A panel of men describes how the power of the Gospel is bringing light, hope and transformation to those facing the struggles of life in the inner city. (Part 1 of 2)
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John Fuller: There's a Christian boot camp that has helped transform hundreds of men's lives in an inner-city neighborhood and you'll hear about it today on "Focus on the Family" with Jim Daly.
Jim Daly: John, right now there's a movie in theaters and it has been No. 1 called Straight Out of Compton and it shows the ugly underside of the inner-city. It's a tough movie and unfortunately, just seeing the trailers for that reminds me of bein' there in third grade. I was in Compton and it was tough and the inner-city life is tough and we want to talk about that today.
We were able to go on location to Indianapolis. They call it "the 46218." It's the Zip Code. It's a tough neighborhood. It's their "Compton" and there's a pastor there, Pastor Darryl Webster, at Emmanuel Missionary Baptist Church, who is doing an incredible work, encouraging men to step up and be men, to be husbands, to be fathers and to really reintroduce them to what it means to be a man of God. And he is seeing great fruit in these efforts and we're gonna talk with him today from Indianapolis.
John: Along with Pastor Darryl Webster, were Bob Woodson, the founder and president of the Center for Neighborhood Enterprise, along with Kurt Moore, James Miller, Tyrone Miller and Robert Bigsbee. That's the panel and here now, Jim Daly on "Focus on the Family."
Jim: Today we're in Indianapolis and we're gonna have a terrific, hard but genuine conversation today about what's going on in the cities around America, not just here in Indianapolis. And I want to start just left to right here. We have six men at the table with me and I know it's gonna be hard perhaps to keep names straight, but let's listen to the conversation. That's what's gonna count. And let me just ask you guys right from the git-go, growin' up in a neighborhood that's tough, a lot of people don't understand it.
I grew up in Southern California. I actually went to third and fourth grade in Compton, California. That was a tough city. My mom and dad were divorced. I didn't have a dad in my life for the most part. So, from my perspective as a white guy, I've seen a lot like you guys and maybe not as much, but I want to tap into that. What's it like? Where are you livin' every day? What are the challenges that so many young people face? And then we'll get into more of each of your stories. So, Darryl, let's just start with you.
Darryl Webster: Well, when you think about really growing up in a neighborhood with several different issues, whether it's poverty, crime, I grew up actually on the west side of town, a[n] area called Haughville. And back at that time, it was one of the worst areas in the city of Indianapolis. And we had to deal with the drugs, the crack. Actually at 16-years-old, two of my best friends got killed.
Darryl: And we buried one on a Friday and another one got killed that Friday evening. One of the things that caused me to turn to Christ is that I didn't want to end up that way. When I think about, you know, you talk about growing up in a home whereby dad and mom, my dad and mom divorced when I was 12-years-old. Not only when I was 12-years-old, did they divorce, growin' up as a kid, it was very abusive.
But the thing that saved me was my mother was a Christian woman. And by her being a Christian woman, she instilled value, respect in us as children. And I think one of the major disconnects in our country today is that we are missing those coaches, those mentors, those people to come alongside of this generation and instill value and hope in them.
Jim: Well, let me mention that, because when you look at the statistics, these are growing worse and worse. And in the African-American community unfortunately, we talk about fatherlessness; it's at the top of the chart. I mean, it's over 70 percent of babies born in the African-American community don't have a dad in the home. And then all of us are being affected. I think the average is somethin' like 40, 45 percent. So, it's beginning to become more common for everybody. Maybe Kurt, you can comment on that aspect of it, just dads not bein' around. What's that doin' particularly to young men?
