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 2 of 2)
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(Sound of Men Singing)
John Fuller: That's the sound of a group of men who are passionate about Christ and they're at a Christian Boot Camp, held at Emmanuel Missionary Baptist Church in Indianapolis. You're going to hear how they found strength and hope in God and how they're making a difference in the inner city on today's "Focus on the Family" with Jim Daly.
Jim Daly: John, I visited that church and Pastor Darryl Webster, who runs that Boot Camp and you weren't able to be with me that day. I wish you could've been there, because it was transformative to see what this man, through the power of God, is doing in the lives of these men who are coming at 5:30 in the morning to get to know the Word of God better, to pray together, to hold each other accountable in community and to really learn Christian manhood in that environment.
Bob Woodson, the founder and president of the Center for Neighborhood Enterprise talked with me about this probably over a year ago and urged me to go and see it and to see what was happening with these Christian men and I'm tellin' you, it gives me great hope and it inspired me to be a better father and I am lookin' forward to what we're about to hear today.
If you missed last time, you've gotta get the download or the SmartPhone app and all the ways that you can listen. One of the things that caught my attention right away is they refer to themselves as being from the 46218. It's a tough neighborhood. I was there on location. We recorded at Emmanuel Missionary Baptist Church with Pastor Darryl Webster.
And he is doing an incredible work in the lives of men in that community. The Lord is using him to change people. It's an incredible story.
John: Let's go ahead and jump back into the conversation. Here's Robert Bigsbee, one of the panelists, talking about the impact that this Christian Boot Camp has had on him.
Robert Bigsbee: I'll say what the Boot Camp did for me, and what I think it did for a lot of brothers, it filled the void, because there was an emptiness when I was younger, wantin' a male figure in my life. And I thought I had it and I thought I was on the right track. But then, when I gave my life to Christ and started comin' to church, I experienced it again, because street people don't want to be bothered with you when you talk about Jesus, or got Jesus' fingerprints on ya. (Laughter)
So, I experienced it again all of a sudden and it taught me so much. It taught me how Satan works. It taught me that Satan'll put a drop on you, then a teaspoon, then a tablespoon. And before you know it, you got the 50-gallon drum of sin in your lap. (Laughter) But once you get it out of your lap and you really start seein' reality, you know, you start to realize things.
I mean, I was so lost in reality, once I did start bein' around mature men, I had to call a pastor for everything. I said, pastor, I said, I want to take a young lady out. Where should I take her? He said, "Well, where you been takin' her?" I said, "The gambling house, wherever I went *(Laughter), the crack house, gambling house, I mean dope house, I mean, wherever I went. That's what I did."
So, Boot Camp definitely filled the void that I know that Christians go through once they're a new creature in Christ. It gave them another outlet to be around-- not just one or two brothers, but several brothers, several. I didn't have that at first, 'cause I was, like I said, I was lonely when I first got back in church. None of my friends wanted to be bothered with me anymore, because I was growin'. But like I said, my Sunday school teacher told me, he said, "A lot of people are gonna start disappearin' on you." and I heard him, but I really started believin' him once they started droppin' off.
Darryl Webster: And one of the things we normally say, Jim, is that, you know, we need education. You talk about dignity, but education is not the salvation of a man. I normally tell 'em, education informs. Prison reforms, but the Gospel transforms.
Darryl: But once I gave my life to Jesus Christ and somebody started really loving me, you know, like we do with Boot Camp, we love 'em. Then we lift 'em. Then they learn. Then we lead 'em, begin to add value to 'em. And we let 'em know that they're really somebody.
The majority of America have father wounds, but the Gospel of Jesus Christ—I'm a preacher—is the real solution. And after we give 'em Christ, we equip them with Christ, we also help them along with jobs, education.
Jim: Kurt, let me come back to your story. You've mentioned a couple of times about being in prison for 13 years. Let me tease out your, kinda your lifeline. Why did you go to prison for 13 years?
Kurt Moore: I went to prison for 13 years for possession of 640 grams of powder cocaine and 64 grams of crack cocaine and carrying a gun in relation to a drug trafficking crime. And that was exactly how my indictment, my federal indictment read.
Jim: And then you're in there, and what I want to do is just paint that picture of how transformation can occur. I mean, you're in prison. Was that a rehabilitating experience? Did you get in there and say, "Wow, I gotta straighten out my life?" Or when did God come into your heart?
