Sunday, April 19, 2009

Recommended Reading

Lately I have been reading all the stories and books about the inner-city that I can get my hands on. Not only is it fascinating, but I feel like the more I learn, the better-equipped I will be for ministry with my kiddos.

I've enjoyed all the reading so far. Of course, there are some books I liked better than others, and some which I found more helpful than others.

I thought maybe some of y'all might be interested in learning more about inner-city circumstances, poverty, working with inner-city kids etc. So here's a few suggestions:

Bridges out of Poverty and A Framework for Understanding Poverty (both so helpful and enlightening- but very similar - I would suggest reading one or the other -- probably Bridges)
Rosa Lee
Same Kind of Different As Me (one of my favorite books. of all time.)
Gang Leader for a Day
The Irresistible Revolution (this book changed my life - one of the reasons I landed in inner-city ministry to start with)
Amazing Grace, Savage Inequalities and anything else by Jonathon Kozol
Turning Stones: My Days and Nights with Children at Risk

and I'm currently reading: The Other Side of the River

Any other suggestions? If anyone knows of any books we should read to help us in understanding our kids and carrying out effective ministry, I would love to hear about them!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Why Mentor?

Sure we love our kiddos and want to serve them. But we love camp. And we love tutoring. And we love sidewalk Sunday school. And regular Sunday school. . . So why mentoring? Why are we so passionate about mentoring, and why should YOU be passionate about it too? And why should you want to mentor one of our kiddos?

I could tell you that for every dollar you invest in these kids now, you will save four dollars later on the cost of incarceration and rehabilitation. I could tell you that investing in the kids is making an investment into our city, into our future. I could tell you that mentored kids are nearly 50% less likely to use drugs down the line, are more likely to stay in school, and have increased self-esteem.

Or maybe I should tell you about 8 year old Sincere, whose mom died two years ago, and whose eyes welled up with tears when he whispered to me that he misses her, and that he has no one to talk to. I could tell you about Sincere's little sister, Samaya, whose laugh can literally brighten your entire week. Or I could tell you about Sharonda, who has attitude dripping from her pores. I could tell you about Zack, who is scared of dogs and heights, but who has a grin that blinds you like sun glinting off the wet roads.

Or I could tell you about the women in my own life. Women who took the time to invest pieces of themselves in me. Women who made a difference, who shaped me into the person I am today.

But I'm not going to tell you about any of that. Because here's the only thing that really matters: These kids are precious, valued children of God. And you might be the only person to ever tell them that.

Want to be a mentor or support the mentoring program? Send an email to Adam at

Friday, April 3, 2009

Meet Zack

I want to introduce you to my friend Zack. Like the other kids we work with, Zack lives in low-income housing in Atlanta. His mom is twenty-six years old, and he is twelve. For those of you who are not a math whiz, that makes her fourteen when she became a mom. Still a kid herself, in my estimation. She doesn’t have a job and lives off the money she receives from welfare every month. It’s just her and Zack, and he has never met his father. In these ways, Zack is like the rest of the twelve year olds that we work with. But there is something special about Zack too. He has a rare ability to cheerfully navigate the obstacles that are placed squarely before him. He rarely fights, and he faces each day with a sense of humor and a maturity that is beyond his years. Yet he is also very much a kid. He loves to ride the skateboard he received from a sponsor for Christmas. He loves to get up front and lead dances at Metro Kidz. And he cannot wait to go to camp again this summer. Last summer was his first time attending an over-night summer camp. Not only did he have fun, but he also made the decision to follow Christ. Many times throughout the year, Zack has reminded us that his name is written “in the book” (of life). He knows where he is going after he dies, which is the greatest gift camp could have given him.

Zack continues to emerge as a leader among his friends and at Metro Kidz. He gets up front and leads the group, he knows the rules and the prayer we do every week. He listens to the leaders and rarely gets in fights. He has an attitude of cheerfulness and good humor that we don’t often find among the children we work with. And there’s a light in his eyes, a light which goes beyond normal childish friendliness. Despite his many internal resources, Zack’s external circumstances may very well extinguish that light. Atlanta is moving to shut down many of the housing projects, and Zack’s home is one that will be torn down. Without a job, his mom will not get a voucher for a new place to live. And with the economy the way it is right now, finding a job will be nothing short of impossible for her. So who knows where they will end up in the next year?

God has created Zack for big things, even if it’s just being a leader and positive influence among his friends. His infectious grin and good heart are both an asset and a liability in the neighborhood he lives in. We hope and pray that through ministries like Metro Kidz, through mentors, and through another summer at camp, Zack’s big heart will only continue to grow and allow him to move beyond his circumstances to accomplish great things.

***We love hanging out with Zack! :-) Here's a little snippet of him enjoying himself at our house. Ok maybe he hates out dogs, but it's a source of endless amusement for us at least . . .

Charli and the Kiddos from Becca Stanley on Vimeo.