Kurt Moore: Well, as I was speaking with the gentlemen earlier about growin' up in a community where not only there's not a male role model in the house, but there's no male models in the community as a whole. So, an old African proverb, it takes a whole community to raise a child, but when we were coming up, I was brought up during the 70s and 80s. We always had a male role model through coaches—
Kurt: --Little League coaches. You had male role models through the neighbor next door or the neighbor down the street. If you got out of line, you know, they would discipline you and then take you home to your parents to be disciplined, as well. Well, there's no longer that man there to teach you how to be a man, to teach you how to say, "Yes, sir" and "No, sir" and be respectful of your elders.
So, with that, these young guys or young men out here in the streets now, they don't know how to be a man. They don't know the definition of bein' a man. And this is definitely taking an effect on our community. They also have the statistics that talk about, when there's no male role model or father in the house, there's [a] percentage, [a] high percentage chance that you're goin' to prison.
And these trends need to be curtailed or directed another direction right now and through programs such as the Boot Camp and Pastor Webster, this is what he's doin' in this community and he's not only teaching us how to be men and others, but he's setting us in this community and puttin' us as pillars in this community in order to be role models and to through our actions, be a blessing unto some young men or even young women, as well and just teachin' 'em the basics of morals and values.
Jim: Bob, you and I met a while back and today recording this, this is the fruit of that discussion. You're excited about what's going on here. Why?
Bob Woodson: I'm excited because I'm solution-oriented. It's fine to say that people growing [with]out with certain things, my dad died when I was 7-years-old. My mother with a fifth-grade education, had to work to bring home food. So, as a practical matter, your relationship[s] with your peers are important, and I think that that's why I'm I spend so much time with people like Darryl Webster, because we can't just lament that fact or just [say] that well, this is how we were raised. We gotta talk about how do we get restored?
Bob: And there's where we oughta be spending our energy, and that's why I'm excited, because the men around this table are the replacements for those dads.
Bob: We've gotta find quick replacements, put resources on the table so that the 150 men that comes to your Boot Camp can be amplified 1,000 times throughout the country.
Jim: And we want to talk about that Boot Camp, Pastor Darryl, that has been started. We're gonna get to that, but first we want to finish around the table. James, give me a bit of your background. Where are you comin' from?
James Miller: When I was growin' up, I didn't see 46218 as a bad area to live in. As a matter of fact, we all [thought] it was kinda like comin' up, so to speak. Now as a[n] early an adult in the 80s and 90s, I watched it changed over and unfortunately, I played a part in the problem that we'll talk about later on. But what's so, prominent about the men at this table, that although we have been at some way, shape or form, part of the problem, we are now part of the solution.
I think more than anything else, what I like about Boot Camp is that the solution to what's goin' on in this neighborhood was written long before we got here. It's biblical principles. It's application of biblical principles. It was written way before the problem exists. (Laughter) I think what we've done is gotten away from the foundation of manhood.
The most important thing about Boot Camp, whether you was 8-years-old or 80 when you came, either you came ready to learn Christian principles, or you're getting' ready to be redefined by Christian principles. And so, I am proud to be sittin' in this circle, only from the standpoint, I'm givin' honor to God to go from being the problem to help being part of the solution.
Jim: Well, I so appreciate that, James, because I mean, that's what it's about. Those things that we do in life that cause us difficulty, especially as kids, as young men, we probably were all doin' things that weren't good. There's probably degrees of which that happened, but when God gets ahold of you, it changes your life. He changes your life, doesn't He?
Man: That's right.
Jim: Tyrone, what's your story here in this Zip Code in Indianapolis?
Tyrone Miller: I also was born and raised in the 46218 Zip Code, still live in the 46218 Zip Code. It was a neighbor for me that lived behind my mother that steered me in the right direction. And it was my mother influencing, enforcing rather that we go to a Bible study and have it at home--
Tyrone: --Tuesdays and Thursdays, no matter where you were, whether you were playin' basketball, football, you had to come in at 6 o'clock and have Bible study.
Jim: Even at 15, 16?
Tyrone: Yes, yes, she enforced that. And then, that played a role because we were introduced to Christ at some point, at that point and then we took, when you are introduced to Christ, to me, that Spirit, it lives, it digs deep, that digs within. And He won't let go.
