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.