I was hanging out with one of our high school youth, whom we’ll call Joseph, a couple of months ago, and he was excited to tell me about a dope opportunity that came up for him. His father, who had recently gotten out of prison, has a girlfriend in Ohio with whom he plans to marry and get a house. The exciting part for Joseph? His dad wants to bring him and his sister along so that they can start over into a new life. This was huge for Joseph because he’d been without his dad for most of his childhood, had been living with his mom, who’s been in and out of addiction, and had only known poverty. Going from an apartment to a house and seeing a future for himself built hope for him. Though skeptical and had many questions, I continued to stay present and support him.
Joseph learned months later that this hope was just an empty promise, as he would tell me it looked like those plans fell through because of “complications.” To add more salt to the wound, two weeks ago, he said to me at Church that his dad had rejected him. I was heartbroken to learn that my skepticism was valid but even more hurt to learn that His Dad, who had just been reintroduced to his life, left him (again). I understand that his father has had many challenges himself, and walking into a father role straight out of prison is no easy task; I can’t help but hurt for Joseph as he’s been hurt yet again by false hope. Though this is extreme, I’ve seen him disappointed by false hopes that ultimately failed him.
His story paints a picture of a common struggle of urban youth. They are preyed on by false hopes that always come up short, leaving marks of hurt, disappointment, and hopelessness throughout their lives. While my heart breaks for Joseph, what brings me a sense of Joy is that when his dad rejected him, he came to a community (Our Church) that never has and has been walking with him and his sister since their young elementary days. It brought me joy that even when hope was once again stripped from him, he knew he would be embraced by a community that held to an unwavering hope. And I pray that Joseph discovers and holds to that steadfast hope.
Scripture tells us that in Christ, We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. In a culture where the urban youth are constantly misled and fed false hope, let us be leaders who remain present when everyone walks out on our youth. Let us be youth leaders who love our youth when it seems they can’t find that love anywhere. Let us be youth leaders who are beacons of hope in the trenches for our youth, reflecting the hope of Jesus that is an anchor for our souls. When the youth can experience people of God who remain present, patient, and persistent when everyone else seems to walk out, we’ll be able to point them to the God who perfects those qualities. He is our hope in the trenches.