Friday, September 28, 2012

Asking for help is tough!

I have been in a very unusual situation over the last 5 years in watching God raise the funds necessary to help our South Phoenix neighborhoods and be able to ‘love on’ our teens and kids. Anne and I have this discussion often about how she has such a distaste that I have to raise the funds necessary for us to live and see New City – Barrio exist. Obviously this journey is one that has required a faith and trust in God. I know that asking for help has never been the strong suit for most guys, including myself!

As I write this blog my prayer is that God will raise a significant amount of funds that will better enable us to serve our families with their real needs. I know that I talk a lot with our teens about dreaming, praying and then making baby steps to see amazing things happen. I know that I selfishly don’t want my wife to have to work outside of our home and the work she does with New City. This dream can only happen as more individuals, churches and businesses participate in an ongoing fashion.

Let me share a few of our prayerful dreams that we hope God will touch a few to help so our marginalized neighborhood can see real change. One of the great needs in New City is to help older teens, who are on their own have a chance to learn about becoming responsible in life. Last night I had a call from one of our teens that was being kicked out of her house. I can’t go into the details but after her mom’s death, a cousin’s death and now an uncle’s death she and her dad don’t get along. She asked if she could stay with us. I said it would be ok for the weekend. We already have a teen and her mom staying with us. She gave the phone to her dad who said that his daughter needed a permanent place to stay. Wow – I explained that I couldn’t make that commitment without my wife’s input and much prayer.

We have many teens that don’t have dads or homes that need extra help in figuring out life. One of my wives’ dreams is for God to raise up the means to buy a larger house, six bedrooms, on an acre to turn into a New City House. Here we could purposely help a few of our teens learn the basic life skills needed to succeed in life with the gospel being at the center. We have had a few live with us over the last four years where this has happened. The challenge is that our house isn’t that big and we need to be away from a normal neighborhood.

We are blessed to have many friends who have the means to help out. The opportunity is to know how to approach these friends and other new friends to come up with a plan that sees a New City House happen in the coming year. We walk our dogs every morning on the SRP Canal that is close to 19th Ave and Dobbins. As we finish our walk we come up to a large house on a couple of acres that has been abandoned and now gutted. It also has a casita in the back that would work great to have us live there while the house is being redone.

The other dream, which is going to happen in the coming year, is the birthing of small businesses that will provide jobs for our teens as they graduate from High School. I have a few special friends who have shown an interest in helping out in partnering, training and providing the mentoring and financial backing to see this happen. We so much appreciate your prayers, friendship and help in seeing our kids and teens be given the best opportunity to succeed and honor God in their young lives. 

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Dave's Hurting & Mad!

I am doing an alternative to our usual tutoring program with some help from our interns so we decide to hook up at McDonalds with about 10 teens and 10 little kids. As I am calling up a few of the families to get the kids I discover through one of my favorite grandmas that three of my kids have been kidnapped by their wayward mom. I work with a lot of youth that come out of marginalized families. I knew that this day might come but didn’t expect to hear this news.

I can remember a year ago that this mom had asked to do community service because of some court violation. She initially expected me to just sign off for 60 hours of help without doing anything. I tried to explain to this mom of more kids than most families that I couldn’t do that. I want back over the fact that the court could ask for specific dates, times and locations. I made it clear that I wasn’t going to lie whether or not I cared for her 3 kids that I see all of the time not counting the other 7 she had birthed.

She doesn’t follow through so I assume that she either lied or someone else helped her get her hours. Just as I thought she had disappeared she resurfaces and asks again if I will just give her a letter stating that she had done her hours. This time she had her boyfriend with her who attempted to persuade me that I should do this. I again reminded her that the first time I said no to her request and that this time the answer was just the same – NO. I was offended that she would use her boyfriend to strong-arm me to lie and cheat on her behalf.

A couple of weeks pass away and now after her last extension for her community service she is desperate. I explain that I’m sorry that she is in this mess but it isn’t my fault and that she had ample opportunity to help out and get her 60 hours. I come up with a plan that I hope she will actually do. I tell her that she needs to take back her 3 kids for a couple of weeks to give her grandma a break from the action of being her kids caregivers. After talking with grandma this becomes a great opportunity to fulfill her community service.

So now do a fast-forward to a year plus later and I’m angry and overwhelmed that this mom would kidnap her or I should say grandma’s kids. Grandma and grandpa without all of the drama, drugs or violence have raised these drug kids. So what do I do? I know that my wife would talk about getting a hired gun but that is just crazy talk. I have to finish as I have a meeting to think out loud about what course of action to pursue. I know that CPS might step up. I so much want the best for my three little guys who are growing up! I miss them so much! I want the best for them.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Credibility, Integrity and Character - Do They Matter?

