Last Thursday I was blessed to spend an evening in the presence of God’s transforming love, and the sweet aroma of that evening is still making me smile. Officially, it was the annual Urban Promise banquet and fundraiser, the yearly opportunity for this wonderful ministry to strut their stuff and ask donors to help them continue their work. In reality, it was a demonstration of God’s power to bring light to darkness, redemption to the lost, and hope to those who are hurting.
Urban Promise is a ministry devoted to “Raising up the next generation of urban Christian leaders.” They accomplish this through a variety of programs that reach the children and youth of several cities, including Wilmington, Delaware. In Wilmington, they now have 5 after school camps that provide tutoring and safe havens for children in some of the poorest neighborhoods, as well as a Christian school that educates students through 6th grade, a new high school program, summer camps around the city, and last but not least, a mentoring and jobs program for local teens called the Street Leader program.
The Street Leaders are employed as aides in the after school programs and summer camps, but more importantly they are taught how to live lives worthy of leaders in their community. This program is showing remarkable fruit academically; ALL of these young men and woman graduate high school, and ALL of them are able to attend college. Compare that to the citywide average of 10% college attendance, and you know they are doing something special and unique.
Far beyond these objective academic statistics is the way lives are being transformed from the inside out. These successes are the fruit of change on the inside, brought about by the hope these youth now have in their Savior, Jesus Christ. That was the message they brought to the Chase Center on Thursday night.
The program was presented entirely by the youth, and it was powerful. They spoke, read their own poetry, danced, sang and acted out the reality of their lives in the inner city, and the beauty and redemption that is the love of God.
Admittedly, I am a soft touch for these kids. I have been supporting this work for years through my prayers and gifts, and was thrilled to see children that I did crafts with as kindergarteners standing on that stage performing. I loved seeing old friends, and cried tears of joy as the children shared their talents. God is truly transforming lives here, and it was a blessing to see that in action.
The transformation did not end when the children left the stage. One dear friend who attended summed it up this way, “my heart has been softened tonight, in ways I had allowed it to grow hard.” Many of us were encouraged to see what could be accomplished through faith in our awesome Lord and Savior. Our eyes were opened to possibilities, and several people spoke of their desire to get involved with the ministry for the first time or in new ways.
May we ALL see the evidence of God’s transforming power in us and around us, and be as courageous as those who are giving their lives to the work of Urban Promise.
(Click on the title of this post to be directed to the Urban Promise website for more information.)