Monthly Archives: November 2012

REAL LIFE: Life in the Third Ward

LIFE IN THE THIRD WARD

Stories from my recent visit with Mike Malkemes at Generation One Ministries whose mission statement is “Dedicated to the physical and spiritual rebuilding of the Third Ward in Houston Texas”.

CHAOTIC LIVES:

Many kids in the third ward live lives filled with constant chaos, where everything is unpredictable, many have a hard time trusting people, and they are exposed to extreme conditions which includes violence, gangs, drugs on a regular basis.

LIVING IN DARKNESS:

If you take third ward kids away from their neighborhood on an excursion (trips to the lake, etc), they loosen up and become kids as they begin to feel safe and let their guard down.

But then on the way home, darkness settles back in.  They tighten up and shut back down because of the chaos they know they are headed back to.  Their defenses kick in.  They become agitated and the walls come back up.  The begin to put on their front to keep everyone at a distance.

RANDOM REGULAR VIOLENCE:

GenOne has 30 elementary aged kids in their school. Within a period of three weeks, almost half of them had an experience where a gunman broke into their house, or cops busted in  looking for an older brother.  Nine such experiences among 30 kids in three weeks.

EXTREME  INSTABILITY:

Mike says, “many times as we help them get their head above water, some kind of chaos explodes back into their lives and knocks them back ten steps.”

Example: A little girl gets dropped off for school at Generation One in the morning.  When school is over, a staff person drives her home only to find out her house has been abandoned. The little girl stands on her porch staring into an emptied out house wondering where her family is.

Fortunately a relative drops by on a bicycle and says your family got evicted and had moved in with relatives over on such and such a street.

SECRET TO REACHING SUCH KIDS:

“LOVE x TIME”

There is NO shortcut.  It takes TIME.
The formula is “love times time leads to trust, which then eventually leads to hope, which eventually leads to receptivity, which eventually leads to transformation.”

It took GenOne 2 years of painting houses and service and pouring love into the community before the first mom trusted them enough to talk to them.
The fruit is starting to show now, as 30 moms drop off their kids at the school each day. And numerous other ministry connections are now being made on a regular basis.

OPPORTUNITY WITHOUT HOPE MEANS NOTHING:

A kid with no hope won’t reach out and grab an opportunity even when you hand it to him on a silver platter.

Example:

You tell a third ward youth, who has been told his entire life that he will always be poor, “Just show up at 9 AM and you have a job and we will pay you”, but when 9AM comes, he doesn’t show up.  He might come at 3 PM. Or he might never come.  Or he might come on another day.

When you dig deeper and ask the right questions you find out why. It’s because he has no hope. No confidence in the job market.  No confidence in his future.

You can even tell him “show up ANY Monday at 9 AM and we will have work for you.” And he will never show up.

Without hope for the future you have no power in the present.

FINANCIAL MISMANAGEMENT:

Some families in the inner city having never been tought how to manage their money and set priorities regularly find themselves getting evicted for not being able to pay the rent.

3RD WARD CHURCHES:

There are dozens of churches in the 3rd Ward who are disconnected from the community. The people who attend the local churches often times live in Katy, Sugar Land, Pearland and other suburban area’s. Having a historical tie to the church they drive in on Sunday morning.

With very few members from the community the churches have very little to do with the kids and families in the 3rd Ward.

EDUCATION:

Inner city school struggle to deal with the complications of educating at risk kids. The way the system is set up at HISD it leaves no time for the trauma the kids experience to be addressed. Many times the kids will go through something at home that will shut them down at school. The way the system is set up there is no flexibility to deal with the issues and the child is left behind.

Education is not highly valued in the community because the schools are not equipped to handle some of the extreme conditions the kids go through.  Therefore many kids who graduate often times are still at an elementary level.

Whether they graduate or dropout, more times than not they are not educated enough to move on to college or in some cases even get a job.

So school is looked at as just a place to send your kid so he doesn’t get in trouble.”

MESSED UP MINDSETS:

Kid says “I don’t ever want to grow up.”  When asked why, kid says “I don’t want to go to jail.”

When asked for the reasoning, kid says, ”Everyone I know who grows up goes to jail.”