Tyrone: And that's what brought me to the area where we are now, you know. God wouldn't let me go
Jim: How do you see that in the midst of so much stuff goin' on? And what I mean by that, you feel it now. You know it now, but when you were that 16-, 17-year-old, was it stickin'
Tyrone: Well,when God has a purpose and a plan for your life, He will throw obstacles in front of you that will open your eyes. I got shot at 15.
Jim: Tell us about that. I mean, that brings it home for those that are listening. How did, I mean, how did you get shot?
Tyrone: I walked in on a robbery and at that time, the clerk, she had a 357 Magnum behind the counter. And when she came out to get the guys that were robbin' the store, she didn't know how to handle the gun. She had pulled the hammer back and her fingers slipped off the hammer and it hit me in the stomach.
Jim: I mean, and the difficulty is, in some ways and I don't know how to say this, but that kind of violence is somewhat expected, isn't it? Why is that?
Tyrone: To a degree.
Jim: Why is it? Why is that the way it is?
Tyrone: When you're in a community and you see it so often, sometimes you know, you get numb to it and it's like it becomes normal.
Tyrone: So …
Jim: Robert, what's your story?
Robert Bigsbee: I didn't grow up in the 46218. I grew up in the 46226, which is not far, but my father passed when I was young, so I was always searching for what I thought a man was. My grandfather took me to church every Sunday, but through the week, he worked from 2 to 11, so that left me vulnerable to the enemy through the week of tryin' to find what a man was.
And it's like every man I emulated was always a negative man, you know, was always a drug seller, a man with many children, with many kids by different women, those were the types of things that I thought a man was. I thought he had money. I thought he had a Cadillac and I thought for every day of the week, he had a different girl.
Robert: So, I was always searchin' for what a man was. I never had a man to come along and say, "Well, come on over here. Come with us and play ball. Come let's do this." But the drug dealers would take me in. They would accept me. They would tell me certain things and I started just hangin' out with 'em. It wasn't because I wanted to become one, or be like 'em. I just wanted a man around. I wanted somebody other than grandmama and mama to be around and hang out with.
Jim: I think some people don't understand that desire on the part of a boy.
Jim: I think that longing in our heart is, you're asking yourself, "Do you matter to anybody?"
Bob: That's what I wanted to comment on, because I think what happened with me was when my dad died, my mom seemed to have lost interest in me. I didn't realize that she had to work and do extra things. All I knew, she was—
Jim: She was carryin' the burden.
Bob: --she was carryin' the burden, but I felt affection withdrawn from me. So, I wasn't gettin' it from my dad and so, a child feels as it, what is it that about me that causes me to feel unworthy of people loving me?
Bob: That's how a child processes that. So, then, but you still have that need, that longing to be loved and you're not getting it from the primary source--both of the people when I lost my dad, I lost my mother, too. And so, then I had to go find it, and I was blessed to be able to take enough from my buddy's father--we called him Pop Henry--that I took a little bit from him. I took a little bit from my coach, so sometimes what we children do is try to take enough from those who love them to deal with those who don't love them.
Jim: Well, and having the desire to take pieces is a good thing. What about the young man that says, I'm so wounded, I don't want anything to do with anybody that's good?
Kurt: Well, I think that's where a lot of the young men that work for me are at. And a lot of the young men in this community, because no one is there to actually take the time to take them to a ball game, teach them how to fish. Of course, you already know, I was incarcerated for 13 years and as the time went on, some of the rec specialists in the prisons would say, "It's a shame, a lot of these young men don't know how to play sports anymore." A lot of young men in these communities don't even know how to swing a baseball bat.
Kurt: See and the problem is, no one is takin' the time to show them how to do these things. And these things may look like they're small, but they're very important, because it teaches a young man, sort of team work.