Kurt: Well, actually God came into my heart before then, as I mentioned earlier. I started goin' to this church as a kid. I graduated from high school and I went on to a small college in Phoenix City, Alabama. Now I'm in the Deep South, the Bible Belt, so every friend that I had down there, whether it was college roommates or whatever, still somehow another ended up gettin' me in church. Now I didn't participate in church, but I was there.
Kurt: When I came home from college, the crack epidemic had really taken off by leaps and bounds. The guys that you left behind that didn't graduate from high school, that didn't even have two pair of shoes, now all of a sudden, they had brand-new cars, jewelry. They had all the women.
Jim: All the stuff.
Kurt: They could pull out, yeah, they could pull out a pocket full of money out of every pocket. So, now here it is, I done went to college, played college basketball. My Michael Jordan dreams are over, and I'm workin' in the mall, sellin' men's suits and workin' at UPS, unloadin' and loadin' trucks. But I don't have anything. I'm ridin' a bus every day. So, the lure is there, and it doesn't matter whether I was a gang banger, a thug, a gangster, whatever it may be, the money is what lured me.
Kurt: So, we started selling drugs. And unfortunately, we were good at it, as far as makin' a lot of money. But as I teach or speak, I speak now around a lot of schools and community centers. I spoke at a church, and I always tell kids, you know, for every action there's a reaction.
Now you may be able to choose the action, but a lot of times you can't choose the degree of the reaction. So, the degree of the reaction, most of the time with drugs is, the penitentiary or the graveyard. My college roommate, my best friend who I'd been knowing practically my whole life was killed in the streets sellin' drugs. Other friends were fallin' all around me. Other friends were goin' to prison all around me. And then ultimately I was shot in 1995, foolin' around in the streets.
So, this is when I knew I needed to start goin' back in church. My mother was goin' to church, so I started goin' to church with her. I still hadn't left the streets alone and the other thing, I would leave my beeper, we were talking about beepers over there, in the car with my cell phone and my gun. When I get back to the car, I make other moves. So, the transformation was still comin' along slowly with that.
Some of the most powerful messages I ever heard were at some of my best friends' funerals, which were a calling on my heart and which I really wanted to get up and go up front, but peer pressure wouldn't let me. Yeah, I can't do that. But so, when I was incarcerate[d], when I was locked up, the federal judge, they sentenced me to 211 months, 17 years and 7 months, to serve 85 percent of that time in federal prison. I got on my knees in the county jail and I told God, "Take my life."
Kurt: I talked to my mother. I'll never forget it. The first call I made was to my mother. She said, "Well, it's time to be a man now, son."
Kurt: That this is where the rubber meets the road. So, I gave my life to God in the county jail. Of course, we had prayer circles all the time and doin' this, and it was a struggle. Then when I was [the] first prison that I was taken to was Manchester Federal Prison in Manchester, Kentucky. As time went on, the Word continued to get in me and to get in me. And I knew, you know, eventually things that I used to like to do—gamble, you know, lust, fornicate, all these different things—they start fallin' off. Lyin', stealin', cheat, they started fallin' off.
So, with this and it just spearheaded, man throughout my whole incarceration, to the last five years of my incarceration. Now I was runnin' some of the church services in jail. I was givin' exhortations.
Kurt: I was doin' the prayers, or when other churches were comin' into the prison, I was doin' the prayers with them. I was leading the service, to the point that where I did when it was finally time for me to go home, which God blessed me; I had three more years on my sentences to do, but they changed the law, and he gave me immediate release.
I came home. I got hooked up with Pastor in Boot Camp, and then I let him know, I want to speak, man. I want to go to these schools and talk. I want to do this; I want to do that. I got turned on to serving schools, community centers, as far as speakin' to kids.
A lot of 'em didn't know they could go to college.
Jim: So, just givin' them some hope.
Kurt: Givin' 'em some hope, not just hope, knowin' there's scholarships out here for you, there's grants out here for you. It doesn't matter, 'cause your mother is hooked on drugs and your father's incarcerated. It doesn't matter 'cause you have 10 other siblings. It doesn't matter, 'cause you don't have any money. You can get a scholarship for bein' left-handed.
Kurt: You can get a scholarship for this. You can go to school. So, once that opened up, now God is just using [me]; not only is He blessin' me, but He's blessin' me to bless somebody else.
Jim: That's an awesome story, an awesome testimony. Bob, let me ask you here, because you started the Center for Neighborhood Enterprise. Along with a spiritual renewal, like Kurt's talkin' about, there's gotta be some practical application to that. Men need jobs. It's probably one of the big problems we have today, is there's just not enough work for everybody. Talk about that. What are you doin' with the Enterprise to help men get a leg up?
