People often ask me how thing are going with our kids program at the Mission in Philadelphia.
I don’t know how to answer.
It would be simplistic to say, “things are good.”
But a quick answer cannot tell the story.
It really depends on how you look at things.
Some might see the academic struggles and behavioral problems and say that the cup we hold is half empty.
Others might see the kids club, after school program, and new high school night and note that the cup is half filled.
I don’t even look in the cup anymore.
We have seen a lot of great things in the past 4 years with the children. We have some wonderful young people with bright futures.
Still many of our youth are failing to keep up in school, continually disciplined, and are high-risk youth.
We have found that there is no finish line. There is no arrival.
And there is no formula, program, bible study, or motivational speech that reverses the cycle of urban madness.
Simply, if the problems in the kids lives were easily fixed, someone would have done it already.
We have come to see that the solution exists within the problem itself.
We have begun a junior leader program to work with our high school students.
To equip them to lead the next generation.
They will be employed and get paid and have responsibilities.
And their role and impact can go beyond their work with the children.
We are in an unfortunate and remarkable time in the city of Philadelphia as much of the racial mending that has occurred in the last 40 years has moved backyards hitched to 2 words: flash mob.
Teenage black guys and girls have been gathering in public places to hang out in large numbers recently. A social networking phenomenon that comes to a boil when a message is spread to “meet at south st”. With thousands gathering, a few serious fights have broken out and innocent bystanders have been injured.
And the media portrayal has been accurate and nasty.
And simply, many have become afraid of any small gathering of urban youth.
A racial divide has widened.
Our goal is not only to simply keep our young people out of flash mobs, but to bring them together in good things.
Our ‘Junior Leader’ program has been started to enable our teens to do what we cannot do by ourselves.
To lead from within the pack. To have leaders raising their own community flags and asking others to follow.
To simply show that there is a good path available.
We have great hopes with simple applications.
Soccer practice to teach teamwork. Girls breakfasts for unity. Bible study for values. And time together for to share life.
And the hope that our volunteers and kids will come together and that others will know us by our love.
And that slowly change will come.
The road ahead is steep and daunting, but with great efforts will come great rewards.
We have seen many wonderful things in our 4 years together. God has truly blessed and covered us.
Moms are grateful, teachers have noticed, and the kids have a place that they love and feel welcomed.
Still, there is not that finish line ahead and the urban opposition is grave.
I think that when someone asks how things are going, I won’t give the shallow answer of “things are good” but instead, “things are getting better.”
And we pray.- Adam Bruckner