JULY 2007

Dear Partners and Friends,

We have a problem, and I don't just mean EAPE, or even EAPE and our affiliates. The we I am talking about includes all of us who work with inner-city kids in the name of Jesus and the problem we have is that lots of those kids fall right back into street life once they graduate from our youth programs.

I hear about this problem all the time, from inner-city youthworkers who are devastated to see young men and women in whom they have invested their blood, sweat, and tears prove unable to survive as committed Christians outside of the structure and support of an organized ministry. These youthworkers often blame themselves for not giving their kids a strong enough foundation, but stop and think about it: How many of us could survive as followers of Jesus without the pastoral care and spiritual solidarity of our churches or small group fellowships?

No, the problem is that there are very few inner-city churches that are equipped to meet the spiritual needs of the kids who graduate from programs like Urban Promise or Cornerstone Christian Academy. These kids aren't used to traditional African-American or Latino worship or church leadership, nor are they prone to be satisfied with a fellowship that doesn't include people from many socio-economic backgrounds. What they are looking for is grown up versions of their youth groups, with high levels of interaction, authenticity, and accountability.

Another issue in keeping kids growing in Christian discipleship, both during and after their time in our programs, is making a spiritual connection with their parents as well. Over the years in our EAPE programs, we have found that many of these parents are quite open to visits from our staff members. Most are grateful for what we've done for their children. However, to visit families in their homes, to listen to their problems, and to address their needs takes more hours and requires more workers than most of our ministries can afford right now.

As some of you know, in addition to serving as Executive Director of EAPE, my son Bart is pioneering a new kind of ministry for children, young adults, and families in the extremely high-risk neighborhood of Cincinnati, Ohio where he and his family now live with a handful of like-minded friends. Their ministry, The Walnut Hills Fellowship (www.thewalnuthillsfellowship.org) is drawing together a congregation of vulnerable neighbors around big weekly dinner parties and community service projects, much like a youth group, and then providing pastoral care and support, much like a church. The difference is that they're doing it with people who wouldn't fit into most churches.

I don't know if what Bart is doing is the answer to our problem, but it's a start. I'm excited that EAPE is helping The Walnut Hills Fellowship get off the ground, and I'm hopeful that this year we will be able to invest in more new church initiatives aimed at making sure that the inner-city kids we work so hard to develop into good citizens of God's kingdom don't fall away once they reach adulthood.

To do that we need to find the right people, of course, and then we have to give those people the resources they need to do and incredibly hard - an incredibly important - job. Now can you understand why it is so important for you to keep giving and praying for EAPE? Please, don't forget to send in a contribution to undergird the work God is doing and will be doing through us this year.


Tony Campolo

Tony Campolo

ABOUT TONY + July 2007

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