Monday, October 12, 2009

My Life in a cult

What I'm about to write about is something I don't think many know about me other than a few bits and pieces. As a matter of fact I rarely spoke of this period of my life until a girlfriend cornered me and I thought it's time to start letting people know the depth of my involvement in a cult from 1985-1994 and as a matter of fact not completely letting go of the believes of that cult until 2000.

In 1982, after graduating from high school I moved to Salt Lake City to live with my family who moved to Utah at the beginning of my senior year yet allowed me to stay in California to complete my senior year and graduate with the my classmates I'd grown close too.

Moving to Utah was a completely different world than northern California especially back in the early 80's. The styles were in dress and music seemed to be 10 years behind the times. I had gotten into the New Wave music scene and was reading books like Siddhartha by Herman Hesse and really thought that I was becoming some sort of philosophical kinda guy. I had a hard time relating to people in Utah as people seemed to fit 2 molds, LDS or long hair, non LDS rockers who smoked cigarettes. I had started to cut my hair shorter back in 1980 after a friend in high school had us all watch An American Gigolo with Richard Gere and clean cut was coming back in. Fast forward to Utah 2 years later and clean cut meant only one thing, you were Mormon. Making one of my great decisions in life, I decided to keep a clean cut image but decided to take up smoking as a way of showing that I wasn't Mormon anymore.(I didn't say it was a good decision) I remember getting into Ayn Rand after this point and she became my new philosopher. She wrote about how smokers had control over fire through a cigarette and this confirmed that bad choice. (funny, Ayn Rand seems to be making a comeback through the far right) My new friend who introduced me to Ayn Rand lived with his parents in a very exclusive part of Salt Lake Valley at that time and they were extremely wealthy. His father ran a brokerage training company and published articles in The Economist and WSJournal. He was constantly in New York City and big wigs Dean Witter and E.F. Hutton would come visit during ski season. I had never seen that kind of wealth and Bill promised if I stuck with him that I would someday be in those kind of circles. I was even offered an apprenticeship at the New York Stock Exchange through his connections and I had no idea what sort of opportunity that was until many years later. I decided not to do this intern.
Bill stuck with me though and gave me a job at his company. I worked hard and was well liked and willing to do whatever it took to get the job done. I remember that as long as we promoted that money would come in, so when a mailing wasn't getting out on time I stayed up all night putting the mailing together so it could go out the next morning. This was not my job but I knew that this was a lifeline of the Company according to Bill so I just saw that it needed to be done and did it. Bill loved this and even threw me a $50 spot.
I went to Bill at one point and asked him what I could do to improve my position, what step would he want me to do next. Bill was a Scientologist and I knew that they went to Florida for special counseling every few months and I had even been to a few events about Scientology with his son Bret. They talked about exteriorization but one time they asked who wanted to go "clear" come on up and talk to someone I actually walked up to one of their salespeople and told them I'd like to. I asked how much it would cost and the person said around $30,000. I gulped and faded back and out of the auditorium figuring I'd do "this rich man's religion" when I got rich.
Back to my discussion about my future with Bill's company. Bill told me that Scientology has a communication course that I should go down and take. This course would cost about $150 dollars but he'd split the cost with me.
I began the summer of 1985 taking the communication course. The first part of the course is basically sitting in front of someone and not blinking, twitching,or moving. It's basically called just being there. You next learn to be teased, cajoled, and made fun of without laughing getting angry or anything else. A person sits in front of you and basically insults you. (The other day I actually realized that this kind of training knocks down your defense mechanism and allows you to be fed false information, I know there's probably deeper significance to that but in a nut shell that's what it does.) I had some difficulty doing this course and wished I just would've quit going but my friend Bret decided to come in and get me through the course. I eventually got through it and I attested that I knew how to communicate. I was taken upstairs and put in front of a scientology counselor. This is what I'd wanted to do. The scientology counselor hooks you up to an emeter which basically reads if any thing is blocking your thinking energy. You look back into your past and find upsets and keep going back to the original upset. I kept going back and talking about whatever came to my mind. I eventually came to a point where I knew that it wasn't this lifetime what I was looking at. At that point I was so excited that I finished with my "session" as I went to a past life. (This was the last time anything like that ever happened)
After that point I listened to all the Scientology books and tapes I could get ahold of. I found one that spoke about a group of people who run and protect the "technology" of Scientology called the Sea Organization. Because of my light drug history I actually qualified for this group. I called a recruiter in Florida and told them I wanted to work for Hubbard and she took some information and then called me back and told me I was approved and then we figured out how I could get there quickly. I saved money for a plane flight and 1 month later I arrived in Clearwater, Florida. My first red flag should've been that no one was at the airport to greet me, yet here I was going to become one of the Dukes of Scientology. No big deal, I saw a couple a people carrying briefcase made to carry emeter and I asked if they were headed to Flag(the Scientology organization). They said yes and I told them I was joining the Sea Organization and they offered to share a cab.
I arrived at the Fort Harrison Hotel in Clearwater, Florida around 11 pm thinking that I was arriving at the mecca of Scientology. What I saw was a different story. The building was run down and after a few moments of indecisiveness I was led down into a closet which was turned into an office. (When I say turned into an office I mean the brooms, mops and cleaning materials taken out and a desk put in.) I remember a phone cord going out the closet around the corner and up some stairs. (funny the things you remember) As it was late at night and my recruiter looked haggard and tired and she also had a baby on her shoulder we did very little paperwork and I was given a room at the hotel. This room was to be my residence for the next month as normally new recruits are put into a dorm type room with bunks stacked 3 high with a single mattress pad. I arrived on a Saturday night and somehow fell through the cracks. Next...My month in Clearwater, Florida and how deep this rabbit hole is.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Patience brother, patience

