Wow…This has been an amazing first half of 2010. Not just for me but for Upward Bound Outreach. The year began with an unexpected two-week lineup with juvenile justice facilities throughout Florida. We were accustomed to speaking at Churches and schools but never anything like this. We were not prepared but instantly amazed at the impact on the kids, the community, and even for us personally. We have taken three trips this year and visited half of the 141 facilities in the state of Florida. Each trip has consisted of Jeff (director) as the facilitator and opening speaker paired with Brryan Jackson and/or myself. Brryan would speak with Jeff for a week and then I would join Jeff to speak the second week. The opportunity to share my testimony with others has helped in a lifelong healing process as I deal with and learn from all that has taken place throughout my life.
The intention of this blog is not to talk about myself as much as it is to convey what is going on with the outreach and personal experiences stemming from these opportunities. I have met so many kids on these trips. Kids just searching for answers. Our passion pours out as we speak. Many assume that
Upward Bound is just another motivational speech for them to listen to as they count the hours until their next activity. But when Jeff begins speaking, he reveals our true intentions of showing the youth, staff, and guests that we are with them only to show we care and offer inspirational personal stories. Stories of perseverance, stories that involve betrayal, rejection, but most importantly HOPE. Stories of taking life one step at a time. The youth are special and they have change my life.
It is too bad that, legally, we can’t show the look on these kid’s faces or the look in their eyes as we share with them. We are a faith-based organization but we don’t shove the gospel down their throats. Even though we don’t say God and Jesus every other sentence, these kids can tell through our passion and stories that we are on a mission to share our love with others and they can definitely see our passion which is through Christ. On the last day of our most recent trip, I met a young man named Scooter. Jeff and I finished speaking and as we were walking around shaking each youth’s hand and saying “You are Loved!”, sitting at the last table was a boy named Scooter and I was not expecting the next 30 minutes of that day to impact me as much as it did. Jeff explained to everyone before we walked around that this was ‘his thing’ and that I was not comfortable with looking people in the eyes and saying “you are loved” but I will still go around and shake everyone’s hand. Jeff suggested to the kids that maybe they could reach out to me and say “you are loved” as a way to make me feel more comfortable. I went all the way around the room shaking hands and by the time I got to Scooter’s table I assumed that I would get around the whole room without someone saying much to me. I don’t want to sell this process short because shaking these kid’s hands means a lot to me even though we don’t exchange the words “you are loved”, I can tell that we have a connection. I arrived upon Scooter’s table and shook the other kid’s hands. When I got to Scooter, I reached my hand out and looked towards him. He had tears in his eyes and held a stern grip on my hand as he said, “hey man, there are a lot of people who love you and I just want you to know that you are loved.” ARE YOU KIDDING ME? This was amazing. I started to tear up immediately because I just couldn’t believe what was happening. After the program, Scooter asked the super-intendent if he could meet with us privately. The super-intendent agreed and as we sat down with Scooter. I was amazed at how confident he was in the advice he was giving me and the emotion that was pouring out of him. He didn’t pause or stammer in his words. The verbage flowed out like he had been preaching for 10yrs. He was wise beyond his years. He messed up and that is why he was currently in the detention center. He explained his desire to go down the right path and do the right thing for himself and his 3yr old son. Scooter said that he started getting emotional when, during the program, I said “I don’t know how anyone could do this to their own flesh and blood.” It made him start thinking of his son at home and what he was going to do to make a positive impact in his live. We talked for awhile then the most amazing thing happened. Scooter looked at up and as he was looking me in the eyes, he said, “I love you. I can say that because we share similiar experiences and I want you to know I love you.” That was an incredible experience for me and I will never forget Scooter. We all prayed, hugged each other, and Jeff and I continued to the next facility. Something incredible is happening at ALL these facilities. These trips have been amazing and I hope to share some more stories on this blog. Also check out more blogs about our journeys on our website.
Below is a video of some of our experiences with Florida’s youth, check it out…