Wednesday, March 19, 2014

The New Toy Box: From Crayons to Fake Guns.

I remember as a child making ramps in the wooded cul de sac for our bikes, making mud pies with the bright pink dirt by the shed, watching Mr. Rogers in the afternoon, playing with my Jem Doll (who rocked the flashing red earrings), competing at Duck Hunt on Nintendo with my brother, drawing with crayons, playing piano and generally being a kid. I never felt unsafe (except for that time our nanny,  Ms. Mayonaise (that's what we called her), came after me with a switch after I knowingly broke the rules and convinced my little brother to cross the busy street and check the mail....just because I could. What can I say? I was a typical first born. :)

Times have changed haven't they? I feel like safety is always on people's minds. Crime rates seem to be up, at least in our neighborhood. Technology is now the best babysitter. The traditional teenager is attached to their cell phone and the days of mud pies, bike riding and hopscotch seem to be growing more and more slim as we have fully embraced a technologically savvy and almost dependent generation. Heck, I know kids that aren't even required to use textbooks anymore. Everything is done on the computer. And do you know the result? Reading and writing skills among the youth we work with are devastating.

The other day I shared on Facebook that as I was getting out of my car, I noticed a group of boys walking down the sheet. All of them were around the age of 9-12. One of the boys was on a bike and was trying to ride slow enough to proceed down the street with the crowd. It's hard to ride a bike that slow and he accidentally knocked his wheel into another boy. The boy who was hit immediately reached into the front waste band of his pants, pulled out a fake hand gun, put it up to the head of the boy on the bike and said, "Boy...don't make me put a cap in yo head."

I froze. I could not believe what I was seeing. I looked at Glenn who was on the back porch and said, "Did I? Did he? Did I just see him put a gun up to his head?" Sadly, he shook his head to affirm what I feared.

Friends, this is not a game. Our kids are playing with a new toy box. The days of cap guns and make believe are long gone. This was mimicking real life. A few days later I saw the same group of boys in an empty lot playing "gun wars"....the "fake" guns they had were too life like as were the words and actions exchanged. This is the playground of 2014. One day I fear those guns will not be fake and those interactions will be played out in real life.

This could be a downer, but for me, it shoes the urgency and necessity of what we are called to do.
This is an opportunity.

How will they know differently? If not us, then who?

God has strategically placed us in a position to interact with some of these kids on a daily basis.
We recently put in a basketball court so that there is another option of play. On any given day there are anywhere from 4-14 kids shooting hoops. The rules are simple. No Cussing. No Rough housing. No Bullying. Why have rules? Because our kids need boundaries. They need to know that some things are just not ok and they need to see the consequences enforced when they step outside of those boundaries.  At times, students are asked to leave if they can not cooperate. They are always given the invitation to come back tomorrow. They always come back. They are not turned off by our structure. Structure is safety to many who do not have structure elsewhere. There is a balance of truth and grace.

This has evolved into us starting a new youth meeting on Sunday afternoons where we invite all of the kids into our house, play games, have a bible lesson and eat dinner. We had 16 last Sunday. They came. They heard the gospel. They left with full bellies and they waved at us this week as they got off the school bus. Structure. Safety.

The goal of The Dream Campaign is to not stop there. We want every single one of those kids to receive a mentor. Someone who can hang out with them once a week, encourage them to be the best they can be, hold them accountable to their actions, commit to praying for them and CHALLENGE them to put down the fake gun and pursue a future that will lead to success, not jail or death. Just as students respond to structure, they will respond to challenge. We are two people and we can not do it alone. 1 hour a week. That's all we are asking for.

So I challenge you to pray about what role you can play? There are many. Mentors are a desperate need. We also need prayer and financial support to even be able to do this on a daily basis. Pray about it. Then Act.  If you are interested in mentoring a student in Savannah, please email me: If you are interested in donating financially, you can visit our fundraising website or send a check to The Dream Campaign, PO Box 5306, Savannah, GA 31414.

If you aren't here and can't or don't feel led to give financially, please pray for these kids. They are all precious to our God and are the future! There are mentoring programs all over this country...consider it maybe even in your own city.

Put up a basketball goal in your drive way or cul-de-sac, bring out freeze pops on a hot day this summer, bake cookies, provide sidewalk chalk and invite kids to be kids again.

We could all use a little of that.

Thank you for your continued prayers and support. We are incredibly grateful for our friends and family.