It’s a word that most of us have heard, but not many of us have truly experienced. We imagine it’s difficult, but if we’re truly honest, it’s not something that deeply affects us, which means it’s not something we think about too often.
For others, though, it’s a daily way of life that has all too often resulted in broken families, dead end jobs, addictions, and hopelessness. The face of poverty is a father too ashamed to come home, because he knows his family is hungry and he doesn’t have any money. A single mother, leaving her kids with a relative “just one more time”, because her only way to make money is on the streets. Its teenagers, unsupervised and hurting, turning to drugs and gangs to feel they belong, and to block out the emptiness around them.
Perhaps the most painful face of poverty is that of children, too young to understand the concept of money, but old enough to grasp that there is never enough to get by. Divided homes, foster care, being raised by an aunt, a grandma, or even a family friend, these kids learn to get by with what they can, and not to expect too much.
There can be a positive side found in this; resilience, perseverance, and inner strength are often best cultivated through adversity. But there are many, many downsides that are often difficult to overcome. The lack of continuity and stability, especially for children, can create a void that is often filled with negative inputs, and peer pressure is even more difficult to resist.
Not necessarily a word you might expect to find in the midst of an inner city neighborhood riddled with poverty, but it is there, fueled by the residents who refuse to give up, and by those who have a heart to bring the light of Christ into situations that may seem hopeless.
One such bringer of light is known as Antioch Ministries, and this is their explanation of who they are and what they do:
“We hope to empower and connect neighbors in North Minneapolis to encourage youth in their development as leaders. Antioch is a place where people come together to support the youth of North Minneapolis. The ways that we empower and connect people is through:
1. Sharing meals together
2. Discovering Jesus together
3. Navigating school together
4. Having fun together
When people come together in these areas, trusting relationships begin to develop. When we start to trust one another, we will be able to provide a blanket of support for the youth in our community. To encourage them, to show that God has a specific purpose for them right here, and right now.
We have weekly programs that give youth ages 6-16 a place to grow and be encouraged in what they are doing. We plan to support them in their God-given gifts, provide a place for food and fun, and help them navigate life and school. Parents, neighbors, and caring adults will help provide this support.
Our current programs include a weekly Wednesday night gathering at 1415 Oliver Ave. Nand a Thursday evening programat 2811 Fremont Ave. N. The Fremont program is from 5:30pm-7:30pm on Thursdays.”
When I first encountered Antioch Ministries I was a freshman in college, straight off the farm, and having my first experience in a metro area. The only time I had even been in a poverty stricken area of the city was when we had gotten lost going to a wedding once, and that was short lived, as you can imagine.
For one semester, I was blessed to go to the first Antioch house weekly and spend time with the kids. I prepared for dinner, read books, played games, answered homework questions, and helped lead a small Bible study group. A few little girls offered to do my hair for me, and pronounced me “tender headed” when I couldn’t stand up to the rigorous braiding process they were attempting.
Most of all, I was overwhelmed; things were louder, dirtier, and more chaotic than I was accustomed to. During home visits I was shocked by how many kids could tumble out of one house, by the fact that there were no books anywhere in sight, and that small children were playing unsupervised on sidewalks that I, as a 19 year old college student, wouldn’t have dared to travel alone.
Life was very different there. Yet, in so many ways, it was (and is) very much the same. Kids love mac n’ cheese. They want to be held when they fall down. They appreciate getting undivided attention, they absolutely love being noticed, and as they turn into young adults they crave adult affirmation and guidance. Everyone needs someone to walk with them through life, and these kids are no exception.
Antioch provides a safe place, in the form of a regular neighborhood house, for these kids to come and be loved on, laughed with, fed, and supported. They learn about God, they get help with homework, and they experience, first hand, that they are loved for, cared about, and wanted. As they grow into young adulthood, leaders at Antioch continue to walk alongside them, with a heart to see them develop into young leaders within their communities and schools. The program is empowering, life giving, and a blessing to all who are involved, whether youth, parents, or volunteers.
If you are interested in learning more about Antioch Ministries, or perhaps donating to their cause, you can connect with them via their website antiochnorth.com.
(There are currently two Antioch houses with open doors in North Minneapolis. The vision of the mission is to one day expand to 15 houses spread throughout the community.)
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