What are you going to do – talk or act?
Recently there was a tragic incidence of violence among school students and naturally there was disappointment and outrage. As a nation we were saddened – and rightfully so. It is painful to experience the loss of a young life to needless and senseless violence. We are right to be saddened and outraged, but the question is what are we doing about it? If it is just talking on talk shows, decrying the violence and calling for more policemen, then we have missed the mark. What I believe the appropriate response is, is to ask ourselves, ‘what are we going to do in response to this latest incident?’
If the response is not concrete action and just more talk, then we may just be perpetuating a status quo that we are all unsatisfied with. The question may be what can we do? Some may feel helpless, but I want to suggest or recommend action that each of us can take that will produce a far greater result than simply voicing outrage. As a people we must be solution-oriented. If we state a problem, then we should also state a solution that we are willing to participate in. It is not good enough to say this is what the police force must do or what parents should do, we should be saying what we are going to do.
Several years ago, we had a gang problem in The Bahamas, and I was outraged by the violence. I am not saying that everyone should do what I did, or can do what I did, I am just giving an example of motivation causing solution-oriented action. The first thing I did was go into schools and communities and shared the gospel with young thugs and gang-bangers. I went to some schools and spoke with the principal and guidance counsellors and asked them to give me the gang members and bad boys and I would work with them. I began to meet with the young men, shared my testimony, enlisted the help of others who were from the streets and had changed and we saw some remarkable results. We saw several young men who were causing trouble in school make a turnaround, some of whom are still doing well today.
I was later joined by Pastor Carlos Reid and we teamed up to launch the Peace on the Streets campaign which saw countless young men make a turnaround to the point where The Bahamas Government paid us to launch Operation Redemption which gave the former gang members jobs in a car wash and facilitated their training for jobs and entry into normal society. Many did not make it, but there is a long list of those who stayed committed and who today are businessmen, pastors, political leaders and husbands and fathers. Our outrage turned to action.
You may say that is good, but I am not from the streets so I cannot do what you guys did. You are not required to do what we did, but you should do something. Make up your mind that you will volunteer to help guide a young person away from the streets and gangs. There are several ways this can be done:
• Mentorship: Volunteer as a mentor in your local church, civic organization or community. Many young people today do not have role models at home. And if not you then who?
• Volunteer for a civic or sports club: There are many programs out there that are helping young people to stay off the streets. In baseball there is the Freedom Farm group, there are soccer groups, and basketball camps. Children look up to coaches and sports gives you access. Kiwanis Club, Boy Scouts, church groups give you access to influence young lives.
• Finance intervention programs: There are many programs out there reaching young people that are lacking funds. If they go unfunded fewer young people are reached. If you cannot actively participate, do so by funding.
I had two interesting experiences since 2012 that caused me to act. I realized that I was no longer in a position to hit the streets as in the past and to go into schools and reach young people other than through speaking engagements, so I launched a program called the Youth and Family Center. The center is a place where mentoring and counseling takes place for young men and women. I helped to bring a team of persons together and these persons today are still counseling troubled school students. There are many other programs like this that you can support. For the most part I funded the program myself until some partners came along to assist, but the program is still limited because of lack of funds. The Ministry of Education assisted also, but again budgets were limited.
Another example of action is a second program that I along with the BFM church launched in conjunction with a young man who was a positive product of the Peace on the Streets campaign. We know him as Orlando “Landlord” Miller, and he came to me in 2016 and said he wanted to give back because of how his life was touched and turned around. Together we strategized to launch a program that has been running for over two-and-a-half years called Second Chance – a program where we go into the inner city and find troubled youth and bus them to church on Friday nights, feed them and mentor them. Some weeks we have had as many as 170 young men and women coming to be a part of this program. Landlord’s actions have produced results of lives being changed just as his was changed.
So, what are you going to do – keep talking or decide to act? The choice is yours and the future of a nation is riding in the balance. I hope you choose action rather than talk. If you would like information on programs that are making a difference send me an email and I will tell you how you can participate or support. If you are not willing to act, I am not sure anyone wants to hear from you.
• Pastor Dave Burrows is senior pastor at Bahamas Faith Ministries International. Feel free to email comments, whether you agree or disagree, to firstname.lastname@example.org. I appreciate your input and dialogue. We become better when we discuss, examine and exchange.