Bob Woodson: You know, one of the things you got to first of all look at like the glass is half full. You have to ask yourself, what is it that all of these men sitting around this table have in common that has an economic benefit, or some usefulness?
Bob: I found that they have free access to the streets. (Laughter) They're unafraid. They also have the ability to be counselors and lead others, that a predatory young man will respect you. And so, for example, what is it that inner cities need? And I point to [the] example in Newark. There was not a food market within five miles because of the violence and the crime. But there was a program like Pastor Webster has, that had men like this and women.
So, what we were able to do is, introduce the manager and owner of a Pathmark. That's like the food store, persuade him. Sat him around a table like this. He saw how influential it was. So, he built a brand-new food market in the middle of this community, staffed by people in the ministry.
And as a result, people knew it was safe to shop there. And there was no pilferage that you get in other stores. Absenteeism was gone, because these are all [in ministry]. So, what happened is, this business realized that a store in a high-crime area performed better economically than any of the stores in the suburban communities--
Bob: --because they were meeting an unmet need. There are areas like in this zip code and Ward 8 in Washington, D.C. where there's no taxi service, because people are fearful. These men can drive a taxi in that high-crime area and own a taxi company, which means they can also deliver food, so Popeye's can open there. McDonald's can open there. So, because once their character changes, their characteristics have an economic advantage.
So, what we need to do as society, is to go to places like the Boot Camp. Come there with men and women that know enterprise formation and sit with them and figure out what kind of businesses then that operate in any normal community and just put it in here, because you know how to bring about civil control.
Jim: Yeah, can I ask some tough questions?
Jim: And really, give me the honest answer. I really want it. When you look at, you know, the dialogue in the country and you talk about enterprise zones and developing opportunity and all that, some people have a jaded perspective, for whatever reason that the government's doin' what it can. The government is in a position to take care of people that can't take care of themselves. Speak to the issue of government's role, from your perspective.
And then that self-reliant side, you know, and let me break it down this way. I mean, the Republicans often will say, you know, people need to pick themselves up by their boot straps, and you know, get on with their lives. And Democrats would say, hey, government needs to help people from the bottom up. Talk to that for a minute and help us understand, from what you have seen—you guys have lived it—let me hear it.
Darryl: Let me speak to that. Let me speak to that in two ways. One of the things we have to keep in mind is, that I think it's "both and."
Darryl: What I mean by that is, that my mom had 15 kids, and my mom only had an eighth-grade education with 15 kids.
Darryl: So, she could not afford to pay for school lunch. So, we needed the free school lunch, because my mom couldn't afford it.
Jim: I'm with you on that one. I used to scrounge a nickel to get a cookie--
Jim: --'cause we didn't have lunch money. I didn't have lunch money.
Darryl: Exactly, but at the same time, I think there oughta be, it has to be a balance of, in not just enabling programs, but empowering.
Panel: Uh-hm, that's right.
Darryl: But we have a responsibility also to do what we're supposed to do in order to empower our communities.
Jim: Speak to me in terms of, and again, I just want to hear it, when you look at kind of the racial tension and the racial divide, when you have either white leadership that is dividing or black leadership that's dividing, like a Jesse Jackson, and I'm not sure where you guys are all at. How do you feel about the race issue being used in such a negative way?
Kurt: I think that as we hear Bob say all the time, and once you start talkin' about race, he's gonna leave the room. I tell you (Laughter) yeah, I heard him say that and it stuck with me. I think it comes down to also about class issues, more—
Jim: --they're saying, class—
Kurt: More or less now, too.
Jim: --is bigger.
Kurt: Yeah, because don't get me wrong, yes, there is still some racism. I mean, we're not blind. But more or less, it comes down to class now. And one of the gentlemen was asking me, well, how many people when they graduate from college come back to this community?
And I can't tell you an exact amount, but I can guarantee you, it's probably less than 10 percent.
Darryl: Oh yeah.
Kurt: And that creates a problem, because now you have no one comin' back to help rebuild this community. And with all that said, it's hurting because we lookin' at and want to blame everything. Let's put it this way. In prison, everybody blames everything as far as through African-American family on the white man.
Kurt: And we blame that, because the majority of the time, the person that judged you was white. The one the prosecuted you was white. And 9 times outta 10, your lawyer that you felt like did you wrong and could have represented you better (Laughter), he's white, too.
Kurt: So, they blame everything on the white man. So, they run towards different beliefs or faith groups or things of this nature that may look more like them. But are they better for them? No, it's not. The problem is, that in 2015 right now, everybody pretty much knows right from wrong. You know that if you pick up that gun, you're gonna possibly go to jail. (Laughter) So, you don't have to blame the white man.
