Something Beautiful

Something Beautiful


Inside a neighborhood in the heart of Brooklyn, Greg and his peers who lived in the housing projects grew up watching groups of people come in with a new initiative, only to see the streets deserted again a few weeks later as they packed up and left.

Greg reflects on the message that sent to him and his fellow kids about people’s investment into their lives: “There is a limit to this.”

The kids who grow up in these neighborhoods are basically given two options if they ever wanted to make it out of these tough places, Greg says.

“If you didn’t fall into either of those boxes – music or sports – then you were left to drugs and gangs,” Greg said. “And even if you were good at music or sports, there was the issue of ‘I may have to resort to drugs or gangs to help my family out.”

Greg pursued music and was one of the few who made it out. Others, like his 25-year-old brother, are serving life sentences for choices they made. Greg still wrestles with the conflict this has created in himself – the question of how do I reach back into the community when I don’t have as much common ground with these kids besides who I used to be?

   

After moving to Florida for a while, Greg has returned to New York City and is now focusing his life on changing the unhealthy norms kids in tough places are facing, starting with volunteering with Youth For Christ.

“I’ve become this really weird bridge of a person between the ministry world and these real-life communities that churches are trying to impact and penetrate,” Greg said. “For some reason, they’re having a little bit of trouble. Sometimes it’s a disconnect in their culture…I don’t think that, at least the neighborhoods I’ve come from, there hasn’t been a healthy relationship between religious institutions and the actual neighborhood.”

His biggest question is how to intersect the lives of these kids, as they are making decisions that will impact the rest of their lives. And how to show them that people will continue to show up in their lives.

Since getting connected to Youth For Christ through Angel, who is one of YFC New York City’s staff members working inside the juvenile facilities through YFC’s Juvenile Justice Ministry, Greg has been helping out in any way he can, from moving furniture for recently-released kids to rallying churches to connect with the ministry. He is now preparing to come alongside Angel in mentoring a 15-year-old kid named Kevin, who is currently locked up after being rearrested in December.

Angel grew up in an opposing housing project in Brooklyn where there is still tension, but he says his and Greg’s mutual love of Christ and impacting young people connected them as adults. Greg has been “all-in,” as Angel puts it.

“Even though he’s just jumped on board, I’ve never met someone who is completely all in from the beginning,” Angel said.

Angel has been working with Kevin for over seven months and got the call about his rearrest on the week of Christmas. This made him realize that Kevin needs more adults in his corner. Angel has told Kevin, “Listen, we’re here regardless. We’re here no matter what. We’re going to continue to do this.”

Both Greg and Angel have seen this thing in the hearts of the young people they encounter. They have this tendency to see how far they can push away caring adults in their lives before they run away because, in their minds, everyone does.

As YFC ministry leaders, they have a commitment to embrace the consistency these kids need to experience so they can learn to trust. This is the heart of YFC – to meet kids wherever they are and with whatever they’ve done with the love of Christ.

“The theme around [the work YFC is doing here in New York City] is, ‘So you got rearrested or you made that mistake again? That is not grounds for me giving up on you…You haven’t done too much,’” Greg said.

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