have.
I remember you always wanted to lead the bible study, and sometimes I let you. I always tried to correct you—don’t cuss during bible study or call people names or date multiple women, etc.. I didn’t know God had such big things for you in the future. I taught you the bible, we met every day over winter break to dive into the word. You helped me feel like I was accomplishing something here. I was lonely at that time and your family comforted me, considering me to be a brother. You were so eager to learn, and I had told myself a few months before that if any kid wanted to learn the bible then I was going to make the time to teach them—that was, unfortunately, after I had said no to a kid who wanted to learn. Luckily, the kid still wanted to learn after I repented of that sin and I was able to teach him a thing or two.
Just a few years later, you and your brother reached out to ask me to take you to church so I took you guys—I still do, three and a half years later since we first met. I had been having trouble finding people from the church to walk around the neighborhood to do ministry in the simplest way: just meet families, get to know them, and invite them to church. I didn’t realize my answer was in the youth I had begun to mentor. Nobody I invited from the church showed up, except one person and my brother, but 30 kids came to walk around with us to invite neighbors to a prayer night. We walked a mile to the church with two families to pray. My director said people in my community wouldn’t do that, so I just had to prove him wrong.
You walked around with me to invite kids to church, morning after morning. We did it for a bit before we fell off. I’m back on again because you encouraged me, and we are in this for life young man. We went door to door talking to people we knew. We played basketball with some kids before the service. I’ll never forget walking past some of our kids’ places to see the road blocked off with caution tape, cop cars and a van, blood smeared on the street. The policeman asked us to stay being the tape. I told him we were just being nosy. Turns out someone had gotten stabbed the night before, a reactive jolt of anger, every act of violence in this neighborhood is reactive and horrendous. My head had never spun so much in my life. I asked you and you said you wanted to continue walking around. That didn’t deter you from carrying out God’s path. We kept walking.
I don’t know where you’ll be years from now, but I hope you’ll still be following Jesus. You want to dig into the word, invite your friends to church, do well in school, and respect your parents. You follow Jesus at such a young age.
In Care Fresno, we invest in these kids, day in and day out, walking with them through their struggles, helping them with math and reading and mindfulness and recreation, being present, teaching them of the hope they have in Jesus Christ. We hope that they will become followers of God. Many of them have, though I haven’t been counting. The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. I don’t think the workers have to be few.