Let's go back to the origin. Let's go back to where it all began at. And this comes down to once again, to the single-parent home or the two-parent home or where there are no male role models, there's no Boot Camps in every Zip Code in this city.
Jim: Well, and it's back to what you said originally, that these are character issues--
Bob: It really is.
Jim: --in all of us as human beings. We're livin' in a world that's full of sin, right?
Panel: Yeah, There you go.
Jim: And it doesn't matter again what color our skin it. Sin is about the heart.
Panel: Right. There you go.
Tyrone Miller: Sin is sin.
Jim: Sin is sin.
Darryl: And Jim, also you talk about the race issue.You know, some things are systemic.
Darryl: Some things are systematic. But the bigger issue, I think is, in solving those things, I think we sometimes go to the wrong people. It's the grassroots people who live in the neighborhood, who's working with the people day by day, they have the solutions to really help solving the racial issues in their community, 'cause let's think about it.
We vote our city, county councilmen in. We vote the people in to represent us. I think the church has to do a better job of connecting with the community in order to solve the problems.
Jim: Well, and I so appreciate that,Pastor Webster, because I think we, the believers, we, the believers need to pull together and say, how can we lift more people up in that way? What can we do to give people the hope that you have? Look at your lives, how different they are all of you.
Bob: Jim, one of the things that I think my role is, to answer your question, is to talk with people with money and power, so that they can see that it's important to invest in these kinds of neighborhood enterprises. I mean, write checks to them.
And now that Darryl and people like him have demonstrated that they have godly significance, people with money, with power and influence need to come beside him and say, "How can we take some of the world's possessions, so that we can demonstrate not only to your folks, but to God? I want to see this facility doubled. I'd like to see monies to strengthen your business, so you can teach others in other cities. That's what we need resources to do that, Jim.
Jim: Well, it's well-said, Bob and I, you know, I think that's the thing. Now Darryl, we may have made you really busy here, if other pastors in other cities want to look at your model and maybe duplicate your model. That would be terrific, but that's really what Bob's saying. How can we begin to, you know, in many ways, bypass the very welfare state that's been created—
Bob: Oh, yeah.
Jim: --as Christians, to actually come in and do the job we all should be doin'. That's what you're sayin'.
Jim: Forget the state. The state can do so much, but it's really a transformation of the heart and the state's not gonna transform anybody's heart.
Panel: Right, right, there you go, there you go.
Darryl: Well, interesting, because also, I've set up a Boot Camp in Dallas. I just left Jacksonville, Florida. And they're being set up in churches—
Darryl: --okay, Cincinnati. Right now I have a 46,000 square-feet building that we're waiting and we're tryin' to raise funds for. When you were talkin' about responsibility, what we're doing now is, we're getting people certified to teach fork-lift driving. They're getting people certified to teach CNA classes. We're getting people certified to teach welding.
Bob: Jim, can I ask you a question? I don't mean to [interrupt], but--
Jim: Jump in.
Bob: --why is Focus interested in this topic?
Jim: I think it's because, well, on the enterprise side and what Pastor Webster's doin', it seems like the right hope for people.
Jim: When you look at other alternatives, they're void of any spiritual renewal, everything we've talked about. And for Focus on the Family, you know, again, my family background was all brokenness, so it's what drives me.
I don't want another child to go through foster care like I did. I don't want another kid to be abused like several of us were. I don't want kids to grow up in neighborhoods where they gotta duck, 'cause bullets are flyin' by. And that's what drives me. And I think it's just not right in a country as wealthy as our country, that we can't find better answers to address some of these issues, so that children, man, so that children can live a life that God intended them to live, to be a kid again.
How many of us grew up too fast? I mean, too fast. In Compton, I saw two people get killed. I was just a 9-year-old boy. I saw one guy get beat up with my baseball bat, you know. Some adult took it from me and just beat the tar out of the apartment manager, 'cause we wanted to play baseball. He didn't want us to play and somebody's dad came out, took that bat, broke three or four bones in his body and then handed me the bloody bat back. I was like, this is not what I want to be.
Panel: Right, right.
Jim: And so, I think that's what drives me, Bob, to ask that question. And the other thing is, all of us are made in the image of God.
Panel: Yes. Amen. Amen, yeah.
Jim: And man, I'm tellin' you what, I agree. This country has not been kind.
Bob: Yeah, yeah.
Jim: And I mean that, I mean, there are abuses.
