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This post is a re-publication of “Nowhere to Go… Nothing to Do”, though 9 years later, it’s acutely relevant today. Sadly, like other urban areas of the USA, our city of Durham has experienced 10 shootings with multiple people injured and 2 deaths over the last few days. City kids, like always, need places to go and something to do, outta da hood.

Richard and Michael are pre-teen city kids who live, as many say, in da hood.  They have nowhere to go – and nothing to do.  It’s not because they don’t want to. Actually, every time I talk with them they hint around hoping I’ll take them somewhere.

Here’s the usual conversation

“Hey guys, what’s up?”
“Nothing.”
“What are you doing?”
“Nothing.”
“Where are you going?”
“Nowhere.”
“Why?”
“Because — there’s nowhere to go and nothing to do.”

Richard and Michael are just two of many city kids who feel trapped and imprisoned inside their own neighborhood. It’s understandable — there are bars around their apartment buildings.  These bars are not intended to keep intruders out, but to slow down and trap criminals during police pursuits. Richard and Michael’s neighborhood is infested with drugs and crime.

“I hear the ball bouncing outside,” Richard says, “and I want to play.  But mom won’t let me go to the courts ‘cause stuff’s happening out there — you know.” Yet in the midst of fear and distrust, Richard’s mom and others like her are receptive to Bible clubs and events for their children.  Especially when those events allow their children to spend time outside of the neighborhood.

Over the past thirty years, the opportunity to reach city kids has grown immensely. Taking advantage of what God can do, we should make the most of every opportunity to teach them the Bible, but we should also remember that they want to do other stuff too.

The truth is — city kids get talked to, yelled at, and fussed at most of the day.  We need to spend time with them — doing what they want to do and sometimes going where they want to go.  Our activities do not have to be religious in nature all the time, but the outcome will be!

Each time we go somewhere together kids ask me questions, like, “Have you ever been in prison?” or “Is that lady your girlfriend?”  Then, they tell me things about themselves and their families.  Instantly, without a prepared Bible lesson, we have a divine teaching moment.

Where to Go and What to Do?

Sporting Events

Take them to a high school or college game, organize a neighborhood pick-up game, enroll them in a league, sponsor them for a sports camp, or organize a sports outreach.

I took a group of twelve Asian and Hispanic city kids to a Duke – UNC basketball game once. Perhaps it was because both teams wore blue and white, but these kids did not even know which team was Duke or UNC. These are some of the best teams in the country by the way. The kids loved it! It was not so much the game, but the snack bar, the picking at each other, and embracing the cultural differences between each other.

After the game we all slid down a big hill to get to our car. This all paved a way for an open discussion about making fun of others and how Chinese were different from Mexicans. I was able to share God’s plan and purpose for all people.

The outing opened up a unique court to play on. The kids were the players and I became their coach for a few hours. Numerous outings and activities are available for the teacher looking for a classroom that connects with city kids.

Arts/Entertainment

Couple a Bible club with an art class, organize/plan a mural project for a community wall, enroll kids in a cultural arts center class, or produce your own drama, dance, or a creative art form for presentation in the community.

Food/Shopping

Bake cookies, a favorite food, watch a movie, take them to the mall or open-air market and have a “looking day”, or walk down the street with a group of kids to the nearest convenience store.  Give them each a couple of dollars to spend while they hang out.

Special or Surprise Activities

Ride horses, go fishing, or rake leaves.  These would be things (stuff) that city kids typically never get to do.

HEADLINE for January 17, 2011

This year’s Martin Luther King Day of Service was very successful. 35 staff, volunteers, and residents worked together for the sake of others in the Cornwallis Rd Apt community of Durham, NC.  CEF ministers there each week with Christina Rice and the Youth Life Foundation staff.  The diverse gathering on Jan. 17th tackled several projects at the Youth Life Center based upon Dr. King’s question: “What are you doing for others?”  Residents, like Jamar (below), were side-by-side working with teens from Kings Park International Church, students from NCCU, UNC, UVA, parents from the community, CEF staff and board members.

Jamar (lft) and John (rht) standing with many of the 35 volunteers after supper at the Youth Life Center

After successfully completing four of the five projects, the adults and children enjoyed a meal catered by Boston Market, then had a quiz game about Dr. Martin Luther King.  Though muddy, cold, and tired, all felt good about the 3 hours together helping others and honoring the life of Dr. King.  Aiden, who attended with his father, Stephen Ehmann (both seen in separate pictures below) said, “It was hard work but it was worth it to help other people.”  I think Aiden really got it.

Aiden, Delrontay, and other kids organized and shelved books in the YLC library with the help of two local school teachers.

Stephen Ehmann helping a neighborhood child with their supper after removing old AC units, landscaping, and clean up at the Youth Life Center.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CEF encourages others to take part in next year’s MLK Day of Service.  For the best results, interested groups should begin planning now.  This is a wonderful way to engage and support our communities where city kids live.  CEF is more than happy to partner with you.  MLKDay.gov offers guidance and good ideas as you think forward to 2012.

UNC students serve in Durham before spring semester begins

A group of UNC students sacrificed their last few days of winter break to develop a heart for the city of Durham and serve with CEF in under resourced communities. RUF campus ministries, led by Daniel Mason, gave of their time, energy, and heart for 15 hours each day the week of Jan. 4-7. The group experienced a bus tour of Durham, tutored at the Youth Life Center, and helped kids at the Liberty St. Apts complete a photography project they began last March.

UNC student assisting child writing a caption for the photos he will submit to the kid's club project.

The students were usually divided into three teams, which participated in prayer walks, Good News Club flier distribution, and began service projects to be completed during the MLK Day of Service Jan. 17th. The 15 Tarheel students were able to meet, listen, and Q/A with community, business, and ministry leaders at Joe’s Diner in Old East Durham. The next day they meet leaders from World Relief, DurhamCares, Carpe Diem, and BlessDurham. After a full day and Good News Club® on Friday, the group reflected over their experiences with CEF staff at the Tobacco Road Cafe’.

This and other current information can be obtained at http://gospeltokids.org web site of the CEF Durham Area chapter.

Having fun touring 10 under resourced communities in Durham with UNC boot camp students via CEF.

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