Written by Dr. Bill McElwee | Board Member
As I watched young black boys playing basketball on our newly refurbished floor today I thought of the interview I had just heard on National Public Radio. One of the guests told of a study which showed that a soldier on active duty in Iraq was less likely to be shot than a young black man on the streets of North Philly. And we are told that Camden is a more dangerous city than any in the nation (possible exception, St. Louis).
The interviewer had asked her guests (all engaged in urban youth work) if it was appropriate to call the inner city a “war zone” and all three said that was definitely the case. Furthermore they spoke of how living in such a setting has produced a numb hopelessness in kids and adults. “Society seems to have just written them off”, one guest said.
Just today one of our staff was talking about the shooting of a nine year old in her neighborhood. The boy may be blinded for life. It is the third shooting in her area in recent weeks. She fears for her grandchildren.
I watched these young boys in all their innocence, laughing, playing and delighting in anticipation of their trip to a summer camp in the Poconos for a week. What a wonderful thing that Fellowship House can arrange for that, and that we have four weeks of in-house day camp at our building this summer as well as fifty kids here for our daily After School program during the school year. These kids have a safe sanctuary within this war zone.
I imagine how a young soldier in Iraq or Afghanistan must feel when he returns to his home base after a patrol through the dangerous countryside. What a sense of relief it must be to get back behind safe, secure gates and walls. Having heard that interview I realized that this must be how our kids feel when they are able to come to Fellowship House.
We teach them, of course, that the only real security comes from trusting in God through faith in Christ. That is a deeper truth which will buoy them up throughout their lives. But while they are learning that, our programs and facility will be a haven within the war zone in which they are required to live.
My wife and I attended the Mt. Zion United Methodist Church in Lawnside on Sunday. As the men's choir came rocking down the aisle they sang, "I'm on the battlefield for my Lord. I promised him that I would serve him till I die, and I'm on the battlefield for my Lord."
Well, I guess we are, in more ways than one. The bumper sticker says, "Support our troops". We hope you all will.