It has been an amazing journey living in South Phoenix and discovering God’s links to helping individuals and the family become self-sustaining. I enjoy meeting new people and being able to connect the dots with doing community development work. Over the last six month one of my kid’s mom’s has been trying to do community service hours. She had done something that because of not following through became serious. So as usual I get some people who act like they want to get involved and play ‘tag’ with me. So after attempting to help my kid’s mom a few times I had given up on her actually following through.
The challenge with some of this type of work is that the lack of following through impacts not only the individual who has messed up, but also their whole family. This young mom has 8 kids, which half her grandma is raising. So I had already asked the court on two different occasions to grant this mom an extension on doing her hours. Each time before the deadline I would get a frantic plea from this mom to lie about doing her hours. Each time I said NO you got to do the actual work to get credit for the time. This last time I did this she was given a week to follow through or pay a huge fine and go to jail. Now the stakes were higher and she was ready to listen and actually do something. I did something radical and asked her to help her grandma who had been raising her little kids. So she actually gave grandma a break for a week and spent real time with her kids.
Last night when I saw the grandma, a close friend, I got a hug and a nudge for helping facilitate some real action on the young mom’s part. I think back to a few years ago whether I would have ever met Grandma Sarah if I hadn’t painted Mrs. Jefferson’s house and did an outdoor VBS to meet my kids now, Paul aka Bookie.
I had breakfast with a new friend, Pastor Miles. He has been a pastor in South Phoenix for over 30 years. His congregation owns a little church building that isn’t too far from our target/service area. Another Pastor, Pablo, who has become a good friend, is being allowed to use part of this church for his Hispanic Congregation. Pastor Miles has an incredible laugh and heart for serving God and preaching the truth. I had gotten a text from Pastor Pablo that Pastor Miles wanted to meet me. So I waited a few days and after no contact had Pablo get me Pastor Miles cell. I eventually call up and arrange to do a breakfast. We make plans and decide on IHOP.
The Monday morning rolls around and as I pull up I see a couple of older African American gentlemen sitting outside. So I look them in the eye and say, “Pastor Miles?” and get a warm smile and handshake. We all get up and go into side IHOP. It is obvious that theses brothers eat rather often at IHOP. I initially just sit and listen to these brothers banter back and forth or really just jab at each other with light-hearted humor. I am enjoying the laid back side to the conversation and the fact that I sense that I fit right in with these guys.
Eventually they start asking me what I am doing and the logistics. It is obvious that they know a few of the grandmas that I have adopted or I should say have adopted me. I hear Pastor Miles talk about his work a decade ago when he had more youth and numbers in his church to actually do work with teens and families. Now he described his group as aging and now longer able or interested in doing Sunday School or a bus ministry. I rattle off a few of the grandmas and he obviously knows one of them whose grandson is involved but is definitely on the wild side. Jalil is parentless and grandma has been providing a roof over his head for the last 5 years. The unfortunate reality is that this young man doesn’t have anyone really helping him grown up and understand the basics. We continue to joke around a little and I get a sense from these brothers that there have been others before me who have offered to help and acted as if they had all of the answers.
I get a sense from them that they are interested in helping but don’t have the energy to do much. I then take a chance at asking if they know another family who had helped out at the beginning of New City and come to discover that this one mom/grandma/wife turns out to be his sister. I know can see a little bit of her or him in the other. We continue to talk and discover some of the differences between them. They both are very passionate and opinionated individuals that have great gifts but aren’t the easiest to help out with their biases becoming part of the ‘fray’. We do a little bit of Bible tag so he can test me and see that I do know the Word and am not totally arrogant because of my schooling or assumption that by being white I have something on him. I get a dose of reality that he is more interested in my commitment to Christ than whether I’m White, Back, Brown or Red.
As we finish up the breakfast at IHOP I’m pleasantly surprised that he picks up the check and messes with the server to get her to talk about open up. I sense I have made a new friend and want to continue to reach back to learn from him and maybe reconnect with his sister.