You often hear the good stories from us of young men and women who are making choices to change their lives but prison ministry, especially with kids, can be an uphill struggle at times. For every kid we make a connection with, another one walks away. The lure of the street and the easy money of the corner can swallow a kid whole.
In the last six months we have had two young men who had made decisions while incarcerated to follow their faith and change their lives. They came home with a new mindset and an exuberance to do what was right. They also had unCUFFED’s commitment to help them find jobs, to continue their education, and to connect them with a faith community. But on the streets of Baltimore all ground is shaky and the potential pitfalls are everywhere. Both of these young men slipped but as you read these stories remember the Donnie McClurkin lyric “for a saint is a just a sinner who fell down … and got up.”
One young man came home to his grandmothers’ house in the drug infested neighborhood of Westport. None the less, he stayed connected with us. He was placed in a job at a ZIPS Dry Cleaner and planned to attend Gallery Church Sowebo. He had to walk past the corner boys in his ZIPS uniform to catch the bus to work, his Grandmother was soon diagnosed with cancer and ultimately passed away, and he broke up with his long time girlfriend. The street called and he responded. We were sad, and at the same time angry and ultimately unsure what to do next.
The second young man came home with good intentions. He began working at Sofi’s Crepes Belvedere and he came to a Gallery Church work project in West Baltimore but soon had a warrant out for his arrest and was back in jail.
Thankfully, our God is the God of second and third chances. This week we heard from both boys; they are both now taking steps to set things right. They both reached out to us to reconnect and like the Father in the the Prodigal Son parable we are celebrating their return! This ministry is hard and it can be difficult to stay positive sometimes but we are building lifetime relationships to allow God to change hearts and minds. In the short term it may seem uphill, but we are confidant that He will carry us until we start coasting downhill at great speed!