Another example: A mom takes a financial budgeting class, understands it completely, but when a dollar comes in, she just gives it away or spends it immediately, gets rid of it. Why? Because her dad abandoned her family when she was little, went and made a bunch of money, dropped off bit of money occasionally and tells them, “Money just brings trouble.  You don’t want to have too much of it.”

She heard it so many times, that now she believes it and acts as if it were true.

The heart always over rules the brain. Even when people are trained and mentally they understand the concepts, the intellect will be overruled by emotions and the heart.

THE GOOD NEWS!:

The good news is that God has placed Generation One and all of their volunteers and partners in the middle of this storm!  There is an answer and there is HOPE!

It comes in the form of a smile from a willing volunteer! God has given us one instruction to follow and that is To Love Them Through the Storm!  Generation One is not there to judge or condemn, but to love them to Jesus!  They are seeing hope come alive and lives transformed.  God transforms communities through the church one heart at a time!

Get involved with this awesome ministry on your own or by joining us at Adventure Sports Ministry when we visit / volunteer, and let’s help love a community to Jesus!

 

REAL LIFE: Life at the Krause Center


ASM STORIES – LIFE AT THE KRAUSE CENTER

Seeds being sown in the lives of the abandoned, neglected, and abused.

“Mr. Graham, are you going to come back?  Can you bring more people?”.  It is the words of two young girls, that are ringing in my ears and tugging at my heart as I leave The Krause Center just now.

But first the story…

As I arrive at the simple-but-professional looking building which is The Krause Center in Katy, TX, I notice the office is staffed with sweet, smiling professional people.

But I can’t help but notice something as Jason, the 29 year old spiritual director, takes me on a tour: that every door we go through is locked. He has a special key that he has to put into a lock on the wall beside each door.  When he turns the key, the locked door opens and we can proceed through.  By the time my visit ended, this place had won my heart, but at first the locks took some getting used to.

As I enter Krause, I know that there are 60 kids between the ages of 12 and 18 held here.  And the locks generate my first twinge of sadness.

As we pause outside the gymnasium, one of the staff, a big burly, smiling, but obviously tired, teddy bear of a man comes out of one of the gym doors where he has been supervising and playing with kids.

Jason senses that he might need a hug and some prayer, and so quickly asks him. The big man readily accepts. After he tells a few stories of the kids and circumstances he’s had to deal with just today, we put a hand on his shoulders, and Jason prays for him fervently asking God to give him renewed strength, and new passion and creativity in dealing with the constant flow of challenges that come from these kids who have been abandoned, neglected, and abused by almost every adult that has been a significant part of their life prior to being at The Krause Center.

After the prayer, the big man is noticeably refreshed, smiling even wider, and appears ready to enter back into the fray.

Seeds being sown…
Impact…
Jesus…

Jason then invites me into the gymnasium where 10 to 20 high school aged youth are playing basketball and hanging out.  A few of them come up to Jason, one by one, and after the standard variety of handshakes, fist bumps, etc., Jason quickly turns the conversation to how-are-they-doing, and what can he be praying for – for them. And then right there in the middle of the gymnasium, Jason prays with each of them.

More seeds being sown…
More impact…
More Jesus.

I’m reminded of James 1:27
“Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.”

The Krause Center holds and houses 60 kids, who have been abandoned, neglected, and abused.  All of them are hurting and have been hurt in tremendous ways that most of us could never imagine.

It is a “lockdown” facility where because of behavioral problems, the kids are not allowed to leave, except in very rare (earned) circumstances.  And even then it’s only a very few kids.

Most of them struggle with extreme loneliness and rejection. Parents have washed their hands of them. Some of them are referred to as “post adopts” because their parents have abandoned them, and then they have been adopted, and then their adoptive parents have abandoned them as well.

They typically stay at Krause for only six months and then are moved back into foster care or other less secure environments if they’re ready.  A small percentage need more help, and end up staying quite a bit longer.

Jason is frustrated by the fact that he only gets to interact with them for around 6 months, because his heart’s desire is to make and grow disciples. And it’s very difficult to do with only a six-month window of exposure to someone.

