Good News! Things are changing for the better! Young people are recovering their idealism.
During the Sixties young people were full of hope. They believed that they could end racism, sexism, war and poverty – and they thought they could do it overnight. But as the icons who symbolized their hopes, such as Martin Luther King, were blown away by assassins' bullets I watched their hopes fade. Replacing those hopes has been the politics of fear. The rhetoric of national leaders played to young people's anxieties about the future, instead of appealing their dreams for a better world. Disillusioned, they turned to egoistic gratifications of materialistic lifestyles.
But now a renewed spirit of idealism is blowing across America, and EAPE is part of it. We are one of the many voices that are challenging the self-centeredness that has infected young people who, too long, have been mired in a consumerist culture. We are part of that chorus of faith based groups that are calling young people to sacrificially give of themselves in the name of Christ to the causes of justice for the poor and oppressed.
This summer I went to San Antonio, Texas to speak to a gathering of 50,000 Lutheran young people. That's right! I said 50,000! I didn't mince any words as I challenged them to take Christ's call to service seriously. I could tell from the responses that God's Spirit was at work among them and that many were saying "yes!" to the challenge.
Over the past year I have been amazed and humbled by what I've seen some of my former students doing as they have attempted to live out the Gospel. Let me cite some examples:
There's Saleem Ghubril who has founded the Pittsburgh Project; a movement that has mobilized thousands of young people to rebuild derelict homes of poor people.
Shane Claiborne, another of my students, has had an incredible impact on young people across the nation. He has modeled urban ministry for them by what he and a handful of his friends are doing in one of the neediest neighborhoods in Philadelphia. This summer he was able to gather almost 400 young people to join him on a farm in Tennessee. Together they planned ways to live out the Franciscan commitment to the poor of the world.
Then there's Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove. He has become an acknowledged leader of what Christian Century magazine has called "The New Urban Monastic Movement." Jonathan has modeled the kind of simple lifestyle taught by Jesus, and has worked, along with his wife Leah, to be "neighbor" to socially disinherited people in North Carolina.
This past summer a team of young people sponsored by EAPE went to Northern Ireland to see what could be done to bring some reconciliation between Catholics and Protestants in that troubled land. You can be sure that they will work hard to bring together Christians across sectarian lines and create a peace movement that will impact their Irish friends across the sea.
I could add to this list of hopeful signs by pointing to the many ways young people are ministering to thousands of kids through our EAPE affiliated programs in cities across North America, as well as on the foreign fields. That is why I tell you that you can't make a better investment than getting behind these idealistic young people with your gifts and prayers.
They need your support! We cannot allow this growing enthusiasm to build the Kingdom of God to die down. Give graciously! Your help is essential!
ABOUT TONY + July 2006