This past week has been filled with a lot of drama with boys. It's been a week of ups and downs. Thank God that their our people in my life to give me great advice and encouragement.

Last month we started our basketball team up again. It's actually 2 teams consisting of a varsity league and a jv league. We have 10 guys on the varsity and 8 on the jv. More than basketball it's a place where we can holistically mentor these youth. It's become very clear to me that the boys I've gotten to know our seniors this year and time is running out before life starts handing out its sentences. What I mean is, if some of these guys don't start taking life a little more seriously than they will just be repeating the mistakes of their parents and following the way of broken homes and children without parents born into a country where anything is achievable.

With that in mind we entered last week. The boys for the most part seemed to be responding to the messages and also to the coaching by our staff. School started and something kicked in the boys head, 3 regulars decided to miss practice without calling, 2 out of 3 even had good excuses. Saturday morning 2 of our varsity and I'd say more mature guys decided to have breakdowns and 1 even decided to quit on the team for the day. This has lead to a suspension and other punishments. Of course the guys weren't the most pleasant to be around after all this occurred.

Now comes the advice part, Sunday, Grams (an 80 year old Phd educator and charter school pioneer)asked how thing were going and I said it's a little tough right now, without going into details. She then begins to tell me to have patience as they didn't just happen to wake up one morning and become broken kids with broken families and it takes time to grow and heal. I than speak with 2 other people whom have been in Urban settings for awhile 30+ years for both and amazingly they both cautioned me to be patient and stay the course. I was lobbying Jeff to do something and even change the curriculum we have planned for this Thursday. To make a long story shorter, Monday night I see a couple of the problem kids and they either apologized to the appropriate person or told me that they were ready to "take their medicine for bad behavior". I was ready to change the plan we had put in place even knowing that we would encounter these tough time. So my prayer is to have patience and realize that it's a marathon and not a sprint I'm running.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

A New Beginning

I've got a great story of a second chance I'm proud to be able to tell. Pull up a chair, grab something to drink and read away. Last year at this time Jeff and I were basically given 12 guys to form a basketball team with. We knew nothing of these guys and they new nothing of me and just the football persona of Jeff. As I've blogged over the past year I've developed relationship with most of these boys and I'm happy to say that I'm still in touch with all of them to one degree or another. Here's the story of one of the young men I know.