Does It Really Matter?

We had a rather interesting discussion last night with our teens in our mentor group. We were fortunate to have a few of our college interns and also older adults joining us. The topic was does it really matter whether I’m a person that is known for having character and integrity. I was actually totally shocked to hear one of my teens use the word credibility. I seriously doubted whether he really understood the term.

I started off with asking who determines what’s right and wrong in today’s world? I mention the fact that we live in a society where God is no longer at the forefront of most people’s thinking. There is an obvious tension or struggle between the scientific community and the religious community. We talked briefly about the YouTube Video that has caused rioting in the Middle East with many being killed because of the Prophet Mohamed being slurred. We talked about what it is like to live in a country where you can say pretty much anything without getting in trouble. Yet, the reality is that if we lived in a different country we wouldn’t have access to the internet, YouTube or Facebook.

Freedom does come with a price that at times can harm many because of the foolishness of a few. I asked whether anyone liked having rules and the groan that came out clearly communicated NO. Yet, as I gave examples of how the rules do count the tone and mindset changed. I asked if it was ok for someone who is married to fool around on the side? I asked whether it was ok if someone had 2 boyfriends or 2 girlfriends? What would happen if you worked at McDonalds and took money out of the till? The response was different – can’t do any of the above. It would cause lots of problems and someone would get fired and forced to pay back whatever was missing in the till.

Clearly we live in a world where the celebs can do anything without any fear of reprisal, yet for the rest of us we would be in deep trouble. I asked why care about morals or ethics? Does it matter whether God exists when it comes to the topic of what’s right and wrong? Does a belief in God mean that these followers of Christ are moral? Is the assumption that all atheists are ‘bad’ people? I quickly mentioned that divorce is just as prevalent in the church as outside. I also talked about the reality that many of my non-Christian friends are more moral than I am. Fortunately my path to heaven isn’t based on my moral level for the present moment.

What was great to hear that all of the teens echoed that they would rather be around people who did have morals or ethics. Yet, the perception was that nice people with morals don’t get ahead in life. It is only the brash and moraless types that end up on top in the business world. I fought this perception to give real examples of some of the wealthiest people who are giving away billions and don’t care about being on the top. Wow – there actually are some that use their wealth to help and not hurt.

The real point of the discussion was to have all of us consider our present life choices and whether we are doing it right or being a total fraud when it comes to morals and pleasing God. I know that it is what I do in the dark by myself that ultimately defines my life. Yes it is possible for a rich guy to also be a nice guy or a poor guy to be a bad guy also. Yes, that word, credibility, does mean a lot in today’s world. If any of my teens want to get a job and keep that job they had better be known for their credibility. 

Butterfly Boy

We had a great trip to Wickenburg this last Saturday. I had no idea how many would come and whether I would have a couple of my younger kids come with mostly teens. We were purposely connecting with a group that had partnered with us last summer. They were having a prayer walk around the High School, Jr. High and Skate Park. My group can at times be whether wild and not feel the most comfortable around all ‘White’ groups.

Sometimes I think my group loves just driving in the van for a couple of hours and the destination doesn’t much matter. As long as we stop at McDonalds or Circle K at least once, coming and going. As we wind our way through the little town of Wickenburg we eventually find the correct road but the name on my Apple map is different from the website? We drive a mile or so and find the little church on top of a clearing that you can see all around the town.

As we get out of the vans and entered the little church it was awesome to have the adult leaders and teens actually remember us. It felt so awesome to sit and listen to a worship band play for about 30 minutes and show their enthusiasm for Jesus. We first started off with some icebreakers that got the teens all mixed up and hanging out together. I had allowed two younger guys to come along, especially Rayshon, my butterfly boy, to trail along. He is special to me and I try to drag him along when it is possible.

We drive first to the High School, which is relatively new. One of our interns, who grew up in Wickenburg, briefly shares about what it was like growing up in a small agricultural town. We listen to one of the key leaders talk about the existing problems at the school, which isn’t that unusual, fights, drugs, racism and clashing of different cultures. We break up into smaller groups and spend about 10 minutes praying.

As we are finishing my two little guys come around and ask if it is ok if they hunt butterflies? I quickly ask, “Are you serious?” Do you really think you can catch a butterfly? Why would you want to do this? My little friend, Rayshon, quickly speaks up because they are so beautiful and I would love to have one as a pet. I want to take it home and show my mom. So I tell them it is ok assuming that they aren’t fast enough to catch one.

