Hope and Healing in Miami

Posted on by Vince Sarfraz KC

The following story was written for Youth For Christ USA. These are real YFC Stories showing how God is using YFC USA as a vehicle in raising up life-long followers of Jesus all across the nation.

“God was here long before we were here,”

says Bonnie Rodriguez, Miami’s Executive Director of Youth For Christ.

Despite destructive disorder based on cultural divisions and a church that is ill-equipped rather than thriving, Christians doing ministry in Miami know that their determination cannot be dampened by hopeless circumstances when the Creator of hope is in control.

“Our dream is to mobilize the Christians in our community to get out of the pews and meet real needs in the community, to transform lives, and to make every unbeliever in the city think, ‘Wow, the church is coming together and eradicating problems. Maybe I should check that out,’” says Bonnie.

Tommy Carrington sees hope in the leadership and potential influence of youth pastors.

“We want to see churches unite in their efforts to serve the kids,” he says. As the director of the Miami Youth Leadership Initiative, he mentors youth pastors from all around the city — and from all different cultures — through individual coaching, retreats, conferences, and informal dinner gatherings.

“Pastors from a wide range of cultures, ethnicities, and denominations are part of this group,” he says. “They are building relationships and getting coffee with each other, and doing social things together. We are a pocket of diversity.”

And unity is the greatest thing each of these pastors can model to the youth in a divided city such as Miami.

Tommy has seen youth pastors implement the strategies they’re learning and, as a result, the growth of their youth groups.

“One youth pastor started attending training last January. He and I talked through the ingredients for a contemporary and culturally-aware youth group, and it wasn’t long before I began seeing the differences he was making. One of his students even came up to me and said, ‘I don’t know who you are or what you’re doing with our youth pastor, but it is incredible what has happened here.’”

Tommy trains youth pastors to implement interactive ice breakers, discipleship groups, and activities that get the kids laughing.

“It’s not rocket science,” he says. “Kids feel more comfortable inviting friends when the environment is interactive and relaxed.”

The next step is for youth pastors to run events together. “Part of the vision is for them to run a camp next summer where each of them brings their kids and we intentionally create a diverse experience for them,” he says.

“We’re praying to bring the city together in all of its diversity.”

Gigi Delgado sees hope in giving purpose to the hopeless.

Director of Local Missions at Christ Fellowship Church in Miami, she has initiated and continues many outreach programs.

“We want to join forces to make a big change in the city,” she says. “I oversee the local mission directors, equipping them and training them so that they can build a team and lead different ministries.”

One of the ministries takes place in a local women’s correctional facility.

“They’re hopeless,” Gigi says of the inmates. “What are they thinking? ‘God cannot use me anymore; there’s nothing I can do from here.’

“But the beautiful thing about ministry is that serving others can save your life,” continues Gigi.

This specific prison ministry gives the inmates the opportunity to serve by packing meals for children who live in poverty and don’t get food besides what is provided for them at school.

The response has been astounding. Not only are children provided with meals, but some of Miami’s hopeless are provided with hope. “Inmates send letters thanking us for helping them overcome feelings of rejection, loneliness, and hopelessness,” says Gigi.

Bonnie sees hope in the vision of united Christians across the city of Miami.

“We aren’t looking to hire people who will mobilize the church; we want to work with the church,” she explains.

“There are 54 public high schools and hundreds of charter schools in Miami. There is no way Youth For Christ could put a staff person in each school. But there is a church on every corner. We have to join arms with everybody that cares about kids and wants to make a difference in their lives. We need to inspire, train, and motivate in order to reach the kids. We need to mobilize an army.”

“I do think it’s possible,” says Gigi. “Everything is possible. Do I see resistance? Yes. But I also believe that if God wants it to happen, it will happen at the right time.”

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