This young man was and is a beast on the athletic field, whether it be basketball, football, wrestling or probably any sport. Problem though...he started missing practices and we had no idea where he was as his phone would be shut off or it just didn't get answered. We liked having him around as he was a good kid although like any young man he could have his moments. During these formative time with the boys, I was investing in other young man and was unable to invest much time into this young man. Thank God that Jeff was able to have an in depth conversation with him on a ride home. This young man, we come to find out, has 4 siblings all under 10 years of age. With his mom working, it is up to him to tend for these siblings. This all comes at the expense of school, activities, or anything he chooses to do.

Enter Bill, Bill is a man who has 3 children all in high school or starting college. I got to know Bill through a small group of men I meet with every tuesday morning. Bill has had quite the year as far as challenges, from personal to business. Bill tells me that he wants to help with our Monday night basketball. Of course we let him, and Bill starts coming to Monday nights. I introduce Bill to a few of the guys that I'm unable to spend much time with and sure enough, he and Bill hit it off. Bill starts mentoring him! Bill starts to know him better and better. He finds out the his cumultative GPA is around very low. He is in his junior year in high school and he is not going to graduate. Bill has him tested and sure enough, this is a bright kid! Life has just dealt him a bad hand.

Around this time Bill meets with an old friend who is an alumni of Kiski school. ( Kiski is a private college prep school. Bill tells his story and this is where the story starts getting good. This man says that Kiski takes on students like this young man but not very many of them pursue the opportunity. Bill start the process of seeing if he fits although he is already a junior in high school. While the process is ongoing, Bill gets a phone call out of the blue from Malcolm's uncle. This man tells him that he is a Kiski Grad and now a PhD and he know the headmaster personally! The uncle lives in Colorado Springs and he wants to know if Bill is serious about helping him. The answer is of course yes, so the uncle starts working on the family and also introduces Bill to the headmaster. The headmaster was also introduced by the donor. Many hurtles came up as his current high school thought it was a joke and didn't send the transcripts in a timely fashion. His english teacher sent a great recommendation to Kiski. All said, 6 months of working on this and he is ACCEPTED into Kiski! This happened 3 weeks ago. One problem, Bill assumed that the scholarship was in addition to the donor funds. Well the donor funds and the scholarship were the same money which meant that he was only half way funded to be able to attend Kiski. 2 weeks and Bill needed to raise $20K. Well minus around $2500 he is attending Kiski. He is going back to repeat a grade but on successful graduation, he has the opportunity to be accepted into any University out there!

I'm excited as Saturday night I have the opportunity to pick up hun at Kiski so he can come home for the holiday. This young man, who one year ago was lost and had a dismal future in front of him now has a new beginning!

Monday, July 27, 2009

One year and 2 Championships later

I celebrated my one year anniversary about a week and a half ago. I can't believe that it's already been one year since I've moved to Pittsburgh. Many things have happened in that year and I'm excited to see what's in store for the upcoming year. Can you believe that in my first year that both the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Penguins win the Lombardi and Stanley cup! I think the people of the 'burgh have done all they can to make me feel welcome.

I've done a lot of reflection over the past year and I feel that what's happening and how I'm being used has really come to light over the past week. While waiting for my church services to start a man came up to me (this man has lived his whole life as an african american in the northside) and told me that I must be doing something right as african american teenage boys don't hang out with adult males too often as they've been betrayed by their adult role models so often in their upbringing. (bear in mind he was generalizing and painting with a broad brush) This is about the 4th time I've had an african american adult come up to me and say this over the last month. I even had a lady who told me this and then gave me a hug and as I hugged her she grabbed my hand and put $50 there! (Those of you who have teenagers know it's not cheap to feed them)

Let's go back to last year and what I thought my life would look like and then what it looks like now. This is important, my calling to Pittsburgh was to be an assistant to Jeff Hartings so he could fully utilize his resources in the Northside. Those of you who know the story of Saul and David from the bible will relate to this, I was to be Jonathan's (King Saul's son) armor bearer.

