Archives for posts with tag: youth development

April 22 2015 021Gail and I attend Sunday morning worship at The Salvation Army on 26th Street in East St Louis IL those Sundays we are home in St Louis.  Actually Kirkwood, as we await moving to what will be our home in St Louis city.  That’s another story.  Here’s my story about two Bibles of East St Louis.

A few weeks ago we crossed the Mississippi and joined a very small group for worship.  Several were children.  We got talking about the Bible, looking up passages for our lesson, a free unstructured sort of Bible study.  One girl mentioned that she didn’t have a Bible.  Her name is Maya.  I remembered this.

The next morning I went to the table in my office and took the new Bible I had just received for joining a year-long Salvation Army reading plan.  I picked it up and put it back in its protective sleeve.  A few days later I handed it to my Corps Officer, Lieutenant AJ Zachery.  He delivered it to Maya.

Last week Gail and I were back at East St Louis Corps.  We met with a group of children to prepare them to become Junior Soldiers, entry level for young people into Salvation Army life and service.  That evening Maya was there learning along with the others.

I was standing in the chapel.  Maya walked over and stood in front of me, looking off to the side.  She seemed to be thinking.  ‘Are you the one who gave me a Bible?’  Yes, that was me.  Maya was silent for a few seconds, looking like she was pondering this.

‘Thank you.’  And then she walked off to join the others who were busy being children.  Playing, chattering, teasing each other, asking us all kinds of questions.April 22 2015 032

That’s the first Bible of East St Louis.  Here’s the second.

The day after Maya thanked me I attended an early morning committee meeting of the St Louis Advisory Board.  Advisory Boards, well, advise The Salvation Army. St Louis has an exceptional Board.

Someone on the committee shared a story about a man they know, a friend, who told them that as a young person living in East St Louis he was given a Bible by a Salvation Army Officer, name now forgotten.   That was in 1957.  He still has that Bible.  That simple act of being given a Bible made an impact in his life.  The Bible.

I want to connect these two stories.  In them I believe there is some kind of meaning.

The Tuft of Flowers is a poem by Robert Frost.  He describes one morning coming to a freshly mown field to work.  He discovers that the mower, now gone, left “a tall tuft of flowers beside a brook”:

The mower in the dew had loved them thus,                                                                                                       By leaving them to flourish, not for us,                                                                                                                Nor yet to draw one thought of ours to him,                                                                                                     But from sheer morning gladness at the brim.

Alone in the field, he no longer feels alone.  The flowers left by the mower has created a bond.

“Men work together,” I told him from the heart,                                                                                      “Whether they work together or apart.”

Many of us who work in urban places with very hard conditions, where life is cut down too early, too often … the Bible has meaning, impact.  It especially has impact when it is used as a message, a gift, that someone notices me.

From Psalm 103:

As for mortals, their days are like grass;                                                                                                           they flourish like a flower of the field;                                                                                                                   for the wind passes over it, and it is gone,                                                                                                          and its place knows it no more.

But the steadfast love of the Lord                                                                                                                             is from everlasting to everlasting                                                                                                                            on those who fear him,                                                                                                                                          and his righteousness to children’s children,                                                                                                         to those who keep his covenant                                                                                                                            and remember to do his commandments.



I belong to this group which meets Sunday evenings on Arsenal Street.

through October 10  2013 677We are Salvation Army people from the metro St Louis area meeting to study Countering the Conspiracy to Destroy Black Boys by Jawanza Kunjufu.  Major Gail (photo center) leads us.

The last couple weeks we’ve examined the ‘fourth grade failure syndrome’.  Kunjufu identifies factors that “contribute to the decline in African American boys’ achievement” in school –

  • decline in parental involvement
  • increase in peer pressure
  • decline in nurturance
  • decline in teacher expectations
  • lack of understanding of learning styles
  • lack of male teachers

Is this true?  What can we do in our centers, programs, neighborhoods to provide what is needed to counter this complex of factors?

Tawana Craig’s blog has a good page on Kunjufu.Jawanza Kunjufu

In the St Louis area?  Interested?  You are invited to join us 4:00 – 5:15 PM at the Salvation Army, 2740 Arsenal Street, St Louis MO.

countering the conspiracy

If I were young and I lived in Detroit, I would check out I Am Young Detroit.

I am young Detroit

I Am Young Detroit ” is a social venture that promotes entrepreneurship as a means to combat youth unemployment and boost economic impact in cities. Our mission is to help revitalize American cities by empowering young entrepreneurs to launch businesses, and mobilize citizens everywhere to champion them. We’re starting right here in Detroit.”

Young?  In Detroit?  Check it out.

Friday night.  We drove north on I 94, got off at exit 333, headed east in Wisconsin.

For Racine.

Turned off Washington at Phillips.  We could hear the music.  See the lights.  Watch young people make their way in the streets to dance and hear Cory Cifax.  Bumps INS.  At the Salvation Army Club de Vida.Racine March 8 2013 (1)

We walk in the doors.  The place is so crowded that we can hardly make our way through the hallways.  We turn a corner and see Ryan.  His eyes go big and jaw drops.  We surprised him.  Then a wide smile and a bear hug that lifts me three feet off the floor.

Ryan Read is the youth development coordinator at the Racine Corps.  He has been revitalizing youth programs, and establishing the Salvation Army in the neighborhood as a place for young people.  Racine March 8 2013 (3)

It’s part of Ryan’s youth development work in this underserved community using the 4 Points of Contact.  The 4 Points of Contact is an approach which recognizes the value of leading young people to experience responsibility, community, spark, and depth.  Spiritual depth.  A spark of awareness and growth of talents and strengths.  Becoming a responsibile person.  And community.

Community and spiritual depth were being celebrated.  Cory Cifax (Milwaukee) and Bumps INS (Cleveland) are hip hop artists and Christians.  Both presented good news in their rapid image-rich words.  The couple hundred young people listened, swayed, laughed, prayed.

The small Salvation Army chapel held as much as it could.  Of people.  And of a better alternative than offered to many Racine young people on a Friday night.

It was also good to see Salvation Army people from other towns.  Lieutenant Cherie Mangeri with young people from Sheboygan WI.  And two vans full from Waukegan IL.

Community stretches far.Racine March 8 2013 (6)


“Gov. Pat Quinn’s office has issued layoff notices to nearly 600 workers in the state’s troubled child welfare agency, despite vows to restore funding in an effort to prevent staffing cuts” reports the Chicago Tribune today.  Even so, Governor Quinn expressed his preference to spend money on protecting children rather than keeping more prisons filled.

Filled with non-white men who grew up as vulnerable children.  At risk.  Without an advocate such as DCFS offers when a neighbor, relative, teacher sees trouble and makes that call.

Politics involved, in Illinois?  Possibly.  The state budget crisis play a role?  Without question.

But keep on reminding us, Governor Quinn, and speaking on behalf of our state’s children.

Gail, I and all those who serve in under-served places especially know the value of investing in families and children today. Tomorrow?  Too expensive.  Too tragic.  Too late.

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