Kurt: It shows a genuine love for him. And if a young man has never had that genuine love comin' from a[n] elder or from anyone else, then of course, his heart automatically hardens. If the only love that he sees or only what he receives is love is someone puttin' a sack of drugs in his hand or showin' how to rob, steal or kill or lie or cheat, you know what I'm sayin'? So, he automatically has his defense mechanism up to where he's not gonna trust anybody. So, of course, he doesn't believe. You could be tellin' him, you know, you need to eat to stay alive. He doesn't even believe that.
Jim That's amazing. Kurt, the fact that kids, you know, even if they're movin' into juvenile detention or something like that, don't even understand how to play sports. That's a big shift. Darryl, we really need to talk about the Boot Camp. We've referenced it a few times, but you've gotta fill in for those of us that don't know anything about it. What is the Boot Camp? How did the idea get started? And what do you accomplish through it?
Darryl: Yeah, you know, it's very interesting. It kinda feeds into what we've already been sharing. The acronym for Boot Camp means "Because Of Others' Testimony, Christ Answered My Prayer"; Because Of Others' Testimony, Christ has Answered My Prayer.
All of us have a story, whether it's about fatherhood, disconnected families. I started Boot Camp 10 years ago out of the need to more being reactive instead of proactive because of the shootings and killings in our community. We had so many violent deaths and they were black on black crimes. It wasn't someone comin' in from the suburbs. I felt like we had to do something to reach our young black males.
Jim: To give some scope to that, I saw 21 murders in one year, 21--
Darryl: Oh, yeah, it's been higher than that.
Jim: --in just this Zip Code, not Indianapolis—
Jim: --just here.
Darryl: Exactly and not only, you know, the murders, you have more people coming out of the penal institutions back into this zip code. So, we started off bein' reactive. I would just get a bull horn and I would go on the corners and just preach. We'd get caskets and we'd demonstrate with caskets, talkin' about, if you don't stop, this is where you're gonna end up.
Jim: So, shock therapy.
Darryl: Yeah, we wanted to shock 'em into changing'. Well, I found out that I had to do somethin' different.
Jim: That wasn't working.
Darryl: Yeah, yeah, that was not working. You know, and so, when I started the Boot Camp, I started it 10 years ago. I said, I need to do something different, but radical. If a man really wants to change, he's gonna get up at 5:45 a.m. in the morning. So, I started the camp at 5:45 a.m. in the morning with 40 men, you know. And I just made an announcement; put it on the air. Ten years later, we've seen over 300 men. It's nothing for you to walk in here at 5:45 a.m. and see the 200 to 300 men.
Now one of the reasons why I started that [was] because I discovered that a lot of us learn about manhood from the bars—
Darryl: --the barber shop—
Jim: The drug dealers.
Darryl: --or the business table or the drug dealer. I figured out, if God is the owner of man, He said, "Let us make man in our own image" and if He's the owner of men, I felt like men oughta operate according to His plan.
But lo and behold, here's what I discovered. We got business men comin' to the Boot Camp now, because there's unresolved issues in all of our lives, whether you had a passive dad, whether you have a dad who wasn't in the home, whether you had a dad who worked all the time. All of us got unresolved issues just for the urban area, you know. They're multiplied because we have so many other issues with poverty, but every community has unresolved issues.
So, you know, when these guys start coming, what I do in the mornings is, first of all I give 'em like a principle of the day, something that they can live by. I say something like, "Life is not a dress rehearsal; it's the real thing." I give 'em another quote like, 'Life is in present; life is now in session, are you present?" Or I may even give them another quote, "Like it or not, you are a leader by design."
So, I give them these quotes in the morning. Then we have accountability groups, whereby, you know, it's easy to have an event, but when you start dealin' with lifestyle, where another brother's gonna call you and make you accountable for the next--not just 21 days--but for the next year.
Jim: Well, let me ask these guys. They went through the Boot Camp.