I remember when coming out here I thought I'd be part of the fundraising arm of Urban Impact working through their "Play Ball for Kids" program in utilizing the Steeler players to get the local business engage with their resources (people, money, facilities) in helping the Northside. I figured that I'd be golfing with guys and having meetings, talking to Steeler players and getting them utilized in our programs. I get to Pittsburgh and I find out the Jeff and I are going to be running our high school basketball team in a saturday league along with doing our other outreach basketball programs during the week. I thought, ok this is what Jeff is having me do, so be it. After the leagues were over baseball came and Jeff and I were put in charge of the whole baseball program. With all that being said, it's one year later and what I had envisioned for my life in Pittsburgh is totally different than how I thought it would look. This doesn't change the fact that I felt I was called to Pittsburgh and called pretty strong. Again my calling to Pittsburgh was to assist Jeff in his duties with Urban Impact.

I've recently have had some great validations that I'm right where I should be. One of them happened early monday morning as I was walking through the park to get coffee and a couple of the 11-12 year old boys I knew called out to me. We started talking and they wanted to know when we could hang out. (I know now that this isn't "normal" behavior for young African american men). Sunday, I called one of my regular boys to see if he wanted to attend church with me. He couldn't but he would be free later, I told him I'd pick him up. I went to pick him up and he had 3 other guys with him who wanted to hang. I picked them up and picked up number 5 and 6 down the street. Come to find out 3 of them dropped what I considered better plans to hang out at my tv'less apartment and eat chili dogs. These guys will hang out on Friday and Saturday nights if I wanted them to. There is no way that as a 16-18 year old that I was every going to hang out with an overweight, balding 45 year old who doesn't let them swear and talk inapproipately. But hang out the do!

I know that I'm sure I'll disappoint one or two of them over time but right now I'm amazed at the relationships i've built and how God has worked through me in these kids lives.

Stay tuned as I move into year 2!

Monday, July 6, 2009

Baseball Season

Baseball season ended last week and I'm still recovering. Who would've thought that running 5 teams in a baseball league could be so tiring. Since Memorial Weekend I felt I was working 12 hours a day, I almost thought I was a Scientology staff member again. When Jeff and I decided to run the Urban Impact Baseball program I must admit that we did it more out of duty rather than something we felt called to do. We were being good employees. I must admit that for the first few months (March/April)I felt like I was going through the motion of running a program. Then something hit me. I was at the ballfield and I noticed that one of the mothers was at the field with a bunch of kids playing ball. This mother, I must admit, was someone who I steered clear of due to built in prejudices. She was what we would call in my suburbia world, "White trash". She had all the traits and character of that.

The holy spirit somehow softened my heart and prejudices and allowed me to see this woman as someone who God's loves and created. From this point on I was able to not only have a relationship with her but with others also whose lives and experiences are so much different from the one I have.

Before I go I've got an interesting story of a young man I've gotten to know through baseball. This young man comes to our office every afternoon during the school year to work on his school work. I know he comes from a broken family, his mom is a custodian and his dad is in prison. He has no relationship with his father. His mother does the best she can but I'm sure she has her demons. He has 2 older brothers and an older sister. This young man would help me with the snack stand throughout the season. If we made a decent amount of money I would try and pay him. The last night of baseball he came early to help set up and stayed late to help put everything away. I was able to give him a nice bit of money for helping. He asked if I could drive him to a store. I did thinking he would buy some candy or some other junk a 7th grader buys. He comes back in the car and I asked what he bought. He pulls out some socks and deodorant. I was dumbfounded, I didn't grow up with a lot of extras but I never had to worry about sock or deodorant or any other staples. Once again it showed how wide the divide between what these kids have and experience versus what I have and have experienced.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Family Reunion

