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“ The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the broken hearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives, and release from darkness for the prisoners.”
Isaiah 61:1

In Luke, Jesus reads these very words early in his ministry in a synagogue. He then proclaims, “ Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”

 

I resonate with these words because, as the Director of Youth First, ( one of the urban ministries our church supports), I work with over 100 teenagers who are growing up in south central Los Angeles.

 


 

Most of them live at or below the poverty level so they fit the criteria of “poor” from the verse above. Many fit the “broken hearted” category of the verse as well having seen more violence and felt more loss than any teenager should ever experience. They also fit the “captives” label as too many are often prisoners in their homes because it’s too dangerous to hang out outside. They despair at the lack of economic opportunities available to them where they live.

 

In Youth First we share the Good News of the love of Christ. We do our best to communicate in word and deed that God loves them more than they could ever imagine. He knows their names and their lives have value because they are made in His image. Youth First provides a safe space for kids to have fun, hear the Gospel, engage with mentors who grew up in their same neighborhoods, go to beautiful camps outside the city, and get together as a large community each week. I feel blessed to be called to such a ministry.

But it goes both ways. I am blessed by these teens as well. I learn about the Lord from them too. I am blessed to watch their joyful resilience in the midst of so much hardship. I have never laughed so much and so loudly as when I am with them. I am always impressed by their generosity. They may not have much, but they share what little they have with anyone who needs it. (One of our mentors actually gave a kid the shoes off his feet the other day!) And they truly value relationships. As a middle class person, I often feel too “busy” to do that. But the students know that relationships are worth the
time they take. They model all these things for me.

 

Over the past 10 years, I’ve learned that some of the best people in this city live in south central L.A. They need me and I need them. I believe that’s the way God made it to be. We all need each other to see Christ in all His fullness.

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