I needed to visit a family in Riverside, one of our tougher neighborhoods. Enough kids were on
the streets you could have filled a school bus, no kidding. It was the middle of a school day. It’s
a public housing project, providing vital low income housing for families who really need it,
but it’s not an easy place to raise your family.
The young woman I was looking for had gone back to college and I wanted to inform her of a
scholarship for which she was eligible. She lives on 28th street. With my great sense of direction
I went straight to her house without looking at the street signs. I knocked politely, much to the
interest of the neighbors. No answer, but the music playing was turned down. I waited, debating
if I should take the hint, or persist with another knock. I find it hard to resist persisting, so I
On the second knock the door opened right away, but the Mom who answered the door was not
the woman I was expecting. And from the look on her face, she was equally puzzled. It might have crossed my mind that I was at the wrong house, but ask any man with a good sense of direction and they will tell you the chances of being lost are so remote as to be virtuously impossible.
“Is Linda home?” I asked.
“No Linda lives here,” she answered patiently.
“216 28th Street?”
“Oh…well, that would explain it.” I recently learned that GPS satellites have to take into account Einstein’s General Relativity to be precise, for real. Certainly this was the most likely explanation for this baffling lapse in my sense of direction! There had to be a warp in the time space continuum.
But my t-shirt saved the day. ‘UrbanPromise Staff’ on my breast pocket caught her eye.
“You with UrbanPromise?” she inquired with an unexpectedly keen interest that piqued my
curiosity. I nodded, “Uh huh.”
“Oh, that’s great! I want to send my children to your summer camp! My son Jamal went last
year and loved it. Do you still have space?”
Suddenly we had a connection. And God had a reason.
“Yeah, Camp Freedom has a few openings left, but you’d better go today to register them
because it’s nearly full.” All week I had watched a torrent of parents walk in to register their
kids. UrbanPromise Summer camps are FREE and among the best in the city. I had
literally just seen the sign for Freedom on my way out saying there were 5 spaces left out of 80.
We will serve over 500 children in grades 1-8 in our six summer camps.
“How did you learn about us last year?”
“My cousin. Her kids loved it and she told me I had to get Jamal in there. I remember last summer, he’d come home singing the camp songs and telling me what he learned – skits, Bible verses, all kinds of things. He wouldn’t stop talking about it. He’s been asking me all year, ‘Can I go back to Camp Freedom?’, but I wasn’t sure how to sign him up.”
I guarantee she knew she could come to the office and find out, it’s less than 200 yards from her home. But it’s common for families we serve to be intimidated about stuff like that, and as a result they miss out on important resources. I felt real joy that my mistake (ok, I admit it! I was lost!) had been useful to her. Honestly, it’s kind of the theme of my life – God takes my lemons and turns them into lemonade. And it always tastes so good because He made it, not me.
“Hurry,” I told her honestly, “We want Jamal back, but if you don’t get there today, I’m not sure there’ll be a space for him at Freedom. What’s your name?” “Tonya,” she answered.
“What’d you like about camp last year?” Parent feedback is important.
“I just loved the staff. They did home visits. I liked the Bible verses. They really gave the kids lots of fun things to learn and took them on trips. And honestly, it’s free, I really need that.”
She meant what she said, because fifteen minutes later she was at the office signing Jamal up for Camp Freedom. And sure enough, it was full by the next day. There’s not a lot of hope in Riverside, and Jamal came home singing every day, bringing the hope and joy of Jesus at Camp Freedom home to Riverside and his household.
Friend, kids and parents in Riverside need an excellent, free summer camp. I need your support to make these camps free for Ms. Tonya, Jamal and five hundred others like them in similar neighborhoods. It costs about $13 per day to make these camps great and free. You can sponsor a child for the whole summer with a gift of $390 or for one week for $65. $120 will send a child on all six summer trips this year. Your gift is like a knock on a stranger’s door. When it opens, you find out you have more in common than you thought, and it’s beautiful to see God use it to change lives. Thank you!