For more years than I want to admit there's been a rift in my relationship with my family members. Those of you who don't know I have 5 sisters and 2 brothers. My parents had 5 kids in their first 7 years of marriage and then when I was almost seven my mom gave birth to twins and then a girl when I was ten. I'm called the baby of our first family and I relished those first seven years. I remember when my mother gave birth to the twins that I upset and didn't want to see them as they were taking away whatever birthright I percieved I had. When I finally went to the hospital (i'm sure kicking and screaming) and saw the twins, Dale and Gail, I immediately melted and loved them immediately. I've never had kids myself but I wonder if this is a similar experience parents have when they see their newborns? I know that now I'm not particulary fond of newborns and a little scared of their fragility. I don't really interact with kids until they are at least 1 year of age, then they have me hook,line,and sinker. All that to say, I loved hanging with my new little brothers and sister. I remember this feeling up until I was around 18. (more on this later) I loved when they were around and liked for the most part playing with them, even as a teenager.

When I was in 3rd grade I remember hearing that my mom was going to have another baby. That was an exciting time for me. I knew that my dad was just kidding about leaving if we had anymore kids in the family. (part of the reason I didn't want any more siblings)(parents watch what your tell your kids, they take you literally) I also remember listening to the baby growing inside my mother. Jill was born October 2 (I can't say the year because now she's a woman and they get mad about revealing their age) She became my favorite immediately. (Sorry Dale and Gail) Truth be known I think she became all of our family's favorite. She was very talkative and would start up conversations with strangers at an early age and everyone loved her who came in contact with her, she was just plain fun to be with.

I always for the most part got along with my older siblings and they definitely included me in things, although I'm not so sure I'm fond of being included in dress up. My oldest sister kept me grounded in the arts while my older brother made sure that I knew how to play sports and didn't embarrass him on the ballfield. I felt a good balance and definitely felt loved.

All in all I had a happy childhood with normal ups and downs along the way.

Sometime in the summer between my sophomore and junior year of high school I came to the realization that I couldn't follow the chosen religion of my family. This wasn't a decision that came lightly to me. It wasn't a rebellion, it was a non-belief. This was major as I spent a lot of time doing church activities, and I had what I thought to be lots of privilidges so I felt that I would be on lockdown if I let my parents know of my departure. I decided to keep it to myself, and would let them know when I turned 18 of my decision a year and a half into the future. The problem with this was I became a very convincing liar and lived 2 lives pretty convincingly.

When I turned 18 I let the family know of my decision and that is when I felt a shift in my relationships. I don't think it was so much a shift in their minds as it was in mine. From that point on I felt a separation from the family.

Life then went on (I will blog on more of my life in future blogs) and the separation became greater and greater. It eventually got to a point where I didn't see some sibling for over 5 years. I would visit cities they lived in and they wouldn't even know it.

Somewhere over the last 4 years the Holy Spirit put it in my heart that I needed to reconcile with my family and be more transparent with them. Slowly, I started to do this. First through letters to my parents and finally although the journey of reconciliation is not totally over, with my several of my siblings over Christmas time. I've decided that it's okay disagree and but that doesn't mean that my viewpoint is their viewpoint nor is my viewpoint necessarily the correct viewpoint. I found out that arguments and letting them go one is just wasted time, like in years!

Since Christmas I've had some great times talking to my siblings and even my parents. I've laughed and even cried. (Stop it Gail, and no I'm not crying right now!) I now for the first time in years look forward to spending time with family and it's been years (close to 20) since I could say this.

This year has been a great year of healing with my family.

