At the age of 13, J has already been incarcerated several times and has spent more of his days in reform school than regular school. One of six, J has never met his father, and before his mom met Jesus, she was one of the toughest drug dealers in the west end of Louisville.
A few months ago, by what can only be a result of God’s amazing mercy and grace, J found himself at Scarlet Hope, mandated by his mother who wanted to “keep an eye on him.”
Scarlet Hope’s ministry for teens and preteens, Hope for Kids Two (HFK2), was just starting out when J entered our ministry for the first time. Led by a handful of seminary students, we really didn’t know what we were doing. Our main goal, of course, was to teach the bible to these kids, and show them how much they are loved by God, and how that love can change everything about their lives. But more often than not we found ourselves instead spending most of the night settling arguments, stifling name-calling, and searching for safe and peaceful forms of entertainment.
Surprisingly, J kept coming back to Scarlet Hope. Every week he’d show up, sometimes bringing siblings and cousins, sometimes coming alone. When his mom got a job and stopped being able to come to bible study, J started calling us for a ride so he could still come to HFK2. He is now our most faithful attender, and not only comes to HFK2 on Thursdays, but attends two different church services with volunteers on Sundays. He has a mentor who he meets with every week, although I doubt J knows he’s being mentored. All he knows is that for the first time in his life, there is a man in his life who is showing him what it looks like to be a man who actually respects women and loves God with his whole heart.
While both Hope for Kids and Hope for Kids Two can be extremely exhausting and thankless, our younger kids in Hope for Kids are much easier to discipline and entertain, and they are much more receptive to our love and affection. HFK2 has brought about a very new challenge to the ministry, but it’s also brought about a very real way for God to display His abundant love, strength, and power. We are weekly sobered by the reality that these teens are only a few years, if not only a few months away from making the decision to either finish high school or join a gang. It’s only a matter of time before our precious teenage girls decide whether to get a job at a fast food restaurant or enter the adult entertainment industry “where the real money is.” What an overwhelming opportunity and responsibility the Lord has entrusted to us!
As these young people continue on in their journey, we can stand with confidence that one thing will be dramatically different about their lives. These kids, whether they choose to accept it or not, now know that there was a man, a perfect man, who came to earth to live a life they could never live, and to die a death that would change everything. This means that when J is beat up on the school bus by a gang of kids, or when he’s told that he’s worthless and should have never been born, he now knows that he has a Heavenly Father that loves him so much that he sacrificed His son so that J could have fellowship with him forever.
This is a love that changes everything. This is a love—the only kind of love— that will break generations of sin.
“Now may the Lord’s strength be displayed, just as you have declared: ‘The Lord is slow to anger, abounding in love and forgiving sin and rebellion. Yes he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation.’ In accordance with your great love, forgive the sin of these people, just as you have pardoned them from the time they left Egypt until now.”
The Lord replied, “I have forgiven them, as you asked.” Numbers 14:17-20