Tag Archives: jesus

Shepherds of the inner-city, social reform at its best!

In this blog today I have included part of an article which I read in Newsweek magazine on April 18, 1994. Now, 13 years later this article still makes so much sense that I want to share it with you. It deals with a depth of commitment in the areas of justice and social reform as we are lacking today. I copied this article from a paper copy of Newsweek, unfortunately it is not found on line:

Shepherds of the inner city
How to help troubled adolescents—and make welfare reform succeed – By Joe Klein

Leon Dickerson will be attending the Carrolton middle school in Baltimore this week. Leon is 23. He is a graduate of Holy Cross College. His presence at Carrollton will be a demonstration of concern and a show of force and an attempt to save a life. The life belongs to a 13-year-old named Shawn, whose story is all too common.

Shawn’s father isn’t around. His mother is incapable of caring for him. He lives with his grandmother. “He’s really smart,” Leon Dickerson says, “but he doesn’t want anyone to know it. He’s afraid they’ll pick on him in school, call him a nerd. So he acts out a lot, roams the halls, talks back to his teachers. I told him the next time he was given a ‘disciplinary removal,’ I’d spend a week sitting in class with him, making sure he didn’t mess around. He’s really embarrassed, but too bad. I had to show him I’m serious about his education.

Leon Dickerson is part of an extraordinary program called Choice. His official title is “team coordinator,” but a more accurate job description might be: -shepherd-which we’ll define here as something like a social worker, only a lot more intense.

His flock includes 60 troubled adolescents — “the cream of the crap” is the operative one-liner— who are under the direct supervision of six caseworkers, all recent college graduates who have agreed to work 70-hour weeks for a year for a pittance. The strategy is simple: prodigious face time with the kids (who are referred by an array of local agencies that process juvenile miscreants). The caseworkers are in contact with each kid three to five times each day. They make sure the kids are in school. They see that the kids do their home work, get tutored, get medical care. They trail after them in the evenings, herding them back toward limits’ their homes, making sure they’re in bed on time (each has a curfew). The kids are watched over for three to six months, which doesn’t seem long – but new habits and expectations apparent begin to percolate; a recent study showed that 73 percent stay out of trouble for six months after they leave the program.

Choice is a rather extreme example of an emerging truth about programs that deal with behavior-driven—that is, underclass— poverty: those that work best concentrate on socialization. “These kids know no fear,” says Leon Dickerson. “They need limits.” They need to be taught how to behave in civilized society; they need to be punished when they break the rules (and, off course, encouraged when they do well) In a word—and this – not very surprising, given the family disintegration in the poorest neighborhoods — they need parents. The trouble is, being a parent is very labor intensive.

Creative shepherddry also takes a lot of time—but it appears to be the indispensable element in addressing the anomic poor. The degree of attention may vary with the situation; the terminology may change, but not the basic principle.

At America Works, perhaps the most successful welfare-to- work program in the country, the shepherds are called “corporate representatives.” Each has 20 or so clients to watch. “They’re trouble-shooters,” says Peter Cove, the founder of America Works. “Their job is to cut through the static that overwhelms the lives of most welfare recipients—the babysitter and boyfriend problems, the confrontations with bureaucracy. They explain what’s expected in the work- place, how to behave.”

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I can’t tell you how effective this welfare program is today; I did check them out on the internet and they still continue with their community development. When I read this article 14 years ago I was touched to my inner core… and even today I realize that what our world needs is people with the same kind of commitment to reach out and bring hope to their world, their communities and their neighborhoods.

If only we would be able to look past our own desires, our own ambitions and own dreams to flesh out the reality of the life of Jesus in the midst of brokeness, touching those who need a touch, praying for those who need prayer and; most of all, loving those who need to be loved and who long to be be loved…Then I know we will (finally) function as shepherds of the city to which we are called!

That’s the Way I see it!

God bless you,

John

Manifesting Jesus in Stockholm on May 3 – for or against?

Jesus manifestation

Preparations have gone on for a long time; one of my best friends has taken the responsibility to take care of all the practical arrangements of this Jesus manifestation in our capitol city. Intercessors have been praying for the event (because that what it is), and have prayed on the 7 squares where meetings will be held simultaneously from 12.00 -14.00 on that Saturday. From three of these squares, marches will be organized and they will at 15.00 converge at “Kungsträdgården” the “garden of the king” in the center of the city. Here we will have a worship service with many of the participants.

Much can be said about this day, opinions about it differ, and some lock themselves in opposite camps trying to sell the idea or telling how things should be done differently.

I REJOICE!

  • I rejoice, not because I find this the most effective and appropriate way to let the people in Sweden know that we as Christian Church exist. But because we are uniting around Jesus Christ and Who He is! The testimony of the attributes of Jesus will be addressed on every square and different churches and groups will somehow be a reflection of the richness and diversity of God Himself and His mind-boggling creation!
  • I rejoice because of the many different ethnic and international groups of believers who will join hands and hearts to proclaim Jesus as Lord!
  • I rejoice because we are doing something! Many of those who are against this kind of manifestation have opinions on what to do, and how to do it. Let’s be honest; they are not particularly known of doing anything at all in regards of furthering the Gospel in our nation!

On Saturday I will be on Sergelstorg, the infamous square in the heart of the city where drug pushers, addicts and many marginalized people hang out mixing with the crowd about to add yet another token on their totem of consumerism as they populate the stores in the center.

On the surface this same square seems to reflect the very heart disease our city is suffering from; a city seemingly filled with people with hearts of stone, indifference and independency… yet, as one comes beyond the facades one finds true people with true issues and questions looking for true answers. (By the way it was on this square that New Life Church was born, the church of which I am one of the pastors.

I am looking forward to my time on that square that day. Together with four other churches we have been asked to present a 2-hour program. Our heart goes out to those who have not heard, nor felt the Good News. We will try to present the Gospel in a relevant way and invite people for prayer, we will serve them the world famous “FIKA” (coffee with buns) for free and be there for them. Please come along, or pray that people will meet Jesus that day! As long as others philosophize about what to do I will together with thousands of others do my little part in this way, this day, this time…

That’s the Way I see it!

John