It is only a few minutes and my little friend comes rushing back with something in his cupped hands. I say what do you have there in your hands? He opens up his hands a little and I see that he has a butterfly. Yet, as he attempts to let me see it something happens – the butterfly escapes. He and his friend go back to the bushes to start hunting again.

I see my little friend come running back to me. This time he has some type of magical power over the butterfly. He opens his hands and the little creature stays on his hands. He slowly gets his new little friend to open up his wings and I get a couple of pictures. Rayshon is in heaven because he now can see this beautiful creature but gets to show it off. He asks the obvious question, “Can I take it home with me?” I try to explain to him that the little butterfly would probably not survive the 2-hour drive back home and then would die or you might crush it. He then opens his hands and lets the little butterfly take off.

As I gazed at my little friend I realized that his life is at times not the best. His mom and dad are divorced. His older brother decided to go live with his dad in Texas. So even though he has an amazing mom and older sister, life isn’t easy. So I was thrilled that he could come and experience an amazing aspect of God’s creation in his little butterfly friend. I will remember my butterfly boy for a long time!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012


I know most of you understand the adage, when it rains it pours. Also most talk about ‘bad things’ happening in threes. I know that most people assume that I’m a hard guy that can face anything and not be bothered a whole lot. Yet, the truth is, that I do have a heart and often cry and feel inadequate when it comes to knowing what to do or not do. Life does through curve balls and surprises all of the time.

It was a couple of weeks ago that we took one of our older teens out for breakfast for her birthday. It was something that she wanted so she asked her mom if it was ok to come and also be a little late to her first period class. You only turn 18 once! We purposely said that we didn’t want anyone else to come so we could have alone time with her. We went to IHOP and had a great breakfast and awesome time just talking about life. We also gave her a silly Birthday Card with some cash. We got her back to school about 30 minutes late.

The following week we find out that the mom is mad at us for her being late to class and blames us acting as if we hadn’t communicated what would happen? This isn’t the first time this mom has done something that doesn’t make any sense at all. The last time it took a few months before she changed her mind and allowed her daughters to return and be involved with New City events. This totally frustrates me because our goal has been to partner with this single mom who struggles all of the time and help her be a better parent and not replace her.

The real story behind this blog has to do with a family we have been around the longest since moving to South Phoenix almost 6 years ago. This brother and sister have been around us the most and have lived with us on and off over the last 3 years. We have helped in little and big ways over the years. The mom has a tough time accepting help and typically reacts to me as if I’m out to bash her and make her kids want to stay with us and not her. There is some truth in this but I tire of seeing latch key kids being left all of the time without a home, food, clothing or…..

Over the last couple of months the brother in this family left school and decided to be on his own to get away from his mom. I was a little frustrated with his choice to ditch all of us and pretend to be independent. I literally don’t hear from him for 2 months until he texts and asks for some money. I react to his request because of his not talking to me for a long time and having done a few questionable things that made it difficult to not feel like I was being used. We work through this and he actually comes and works with me for a morning and gets his cash for his ID, which was a good thing.

This last Sunday I pick up his sister and her friend to come to my house to get ready for church. I get a text asking if it is ok for them to bring their stuff. I didn’t realize that they were being ‘kicked’ out of their present housing situation. I also didn’t know that the mom was coming with us also. I had received a call from a temp agency about a good job for this mom but as usual her phone was off and my phone becomes her substitute. We all end up in the truck with a few of their bags full of clothes and then end up at our house. I kinda of sensed what was coming down but no one had actually come out and asked if they could stay with us.

We do church and afterwards have a dinner at my house with a large group. After we get through with clean up and taking everyone home it’s time to talk. I unfortunately don’t have the best track record with this mom. She tends to overreact to me and I end up not knowing what to do. I tell my Anne maybe she should talk and I’ll disappear. I wait and wait expecting her to come to me.

Anne drags me out of my office and we end up sitting around the kitchen table. I could tell this was really tough on this mom. She was in tears and does something that was beautiful, she admits to her mess and asks for real help. She acknowledges that she has made some poor choices and that it’s time to do it right. I was humbled by her sharing and openness to listen to Anne and me. This was a first for her to actually ask in person and not just have her kids be her messenger. I know that all of her normal contacts are no longer good for a place to stay. She admits that most of her friends aren’t the best for her and her daughter.

As we finish our time together with a word of prayer I’m blown away by how God has worked a miracle. I know how much emotional energy it took for this mom to even talk, ask for help and then have her daughter present. Yes, she got a good job that might lead to a permanent situation. I still fear this mom disappearing like in the past while leaving her daughter for us to watch and help. I don’t mind helping but don’t want to be the sub for parent. I’m so thankful to God for the work of grace that enables those of us who are very different to work together and genuinely care for one another.