Friday, April 3, 2009

It's a small world

Last night an old friend from Salt Lake City was in town for the day. (Eric Lindquist) As some of you may know Eric does a radio show in Salt Lake City called "The Deep End". (check out One of the artists, Joy Ike, who Eric has played happens to live in Pittsburgh. Last night after dinner we went to one of her shows. (check her out at ) Her music was awesome, very John Mayer, Jack Johnsonesqe. I look forward to hearing her again. After her set she came up to Eric and thanked him for coming. She then looked at me and said "I've seen you somewhere" I told her that I've only been in Pittsburgh for 8 months but she insisted she's seen me. Finally I told her I worked at Urban Impact. Well...she volunteers for our performing arts group and she's seen me at volunteer meetings! It just amazes me how small this world can be. I found out that most of the people in the office know her personally and some attend church with her.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Turbulent Times

Life over the past 3 weeks have been some of the most turbulent times since coming to Pittsburgh in July. Just to update all of you. James Owens passed away 2 weeks after we saw him in the hospital. That was a difficult time for myself and Jeff. Jeff actually got to know him a little better than me and took it pretty hard. One good thing that came out of it was that on the night after he passed away one of our 10th grade boys called me up around 9 pm on Sunday night to let me know of the passing. I never had been called by this young man prior to this and my only interaction with him had been in the open gym and watching him play basketball on a rival team from most the other boys I know in high school. I asked him if he wouldn't mind calling Jeff and talking to him as Jeff had a lot of questions about James and what happened. The boy said he would. Now...this was a Sunday night around 9 pm and the chances of Jeff actually being up to answer the phone were slim. things go Jeff did answer his phone and not only that he went and pick the boy up and drove around Pittsburgh for 1 1/2 hours talking about the situation. I know this was awesome for both of them and gave Jeff some healing. God's timing is perfect with putting people in our lives, it's just recognizing those times.

Last Thursday I went to the viewing and paid my respects to James Owens and his family. I was able to see a couple of my boys there and it was great feeling the love they had when they hugged me. RIP-James Owens

My other issue was the student whose girlfriend was going in for an abortion. According to my young man, the baby hid! The girl then waffled over the next 2 weeks and and on March 24th, yesterday she went back in for an abortion. God had other plans and took the baby away. The good thing is now the girl and my young man don't have blood on their hands. I just pray that they can deal with the miscarriage and learn from this mistake.

I visited with some friends (Ron and Traci Pensari)over the weekend who were in Jersey and had a relaxing good time with them and seeing where they grew up and friends they have in Jersey. I never knew Jersey was such and diverse and pretty state.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

I took the red pill

This month has been a real test for me in terms of dealing with real life issues. I think at this point it's only strengthened my resolve for why I'm here but it definitely has pushed my buttons at returning to a life where things only happen on my tv screen or newspaper article and not in my life. Jeff and I were talking yesterday morning and I had to pull the "Matrix" movie out of the hat as it applied to where I'm at once again. I told him that I wished I wouldn't of taken the red pill as I could still be "asleep", but the problems is I did take it and I can't sit back and let things go by as if it has nothing to do with me.

3 weeks ago one of the youth who've I've been close to since I've moved to Pittsburgh came to me with news that his girlfriend was pregnant. This might not seem like big news to some of you or even out of left field as the boys I'm with are on their own most the time. Well, for whatever reason I didn't see it coming. We started talking I found out the girl's mom and step father took away her cell phone and cut off communication between both of the party involved. I then found out that the girl's parents were on the side of getting an abortion for the girl. This blew me away. Without getting into an abortion discussion I was mortified and my thoughts were "there is a bullet heading right towards this baby and I've got to stop it". It's 3 weeks later and still no abortion and it's been silent on this topic for about a week, which isn't necessarily a good thing. I've had no luck getting in touch with the girl or her parents as the resources for the options that are available to them in Pittsburgh are amazing. Please pray for me as I continue on with this struggle.

Now, for even better news, not. Sunday night, two boys who attend our open gym on Monday nights were arrested for holding up a man a gunpoint and trying to rob him. The man who they were trying to rob also had a gun and one of the boys was shot in leg and torso. He is in critical condition at the hospital. The other boy was found a few blocks down the street running from the scene. Both boys will be tried as adults for attempted homicide.

