Dear Partners and Friends,
"Youth was made for heroism, and not for pleasure!" So said Ernest Becker, one of the foremost authors in the field of social psychology.
The opportunity to do something heroic is what attracts young people to come and serve in our EAPE programs. Mostly in their 20s, they readily join in the work of our affiliated ministries. They willingly go to difficult and dangerous places, and, in most cases, without any financial remuneration. Generally they have to raise their own support by getting their friends, relatives and home churches to underwrite their room and board.
The chance to do something of great importance is what makes these incredible young people willing to sacrifice the "pleasures" that others their age are enjoying in normative walks of life. They are enticed by the offer to work with extremely "at risk" children and teenagers. What awaits them as they encounter socially disinherited urban kids are challenges that only the heroic would embrace.
Sociologists say that there are three kinds of poverty—poverty of wealth, poverty of education, and poverty of values. Kids can “get by” if they have just two of them. Sadly, so many of those we try to help are poor in all three areas. Most of them live below the poverty level; reside in neighborhoods permeated with drugs, prostitution and violence; and come from single-parent homes in which education is a low priority. A recent study indicates that while pre-school children in the suburbs have 2,400 books read to them, children in the neighborhoods where our workers serve are lucky if they have 50 books read to them prior to going to school. More than 60% of the teenagers in these neighborhoods become high school dropouts. But the worst poverty experienced by these kids is the poverty of values—they know little about Christ and almost nothing about the teachings of Scripture. Only the heroic would accept the challenge of trying to guide these kids into a positive adulthood marked by commitments to living out God’s will, but it is that challenge that lures young heroes into our EAPE programs.
To date, at least 3,500 college age young people have volunteered to work on the sweltering city streets where EAPE affiliates have established ministries. Our newest affiliate, Mission Year, has some 800 alumni, who have worked in more than 400 community service sites and established ministries related to more than 50 inner-city churches.
It's inspiring to meet these heroes following their service with us. They tell how, for them, they were the worst of times—and the best of times. They were the worst of times because of the ordeals they had to endure while trying to break through the hardened veneer of kids who had been hurt too often and in too many ways, but they were the best of times because they knew they were making a difference as they loved kids into God’s Kingdom. It is thrilling to find out how many of them have made Christian ministries to the needy their full-time vocations in the years that followed their time with us.
Whenever I have opportunity, I plead for help to underwrite the work of our EAPE heroes. This letter is one of those opportunities. I don’t want to lose any of those presently serving with us because they can’t raise the financial support they need, so I plead with you again on their behalf—help them with your gifts!
ABOUT TONY + SEPTEMBER 2007