Wednesday, December 19, 2001

On days when my work with inner city teens seems to be going absolutely nowhere, when I look up from my work after 1-2 yrs. with some of these guys and struggle to see even a quarter inch of discernible change in the right direction, I'm somewhat comforted by the following story from Eugene F. Rivers III. Rivers is pastor of Azusa Christian Church in Boston, and shares the following exchange that he had with a drug dealer in his neighborhood, when he asked the drug dealer why the church was losing kids while the dealer was walking around like a pied piper.

RIVERS: Man, why did we lose you to the underworld? And why are we losing other kids to you right now?

DEALER: I'm there--you're not! When the kids go to school, I'm there--you're not. When the boy wants somebody older to talk to or feel safe and strong around, I'm there--you're not. I'm there--you're not. I win. You lose.

There are many applications that could be made from this dealer's wisdom, but one that I try to draw some encouragement from is that, in at least a small way, our ministry is present, and we have some kids who are with us. That presence and "withness" is valuable and redemptive, if for no other reason than, the fact that the kids are with us, means they aren't with the dealers. Hopefully, we're helping them to steer clear of a potential shipwreck and at the same time opening up a new world to them. A world where Christ is King, and a cursed world is thawing because of the conquering, victorious work of that King. As best we can, we present in word and deed an alternate narrative to the thug/player/user worldview, a narrative that is the true narrative, of the covenant God leading his people out of Egypt, by the blood of the lamb, and preparing a new city on a new earth for His people, that he might make His dwelling among them. By God's grace, the fact that we are here will hopefully pay dividends and increase His glory by gathering some of His sheep from this city in order that they might become citizens of His city.

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