Our Navigation Needs An Upgrade
I was scrolling Facebook and saw a status post from the Gethsemane Community Fellowship page. There was a video attached to a post on Pastor Houston’s behalf. It talked about the heartache he felt about the gun violence that is taking the lives of so many children and teens. He made the choice to clear his schedule to offer a listening ear to any and every youth that wanted to talk about the issues that concerned them. This was his call to action starting with the ones who are directly faced with the problem. I knew that I wanted to attend because I want to know not only who, but also what I should be praying for according to what they said. I wanted to make sure that I am a part of the solution.
Pastor Houston gave a brief summary of why we were there. He made it very clear that he appreciated the fact that so many adults showed up, but this was really about the kids. He looked them into their eyes and told them that they had his attention and he wanted to know what they thought about the many tragic situations that affect them daily.
He started out by replaying some of his thoughts from the funeral held on that Monday, June 27th. This was a funeral of a 17-year-old killed because of gun violence. He talked about how he saw a church full of young people who came up to the altar call as individuals, holding hands in support, and groups with tears in their eyes. Pastor Houston said he saw young people walking towards him with a desire for life and just needed some hope. He said he read on their faces in between the tears that they were basically saying that they just want to live.
At that moment is when God gave me the title of this post. “Our Navigation System Needs an Upgrade”. When you think of the traditional navigation system you think of a device that you use in your car to help guide you from point A to point B. Some people still prefer that model; however, technology has allowed us to bypass that device and use an app on our cell phones to achieve the exact same goal. As I looked around the room I saw a group of people who had a common destination goal. Their methods of getting to that place were what the challenge would be.
Pastor Houston really laid the groundwork in saying that the importance of building relationships was the foundation to every solution. He reminded us that the church has to do a better job of providing guidance and direction on what that looks like. In the middle of talking, he repeatedly referred to his number one reason for being there. He wanted to make sure that every youth present heard him and understood that they were important to him. He started with asking the youth specific questions.
These are a few of the questions that he asked. The answers are a blended response from all the youth that answered them. The notes are additional comments that I found added value or interest.
Q: What are some of your dreams?
A: Travel, educator, musician, attend college, etc.
· My current world is kind of a hell for real. It’s really not living.
· Parents don’t really know who their kids are. They are only seeing the representative so they don’t believe that they are capable of doing some of the things they do.
Q: What is your Greatest Fear?
· Not being saved when God returns
· Going to hell
· Not fulfilling what God said I am supposed to be
· Getting shot
· God not accepting me
· Not making my mom proud
· Living in the struggle
· Losing family members
Q: If adults could do one thing for you, what would that be?
· Not be judgmental
· Reach out more (if somebody said oh snap that 5-0 Nah...that Kirk Houston)
· Watch over the neighborhoods (Tighter Neighborhood Watch 24/7)
· Tell me you care
· Cease Fire (peer-to-peer mediation)
At a point, Pastor Houston had to leave for an emergency meeting with another set of youth. Rev. Quentin Rodgers stepped in and continued the great discussion. He opened the floor to comments and questions. Many adults stood up and asked questions, voiced their opinions, and provided insight into the current dialogue. It actually got a little tense at times because the response from the teens or youth seemed to contradict what the parents and adults wanted to hear. There were many moments that the “sidebar” chatter from the adults became the infamous “when I was a kid we were not allowed to do... Or go...”. These conversations reminded me once again of my purpose and the reason God gave me the title of “Our Navigation Needs an Upgrade”. The passion, emotions, and conversations that filled the room were all related. How can we fix the problems that plague our communities so that we can safely arrive at our destinations of seeing another day free of fear from another senseless killing? Everyone from the oldest to the youngest person in the room agreed that there is a problem. Everyone had an idea that could possibly assist in the solution. The concern is that most thought that their idea or solution was the best route.
Just as a stand-alone navigation system doesn’t have to be thrown away just because it doesn’t give the most up-to-date directions; old Christian beliefs or practices don’t have to be discarded just because they don’t sound the same anymore. There is a happy medium to ensure that the lines of effective communication stay open. It’s not that the old one doesn’t work, it just doesn’t give you the best route. When you UPGRADE the system, you learn how to arrive at the same destination on a much more effective route. This will allow you to not get as frustrated on the ride. It will also allow you to enjoy the company (older and younger family members and neighbors) while you are taking the journey through life. Regardless of what generation you are in, the goal is to have clear directions on how to make it to heaven, and live in peace while on earth. I wish you well as you choose to consider investing in an upgrade to how you navigate and travel the roads ahead.
Update: On, August 11, 2016, I had an opportunity to sit down with Pastor Houston and get his thoughts on my previous post. We also discussed the follow-up plans to help bring effective change that will be impactful and lasting. The conversation did not follow as if it was a formal interview. It was more like a divine connection. I asked him his thoughts on how that night went. He started out by talking about how he wished more of the youth that was actually at the funeral had attended. He wanted to hear from those who were crying out for help yet their voice was silenced possibly because they didn’t think anyone was listening. Pastor Houston told me that the Pastors of many of the churches located in Norfolk met and talked about a variety of ideas that could help unite the community from a church-based stance. There was a point when he sat up in his chair and said that the men must come together and make a decision to save our sons. He was not talking about sons in a biological sense. He was saying that as a man there are certain words, conversations, and examples that can only be taught by another man. The vision that he has is to develop a mentoring program that has a twofold mission. That mission is to train the mentors so that they are equipped to empower the mentees. His vision is to see this partnership with the mentors and mentees create a bond in all areas of the mentees life from school, home, and social activities. Pastor Houston said that he wants to start with the boys and at some point expand the program to include girls. He said recognizes the need for the girls to be included however he needs to start with the dominating force and cause. There is a men’s call to action and informational session scheduled for August 19, 2016.
As I reflected back on my conversation with Pastor Houston, I am reminded of the title that God gave me the night of that event. “Our Navigation Needs an Upgrade”. That event was held on July 1, 2016, and since that night I have heard of several organizations feeling the need to have rally’s, meetings, and workshops concerning gun violence in our community. We are all trying to arrive at one destination and that place is for us to have a safer community for our youth to learn and grow. I believe if we all take time to check our personal navigation (motives), we could assist each other with the directions needed to get to where we are going. Pastor Houston kept reflecting on we have to “Save Our Sons”. While I didn’t make the connection then, the title was clear to me once again! Our youth is sending up an SOS because many of them are lost. They need the guidance and direction from adults and leaders to help them find their way.
If you would like to be a part of the solution and partner with Rev H. Dr. Kirk Houston Sr. and the Garden Of Hope CDC on this mission, please contact Gethsemane Community Fellowship Church office at 757-622-0760.