Jim: Let's talk about accountability. I mean, men, we tend to be loners. I don't care what the color of your skin is. It's the way God wired us, isn't it? It's hard for guys to be vulnerable to each other. I think women do that really easily. But for us guys, it doesn't come so easy. How did that work for you to be in an accountability group? Anybody have a story about that?
Kurt: I think it's more or less it becomes like you said, we're designed sorta to be loners, sort of to hold our problems within and not talk about it. But I think when a problem becomes so big that you have no choice but to be humble and just want to cry out and that's what we have seen in Boot Camp, where brothers just, you know, God works through 'em so much and through their heart, that they just, all that loner and all that machoism, you know, that façade, puttin' on, you know, it goes out the window during Boot Camp.
And what helps it is, is actually the testimonies of other brothers, because everyone can relate to someone else. And so, when you 're hearin' this brother talk about how he may have been addicted to drugs, then you don't mind talkin' about, man, I gotta tell my story, too, because if God helped him, He can help me—
Kurt: --or through my story, when I'm tellin' these brothers about how I was incarcerated for 13 years. I was released. I didn't have any money, no job, no nothin'. And then Pastor gave me a hand up, not a hand out, a hand up. And another Boot Camp brother gave me a job. Then it led on to where my business is now, by me ownin' a business, havin' a good job, you know, in pursuit of puttin' a family together and so forth, this opens eyes of another brother that may have just been released and let him know, yeah. It can happen for you, too. You know, all you have to do is first submit and be humble.
Kurt: The humble shall be exalted. The exalted shall be humbled.
Jim: Let's talk about dignity for a minute, because I think that's a huge issue and let's talk real. Let's, you know, we're sittin here at this table in this church and I think the best thing to do is be as vulnerable and as honest as we can be, hopefully, all out.
I remember with Focus on the Family, I was going to South Africa a lot. I probably made 30 trips to South Africa, a couple in the apartheid era and 28, 30 times after that. And I can remember the two trips, they really stood out to me, because the two trips before President Mandela was elected, there was a lot of tension on the streets. And I could feel it comin' from L.A. and Watts and Compton. I knew what that looked like. And people wouldn't look at each other in the eye and there was aggravation.
And then after the vote happened, it was like a different place, a lot of joy. The people were easily lookin' at each other and smilin' at each other, black and white.
And I asked this man down there, a black man in South Africa, I said, "What's the difference? What's happened?" And he looked at me with one word and he said, "Dignity." And that, whew! It just hit me, like wow! Help me understand what's the dignity issue in the U.S.? What do we not know in the white community, what's goin' on? Help me feel it, 'cause I know it's there. Jump in.
James: I don't know if I'm answerin' this question right, but I'm gonna reference it again to Boot Camp, 'cause we spent a little bit of time talkin' about the youngsters and their misdirection. What about the men who made bad decisions and as a consequence, they face incarceration? What about the men? What I, as well as Kurt, I was incarcerated, too, but nowhere near as long.
The first thing I learned durin' incarceration is, a lot of men incarceration were not bad men; they made bad decisions. Now there are some bad men I wouldn't want to see (Laughter) released. Don't get me wrong.
James: But there is group of certain people who made bad decisions. How do we change our lives? Who's gonna give us a chance once we came out, once we've been labeled or we've been stapled with this? And you was talkin' about dignity. I think what the Boot Camp did was give the man value; it let him understand the value of himself.
James: You know, to understand who he was, regardless of the mistakes. See the Scriptures say, regardless of the mistakes you've made, what's the Scripture say? "If anyone's in Christ, he's a new creature. Old things are passed away, Behold all things become new." And see, what the crux of the Boot Camp did was say, we're gonna accept you as you are. We're gonna call you out on your wrong thinking and your wrong behavior. But we're gonna come alongside you and give you a venue, give you an area, a[n] avenue to change the way you think, you know.
