May Update

Posted on by Alex Mathew

“Young boys, if they don’t get hugged by their dads, they’ll get hugged by their gang leaders. We don’t have a crime problem, we don’t have a prisoner problem, an inmate problem or a drug problem; we have a father problem. We don’t have fathers that will take time to spend with their children, train their children, teach their children and love their children.” –Bill Corum

Bill Corum has been an inmate in ten different prisons in ten different states, and is now a Christian author and speaker in prisons all over the world. Over the last month, Bill and I have talked about issues of fatherlessness in our country and the consequences in our rising prison population.

As an urban missionary for more than a decade now, I really believe that the way an individual can authentically impact incarcerated youth is to be a mother or father in Christ to them. Dr. Scott Larson writes in At Risk: Bringing Hope to Hurting Teenagers that Scripture is filled with parental imagery used to describe the love and care God has for us and the level of commitment God asks us to extend toward others. Dr. Larson, when working with youth in prison, has observed two primary traits in those who grow up without a positive male-figure: hatred for authority and deep-seated anger. He proposes that if the root of the problem is rejection, then the solution must be acceptance, but not just the bland statement, “I accept you as you are,” which is closer to apathy and indifference.  Rather, it’s the kind of acceptance that God extends toward us.

In detention, when I ask groups of boys if any of them know one positive man in his neighborhood, they all think hard for a few minutes and shake their heads no. It breaks my heart every time I ask that question.

Last month, I had the privilege to see Lee, one of my mentees who was recently released, enroll in our local community college. I won’t share details about Lee’s past or even his father’s past, but I will celebrate his drive to get a job and be one of the first in his family to go to college. As a father in Christ, I talked with him about the advantages of college and the differences between a university and a community college. We talked about debt and scholarships, like I would with my own son.

When Lee got to the campus, he filled out the application on his own, and he met with an advisor without me. I sat back and prayed for him. Before I left, Lee had to take an entrance exam. As he prepared to go into the testing room, I asked him if he had eaten anything that afternoon, and he said no, so we both learned where the dining hall was, and I treated him to lunch. As I said goodbye, I told him to call me to let me know how the exam was and to text me when he got back to his placement. Lee did check in with me, just as I hope my own sons would do.

Every other week, Lee and I have conversations about life. My job is not to change him, but to model what Christ did for me and accept him like a father in Christ would accept his very own. If each dad knew that his role on earth is to be a father even to other people’s children, a lot of lives would be changed.

As I model fatherhood to our young people, I have the opportunity to point them to their Builder, Creator, and Heavenly Father, whom much of the world does not recognize, according to 1 John 3:1 (NLT): “See how very much our Father loves us, for he calls us his children, and that is what we are! But the people who belong to this world don’t recognize that we are God’s children because they don’t know him.”

Thank you for allowing me and others like me who are fathers and mothers in Christ to serve with Youth for Christ Kansas City. Your generous support and prayers allow us to be parents in Christ to troubled teens in tough situations.

In His Service,
Alex

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