Why are we concerned about kids in the neighborhoods surrounding our church?
Too often, they are members of families who, for generations, have struggled with poverty, abuse, and neglect. Remarkably, some of these young people refuse to accept such circumstances and choose a life outside of the prevalent gang and drug culture witnessed daily. In addition to being students they are often care givers to younger siblings and also work to help support their families.
However, they are at risk of being absorbed by the cycle of poverty if they do not receive encouragement to keep up the good work and to focus on graduating from high school.
“My dad told me, ‘This life is hard. Take all the help you can get,'” says a mentee of the Man Up program.
Paul Gonzalez had been attending Incarnation for more than seven years and still felt like something was missing in his spiritual life. Upon hearing the shocking reality that only half of each freshman class at North Dallas High School will graduate, Paul decided to get involved. Initially a volunteer in the morning drop-in program, he saw a greater need and worked with Erin Pendleton to establish Man Up, a partnership of Mission and Outreach with Pastor Torres of Pilgrim Rest Missionary Baptist Church, to add value to the lives of the young men of the school in particular.
“Pastor Torres is gifted in his ability to impress upon these young men that there is more to life than getting into or staying out of trouble and he provides the right kind of encouragement to help them get by,” says Paul. Each week, mentors meet with their mentees for lunch. Pastor Torres equips them with a topic for discussion, usually a current event and relevant scripture that encourages the mentees to think about how the topic affects them and how they might draw on scripture for truth and strength. “It takes time for the boys to establish trust and to open up about what’s going on at home and at school, but each of them are a part of the program because they have expressed a desire to have a mentor and a different life” says Erin Pendleton. Once each month, all of the mentors and mentees meet as a group for fellowship and a more in-depth ‘faith meets the real world’ lesson.
“As mentors, we are immensely blessed. We have the power to encourage these young men to live with honor, value hard work, and set goals for their futures. I wonder sometimes if I wasn’t there when he needs guidance, what would my mentee’s future be like?” says Paul. “It is clear to me we are part of a bigger plan that God has in store for these young men.”
It is our privilege to be concerned about the children in our neighborhood. We provide programs that can touch their lives from the day they enter elementary school to the day they graduate from high school. Like each of us, they have an Incarnation story. This is our opportunity to influence their future; to model a positive family image, and what it means to be an engaged citizen.
“If something in your heart is telling you to do a little more, don’t over think it,” says Paul. “Look into the twelve separate ministries that serve the children of our neighborhood. You don’t need an impressive resume or even special skills. All you need is a loving heart.”