Bob: Let me just add a footnote to the whole issue of dignity. Pastor Webster, when I attended a Boot Camp said something that stayed with me. He said that what we are imprisoned by, we're in a prison that's locked from the inside. We have the ability to unlock ourselves. Dignity does not come from somebody else outside of you. Dignity has to come from within yourself. And this whole time we've been sitting here, no one has pointed an accusing finger at anybody.
Bob: No one has said, oh, my mother and father did this, racism did this or society, inequity did this. They never, ever assigned responsibility for their dignity or their circumstance on somebody outside. And that's what impressed me about the quality of this ministry. And that image of being locked up in a prison where the keys in the lock go on the inside--
Bob: (Laughing) --that image just stays with me.
John: That's Bob Woodson, as we wrap up this portion of a recorded conversation from Indianapolis on today's "Focus on the Family."
Jim: John, I was so impressed with these men and what Bob Woodson there is talkin' about. These guys grew up in that neighborhood and they're still there. They're not wanting to leave. They're wanting to do what needs to be done to kinda recapture the sense of family, the sense of neighborhood, the sense of community and I really admire that.
They're not achieving these things, you know, stable jobs, businesses that they've started in order to leave. They're really wanting to help others in that neighborhood come up out of the poverty that they're in. I admire that and what's motivating them to do it? Because they're changed in Christ and that's what Pastor Darryl Webster has done with his Boot Camp program, to introduce them to the Father of the fatherless and to help these men really understand what it means to be a man and I was honored to be in their presence. I like these guys. They're doin' it. Their testimonies are so meaningful. They're comin' from brokenness, but they are whole and they are movin' forward and they're not makin' excuses and I can't wait for you to hear more of their story next time.
John: And we've got the download, which has a lot more of their stories, some additional content for you. Get that or the CD at www.focusonthefamily.com/radio.
And Bob Woodson's book is The Triumphs of Joseph. We'll send that to you for a donation of any amount given to Focus. Call us today, 800-A-FAMILY or donate and fine resources at www.focusonthefamily.com/radio.
Our program was provided by Focus on the Family and made possible by generous listeners like you. On behalf of Jim Daly and the entire team, thanks for listening. I'm John Fuller, inviting you back tomorrow.
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In his blog, Jim Daly highlights several practical suggestions that were offered on our radio broadcast "Changing Lives in the Inner City."Read more
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Bob WoodsonView Bio
Bob Woodson is the founder and president of the Center for Neighborhood Enterprise which is dedicated to advocating for and strengthening neighborhood-based organizations struggling to serve their communities. A long-time social and civil rights activist, Bob has spearheaded community development programs on a local and national level. During the 1970s, he directed the National Urban League's Administration of Justice Division and later served as a Resident Fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. Bob is the recipient of numerous awards including the Presidential Citizens Medal, and he is an author of The Triumphs of Joseph: How Today's Community Healers are Reviving Our Streets and Neighborhoods.
Darryl WebsterView Bio
Darryl Webster is the Pastor of Emmanuel Missionary Baptist Church in Indianapolis. In 2005, he instituted an annual "Boot Camp" for men at his church to strengthen and encourage them in their faith, and this ministry has since been adopted by several other churches in the United States. Darryl is also a conference and seminar facilitator, and author of the book Small Change, Great Impact. He and his wife, Sibyl, have four children.
Kurt MooreView Bio
Kurt Moore owns and operates an auto detailing shop in Indianapolis. He holds an associate degree in business.
James MillerView Bio
James Miller is a peer mentor at Hoosier Veterans Assistance Foundation. He is also a mentor at his church who is especially passionate about helping those struggling with addiction. James holds an associate degree in human services and is continuing his education.
Robert BigsbeeView Bio
Robert Bigsbee is a truck driver for the city of Indianapolis, and also operates a haircutting business.
Tyrone MillerView Bio
Tyrone Miller is employed as a freight truck driver.