Spent about two hours on one of the most notorious blocks in Christ Church talking to drug dealers and a gang recruiter today. The Lord had impressed upon my heart to go with a kingdom assignment. It's one I used while living in another parish on my Island, and it's called Adopt A Block. After stopping in the supermarket and purchasing a case of drinks (Tiger Malts), I headed straight to the spot. Upon arriving and the guys assessing me to make sure I wasn't carrying or functioning as an undercover cop, we sat down and had a very riveting discussion. I wanted them to explain their version of the crisis we are facing as a country with our youth and violence, and what circumstances provoke their actions on the streets. Obviously, everyone usually sees them as the problem, but what do they see as the problem?
They talked...I listened...they shared...I cried...we embraced.
Besides the recent tremors in the economy, the reality is there is a lot that is going on that is failing our society. From the educational system, missing fathers, the family structure, broken promises and the list goes on. However I'm not here to criticize and call out folk. I believe we are well aware of the problems. Also, who am I to think that God doesn't have people working in the shadows unbeknown to me. Indeed, even when the biblical prophet Elijah thought he was the only man worth his salt according to his occupation, God reminded him they were thousands others that He had preserved and were operative. In analyzing an army, it is most of the times the silent workers and warriors that are most effective. If that is you, I encourage you to continue the good work. We need every hand to the plow, however I really want to share with you some strategy. Back to the story...
As we talked, I asked specifically about the recruiting process, and to make a long story short, conviction from Holy Spirit fell so heavily in that specific area as we discussed the teens who get caught into that system. It was powerful! One of the dealers who confessed to being high on weed when I arrived attested to feeling fully sober to the point where he wanted me to reimburse him for the weed. I had a laugh there. We discussed responsible fathering and providing an equitable future for these young ones. By the end of our conversation, the recruiter and dealers made an agreement with me to send the at risk young men (especially those 18 and under who are often under qualified when leaving school and are prime for gang recruitment), to be mentored by a program being launched in the community so to empower these young men and give them opportunities for better living. We will be having it by our community pavilion for an hour every weekend, a construct that most communities on our island possess. Though not looking to them to be a source for solutions, I will also be meeting with the resident politicians. Reaching out to them, to provoke governmental support in assisting. Those now sitting and those opposing. We cannot sacrifice our youth on the altar of politics and partisanship. We must do better.
I am sharing this strategy because I believe we all can adopt it and make it our own. My father always told me from a boy, "Don't open your mouth to criticize if you don't have a plan of action to realize".... so here goes something of help for you that are tired of the talk and want to make a difference.
First of all:
1. Start where you are and get to know your community. Drive around, take walks, and visit different areas that may be a bit out of your immediate gap or district. My burden for my community came when I started to ride. Going through the community I became aware of different areas and became sensitive to their plight.
2. Adopt a Block. Pray to God for direction on a block in your community to reach out to. Be accountable and make others aware when you settle on a choice, especially your spiritual leadership, close friends or family. It is wise to go with another as well if you're not accustom to the environment.
3. Build relationship and bring something to the table. I bought my guys some drinks to help stimulate relationship and the discussion. They vocalized that this action made them very comfortable and accepting of me.
4. Listen and pray. Resist from offering solutions initially, but have an ear to hear. Approach them as if you were approaching a learned ear. In other words, respect the fact that they can probably educate you a lot. A lot! And please, don't be super spiritual and spooky (e.g I'm a christian so don't cuss around me). They will cuss and smoke. Welcome to the real world! However as relationship grows, actions change. Leave that job to God.
5. Have a plan to help recruit and mentor the youth that are being recruited into these systems. Believe it or not, these drug lords and gun pushers deep down know that what they are doing is wrong, but they see it as survival. If you can see them through the eyes of Christ, speak to their heart and the potential they have in them for good, you can unlock relationship that results in access to these young ones.
6. Get fliers and share in the community. Offer free mentorship and business opportunity for the teens and young adults there. Go to homes and let them know what you're about. Reality is broken homes are everywhere, but God can use you to be a restorer of breaches.
7. Talk to your local community groundsman to get access to the pavilion or use the steps on the outside to host a meeting with the youth you gather. You only need to meet for an hour on a weekend to start the process. Work with who's there.
8. Connect with governmental leaders in your area and discuss available assistance and job opportunity that they may offer. Also, speak with your family and church, utilizing resources that can be offered to help in the process. You don't have to teach every session. Get others on board in their area of gifting. Many of these youth would like the opportunity to develop a trade, get their vehicle license for courier work, or restart school, but don't have the money. Get ready to put your money where you mouth is and offer support. Sponsorships from others you know can also help make a difference by offering an 'adopt a child' program.
9. Hang out and have fun. Not every session needs to revolve around a teaching agenda, though all should be interactive and foster relational building.
10. Be grateful for small successes and keep your heart free of bitterness. Not everyone will understand your burden or even support it, but that doesn't give you the right to feel resentful against others. You may only get one young person to come out, but isn't that one life enough? Your actions may redirect one who would of become a future murderer into a future leader. Stay focused and remember it's a platform for them, not for you.
I will end here, but in October 2017 we are having a conference that will speak to this reality, and offer training in making actions like these happen. You can also inbox me if you need help with building structure around your sessions or you want teaching notes. My copyright is the right to copy. God is not asking us to be supermen, but He is asking us to be selfless. Let's be sober, making an effort for everyone to at least reach one.
by Dwayne Howard