Passing out fliers in a high school cafeteria can be awkward, intimidating, exhilarating, and defeating. A staff member can spend an hour passing out 300 fliers and having over 100 conversations that results in 1 or 2 students showing up to something. But, sometimes, a staff member catches the attention of a kid like Jason
Sitting with his friends in the lunchroom, Jason looked like all the other freshmen boys. He was unremarkable, but as Erin, a City Life Staff, passed him a flier for Club, she noticed there was something about him that was different or more than the kids around him. The conversation she had with him was similar to the hundreds of others she had that day, but was somehow thicker, more intense. That night Jason came to club, and not by himself.
Some kids are leaders from the start. They have a gravitational pull. Jason was one of those kids. From the beginning, he had to be coaxed off the stage and away from the microphone. He was voted class president at school and then walked around, chest puffed out, repeating “I’m the president! I’m the president. I’m the president!”.
It was months before staff began to see the insecurities hidden beneath the pull of his gravity. They began to notice his clothes were always the same, clean, but the same. His conversations with leaders began to shift from his boasts to his life. He shared personal stories of abandonment and a strong dissatisfaction with his overall appearance. As the relationships grew, Jason became dependent on City Life. He walked away if conflict arose between his friends and strived to be respectful to the leaders. He refused to jeopardize his ability to come to City Life with childish behaviors.
By the spring, Jason was a regular at the City Life Center, so when the staff were discussing possible summer student employees, his name was brought up first. They knew he wanted to be a leader and could use the money.
The summer employment program by Youth Opportunities Unlimited, allows community partners to hire their youth for the summer. As the work program began, it was clear Jason had some learning to do. His gravitational pull did not match his work ethic or understanding of responsibility. As he learned about work alongside his peers, he was also able to attend several camps. The first, was YFC Day Camp.
At Day Camp, he had Jonny-the City Life Director- as his small group leader. When discussing the Gospel in a small group, Jason was clear that he was not ready to commit to Christ. The next day he missed camp for his birthday. His dad had promised him a big party. It never happened. He sat at home alone for the whole day.
Later that month, former student and Leader-in-Training, Rob, joined the City Life Staff. He began opening the music studios for the youth to use. Jason was in there whenever he could be. Shortly, he began sharing his love for music and rapping.
Then, Jason, and some of his co-workers joined Erin and Rob for Horse Camp at Hideout Pines Ranch. Again, he expressed he wasn’t ready to commit to Christ. He wanted to be free and “do his dirt” then give his life to Christ at 18. He had it all planned out. But, Rob continued to follow up with him and ask difficult questions. As they talked the conversation roamed between God’s promises and the tensions in Jason’s home life. That was the beginning of the Authentic Christ-Sharing Relationship.*
A few weeks after Horse Camp was S.T.E.A.M (science, technology, engineering, art, and mathematics) Camp. This camp included different City Life chapters from around the country and was hosted by the Fort Wayne Chapter. Rob and Jason spent that whole trip talking. Rob was teaching him to rap and put what was on his heart to rhyme and rhythm. Little did they know that the music industry would be present at camp.
Jason was able to perform in front of a program director for a major music label. The director told Jason to call when he records his song. Later that week, Jason was able to perform again, in front of all the campers at the final large group event, the Sneaker Ball! But, he didn’t have any good clothes to wear, so another staff member, Nate, shared his clothes with Jason. From the stage, after his performance, Jason shouted out his City Life people. “They even gave me the clothes off their backs,” he said over the applause.
That night, the Cleveland City Life group was in their regular break outs and Jonny challenged all the Cleveland kids. He said, “You can leave how you came in or you can leave different. Knowing that you are loved, provided for, that you are a leader, that you are uniquely gifted”. Jason accepted Christ that night. Jonny and Rob prayed for him.
Ever since camp, Rob has met with Jason weekly to disciple him and share the Bible. Sometimes, Jason’s friends join them to learn too and are beginning to invite their family members. His gravity is pulling his peers to Christ.
*Club: an afterschool activity with food, games, and a lesson
* Authentic Christ-Sharing Relationship: a YFC term, referring to the healthy relationship of a believer with a non-believer where Christ is shared naturally.