Jim: And we've gotta stop that nonsense, too. Churches, Christians, we've gotta be in fellowship together and lovin' each other and bein' there for each other. And I don't know that we know how to do it, but we've gotta find a way. We'll be a much stronger country if we can be more integrated in church.
Bob: I really see people like the kind of people that I serve, and I serve people like this all over the country, I see them as the new patriots.
Bob: And because if they can find peace and restoration and redemption in the midst of the most crime-ridden, drug-infested neighborhoods, and if they can come to the kind of realization of [what] being a father means, if you can come to your realization of what it means to be a dad, if you can talk about the tremendous sacrifice that you personally have to make in order to stay away from the evil one, then people of greater material means, it oughta be easier for them. But I really see what America needs is a moral brushfire.
Bob: Brushfires burn from the bottom up.
Panel: Yeah, right, right.
Bob: And my hope and my prayer is, before God takes me home, is to recruit the kind of people like you, Jim, and others that have a microphone and a network, to shine a light on these accomplishments--
Panel: Amen, amen.
Bob: --and to others, so we can elevate them and support what they do, but more important, to share it with the rest of the nation. White suburban kids culturally are [in] many ways inner-city "wannabees." Rap music would not be—
Panel: Real, exactly.
Bob: --goin' platinum if white kids were not listening to it.
Darryl: I agree.
Bob: And therefore, if the inner cities can be the conveyors of negative cultural messages, why can't we take that same channel and ship out to those communities these kind of cultural, positive cultural messages?
Panel: Amen, yeah, yeah.
Jim: Just like God to do it that way, too.
Darryl: Yeah, yeah.
Jim: You know, isn't it?
Jim: You think of everything that this country's been through, all of it, slavery, the whole bit, and you think about for the inner city, for leadership to develop there to point the way out, wouldn't that be the way God would do it?
Darryl: He will.
Jim: I think it is.
Darryl: Well, that's how Jesus did it.
Jim: That's how He did it.
Darryl: Jesus started in the urban area, makin' impact on people.
Darryl: And when you really think about what God is doing, I commend you guys takin' the time to come into the inner city and share our story. You know, Oprah has on every Sunday night, stories of hope.
Darryl: She has stories of hope and I see today, you guys comin' to us, just good as comin' to Oprah in hearing (Laughter) our stories of hope.
Jim: It's a great story, the Boot Camp, the enterprise zones, what you're doin' to lift people up. We're all human beings.
Panel: Yeah, yes.
Jim: And that's what we need is a spiritual renewal in our heart and then a chance to live our lives. And that's what it's all about. Man, this has been so good. I'm better for bein' here today. Thanks for makin' me a better man.
Darryl: We are, too.
Panel: Thank you, Jim. Thank you.
Jim: John, I meant what I said there at the end. I mean, I am a better person for meeting these men. They are good men that have changed the direction of their lives. They were drug dealers. They were into things that were destroying their lives and thanks to the work of Pastor Darryl Webster and that church, and obviously, the work of the Holy Spirit, their lives are forever changed and it comes through loud and clear.
In fact, Kurt Moore's, the story you just heard, one of the men, his business--an auto detailing business, K-Love's Auto Detailing--one of his employees was killed just the day before we got there to record the program. That's how prevalent crime is in these areas. That's how close it is and that's how it makes a detrimental and damaging impact to so many.
And again, I just love the fact that this pastor's workin' so hard to bring hope to this community. That is an awesome thing. I hope you'll follow up with us and continue the discussion at our website. I've blogged about it today. I would love for you to go; read about further thoughts there and comment. Let me know what you're thinking after hearing the program.
John: We'll have a lot of follow-ups at the website, including a link over to Jim's blog and the download of this interview, which has so much more of these men's stories. Also available on CD, of course.
And we are offering Bob Woodson's book, The Triumphs of Joseph: How Today's Community Healers Are Reviving our Streets and Neighborhoods. And the starting place for all of that is www.focusonthefamily.com/radio or call us; 800-A-FAMILY. And we're listener supported. We rely on your generous gifts to continue this outreach and when you donate today, we'll send Bob's book to you as our way of saying thanks for being part of our support team.
On behalf of Jim Daly and the entire team, thanks for listening to this program, which was provided by Focus on the Family. I'm John Fuller, inviting you back tomorrow. We'll have Greg and Erin Smalley with us, talking about improving communication in marriage. That's when we once again, help your family thrive.
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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.
Robert BigsbeeView Bio
Robert Bigsbee is a truck driver for the city of Indianapolis, and also operates a haircutting business.