The rules which govern things here, specifically disallow any ongoing connection with a kid by any staff member after the kid leaves Krause. (Krause is a professional treatment facility, so developing long-term relationships violates certain codes of professional conduct – much like a psychiatrist or counselor doesn’t form long-term relationships with their patients outside of the office visits.)

From a pastoral/biblical perspective, Jason knows that true transformation occurs only in the context of relationships and family. So the very thing that he knows these kids need most – long term love, consistency and relationship – he is not allowed to give them.

As I see this godly frustration in Jason, we pause in the very small and limited playground area which is enclosed by 12 foot fences, and we talk about the goodness of God.

We talk about how we need to measure our daily success, not by what results we see, but by how many seeds we have planted.
We talk about 1 Corinthians 3:6, “I planted, Apollo’s watered, but God was causing the growth.” And we talk about all the separate-yet-critical stages of farming.

We discuss Isaiah 55:11, “It is the same with my word. I send it out, and it always produces fruit. It will accomplish all that I want it to, and will prosper everywhere I send it”.

And we discuss having confidence in the power of God’s words to penetrate hearts even when it seems they’re not listening…

And we talk about the light that he is bringing to this parent-forsaken place. And how empty it would be without this light. John 1:5, “the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it.”

Jason invites me to stay for two short Bible studies that he is doing that evening. He does one in each of the 2 girls units on Thursday nights, and then the boys units on Tuesday nights.

We go into the first girls unit, which is a long hallway with a series of bedrooms on either side of the hallway that each house four girls. The hallway has 4 or 5 monitors (adult staff) sitting in the hallway making sure the girls obey the “quiet time” that is going on for 30 minutes.

We go into the room where the Bible study is being held, and after greetings, Jason gets out his guitar, sings a song called “White Flag” and then does a short Bible study about surrendering ourselves and our issues to Jesus.  He then asks the girls what emotions they’re dealing with tonight.  A few girls respond casually-(not too intensely), with “anger”, “depression”, and two of the girls smile sweetly, and say they are “happy”.  Wow.

Abandoned by everyone important in their lives…, “imprisoned” in a treatment facility…, living in a hallway full of hurting people…, with no freedom to leave… and they say they are “happy”.  What the presence of Jesus does…

Jason prays, and finishes and then we move on to the second girls’ unit, and repeat the same Bible study basically.  But the Holy Spirit takes this group in a little different direction…

Jason asks the group to share how God has blessed them. (I immediately think that is a really risky and foolish question to be asking of kids who have been through what these kids have been through).

But proving my preconceived notions wrong, the kids immediately start answering:
“I get to see my brother soon”.
“God has taking me away from my really bad mom.”
“God made me”.
“God has surrounded me with loving people here.”
“God kept me alive through all my partying and drinking and drugs. My heart stopped twice from alcohol poisoning, but I’m still alive!”
“God has given me all the people here that I’ve gotten to know, and will still get to know here.”

Wow.  I see in action, 1 Thessalonians 5:18
“In everything give thanks, for this is the will of God concerning you.”

And then, in the middle of Jason’s next subtopic (something about heaven and hell), one of the girls interrupts him and says “If there’s heaven, and hell, then what is THIS place where we are living? What is our purpose here?”

Some other girls, after thinking for a moment, respond honestly from the heart (not just giving obligatory Sunday school answers):  ”We’re here to tell others about Him.”

Seeds being sown…
Impact…
Jesus.

As Jason finishes up the Bible study, several of the girls come over and talk to me.  One shows me the picture she’s been drawing that she’s proud of.  It’s a sunset over the ocean… She tells me she wants to be a fashion designer when she grows up… And a foster mom… “all my foster kids are going to have the prettiest clothes cuz I’m going to design them for them.”

They ask me why I came. I stutter and stammer a little, because I’m so moved by what I’ve been experiencing. I tell them something dumb like I work with youth, and I I’m a friend of Jason’s or something.

Then as I’m saying goodbye, they ask a bit fervently, “Mr. Graham, will you come back?”  I say “sure if you will let me.”.  I told them I know some high school kids who may want to come and hang out with them also if they want. They were incredibly excited about that idea…  ”Can you bring them?”…

Wow.
EASY opportunity for:
- Seeds to be sown…
- Impact…
- Jesus.

James 1:27
“Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.”

Matthew 25:40
“Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”