Yesterday Jeff and I felt called to visit the one boy in critical care at the hospital. Without thinking of all the reasons why not and how we wouldn't be allowed to visit him we went. We didn't hide our intentions as we asked which room the young man was in and we proceeded to the intesive care unit. The doors opened for us and we walk back to where his bed was. It was in a separate room with a policeman outside the door. One of the nurses told us we couldn't go back there and then the policeman asked why we were there. We told him that we worked for Urban Impact and the boy has been coming to our gym for the past year and we wanted to see him. Amazingly the cop changed his mind and said go ahead. We walked into the bed area and where there was a nurse attending, she asked what we were doing there and told us we can't be in there. The cop and nurse exchanged a few words and let us in. (I'm sure that none of the 2 nurses or policeman recognized Jeff as the Jeff Hartings Pittsburgh Steeler) I really felt like Lucas Skywalker and Obi Wan Kenobi in Star Wars as they walked past the storm troopers. We prayed with our student for about 10 minutes and he held our hands and kept eye contact although he was unable to speak due to the respirator. He eyes moistened and he nodded his head as we asked him if he knew that he could turn to Jesus even now after the bad choice he had made in his life.

I don't know what is going to happen with both of those incidents but I do know that God has me here for a purpose and I may only affect a few kids lives through Christ but that's between them and Christ. All I know is that God has put me on this walk and I must continue to walk.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Meeting with the Reverend

It's taken me sometime to digest the my meeting with Rev. Robinson and I felt I needed time to contemplate my meeting with him. Like so many meetings or getting to know people, my ideas of what I thought I would take from it and what actually happened are two different things. First of all, for those of you who have no idea what I'm talking about, let me share with you who Reverend Jimmie Joe Robinson is. The Rev (as he's called in Pittsburgh) is in his 80's. His wife goes by Grams. The Rev was the first black football player to play for the University of Pittsburgh back in the 40's. He then was drafted by the Cleveland Browns and played for them for about 3 years. It was around this time, that the Rev came to know the Lord. He then went back to school and became a Preacher. He moved to Kansas City and was a Pastor in an all white community and then eventually came back to Pittsburgh to Preach at Bidwell Presbyterian for the next 47 years. While in Pittsburgh he became very involved in the social movements of the 50's and 60's. He knew and hung out with the likes of Martin Luther King (even served jail time), Malcolm X and others. He is one of Pittsburgh's Hall of Fame members. (I wish I could go into detail but The Rev just doesn't talk much about himself) One interesting point is he know Rev. Wright and was very disappointed with how the media villified this person during the election as he is a personal friend and he loves the Lord and preaches a "good" Gospel.
The reason I spoke with the Reverend was I wanted to eventually have him come and speak to our boys at Urban Impact. I met him at the Manchester Youth Development Center. This is an offspring of his church and now part of it has become a charter school in the City of Pittsburgh. It's also a day care center and has after school programs for older kids. I must also say that his wife who has a Phd in education was and is an intergral part of all this happening over the years.

Ok, what did I learn or take from my meeting with the Rev? Well, one thing he wanted to make sure of is did I just get kids together so I could "preach them gospel". The reason he asked this was that most of these kids don't have a normal family life and the food I serve them may be the only thing they eat all day. He wanted to know how am I getting the kids to the point of stopping the dwindling spiral of their lives. In other words, in a very poignant moment and something that sums up my meeting with him was, what am I doing to help these boys become responsible men in society, ie. schoolwork, jobs, training, being a father, etc. I could go talk to these boys about the Gospel, and tell them stories about Jesus and they'll listen and even raise their hands saying they believe, but then they are back in the streets as if nothing has happened. Now with this being said, he told me to remember that he's been a preacher for over 50 years and studies the Word daily. (In other words, I do everything as if I'm doing it for Christ, (I know that is a verse somewhere)) That is what I've been chewing on for these past several weeks since I met with him. I know that bringing the Gospel to the least is of upmost importance, ensuring that they are cared for and educated needs to come into play. Somewhere in all this is God's redemptive power and that is what I'm still chewing on.

So over the last few weeks, I'm starting to deepen my relationships with these young men and diving into lives a little more and not being afraid of seeing what I may find.