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Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Baltimore -- A More Positive Side : Helping Our Youth

Baltimore -- A More Positive Side: Helping Our Youth

The picture is of signing day at St. Frances Academy, Baltimore, Maryland

With the events of the last twenty four hours attention has been focused on some of the challenges Baltimore faces.  Social media has been ablaze with posts.  Some ask for prayers, some make political statements, some provide news updates and some wonder what they can do to help.

First we must define the challenge which is not easy.  There are issues that could fill a treatise.  There is mistrust and a lack of understanding by many on all sides of the issue.  Much of the mistrust is understandable, but that is not the focus of this post. 

The issue I will focus on is one that is close to my heart.  The lack of proper mentorship and development of young men.  It is not a problem that just touches Baltimore but one that touches our entire nation and it is not a new problem but one that has existed for generations.

In that post I quoted former Maryland Governor Robert Ehrlich who shared some of his experience.  Governor Ehrlich observed “During my tenures as Governor, Congressman and Legislator, I visited many of Maryland's juvenile and adult correctional facilities. Often, I left in a melancholy mood. These are no places for the faint of heart. The scenes are right out of "Scared Straight" and disturbingly predictable: jails full of mostly young men with little formal education. Dropouts are plentiful. Many are alcohol or substance abusers. Some suffer from mental illness. Few possess marketable skills. And a majority come from fatherless homes.”

Governor Ehrlich’s observations are supported by Department of Justice statistics which reveal 90% of all prison inmates are males.  The lifetime chance of a women going to prison is 1.8% while it is a staggering 11.3% for males.”

The reasons for this are way too many to discuss in this blog post.  Some leave their family alone voluntarily and others involuntarily.  For the purpose of this blog we are just concerned with the fact that way too many young men do not have a positive male role model in the home.

There is a bright side.  There are some people in Baltimore who are working to bridge this gap.  One such person is Messay Hailemariam and the team at St. Frances Academy in Baltimore.  St. Frances is a small private Catholic school which was founded by Mother Mary Lange in 1828 as the Baltimore School for Colored Girls with the mission of teaching children of color to read the Bible, which at the time was illegal.  In 1850 the school was renamed St. Frances Academy and is currently a coeducational institution serving students at risk in Baltimore City.  Messay wears three hats at the school.  He is the Director of Admissions, Assistant Athletic Director and Head Football Coach.  In a recent discussion with Messay he shared with me that he had no clue what true hardship was until he came to St. Frances.  Some of the students have come to St. Frances after missing school more days than the attended with college not even on their radar screen.  Over the past two years twenty six of the students earned full athletic scholarships for college.  Ten of these students clearly did not have college on their radar screen when they joined the St. Frances family. 

At St. Frances they are not only taught academics and coached athletically but they are also taught responsibility, accountability and team work. They are mentored by their coaches, faculty and alumni. For the first time in their lives they see a way out of poverty.  They have a purpose. There are many ways you can help St. Frances students but because many of their students come from underprivileged families a pressing need is scholarship funding. Donations can be sent to St. Frances Academy c/o Messay Hailermariam 501 East Chase Street, Baltimore, Maryland 21202.  Checks should be payable to St. Frances Academy Memo: Football/Tuition Donation.

Our next post will discuss SADD Students Against Destructive Decisions and what they are doing to help the young people in Baltimore.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Good Friday & Resurrection Sunday: All is forgiven

Good Friday & Resurrection Sunday: All is Forgiven

 "He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay." 

Matthew 28:6

The weekend is the weekend we remember God's amazing and unconditional love for us.  It is a weekend of grace and redemption.

On Friday, we remembered how God sent His one and only Son to die for us on the cross, so that our sins could be forgiven and today (Sunday) we remember Jesus' resurrection.  I have chosen to use the term Resurrection Sunday, not because I am on any mission to change the more common name of Easter Sunday, but in order to emphasize what Christians celebrate today and not the celebration of spring.  

To fully understand this importance of this weekend we must go back to the Book of Genesis and remember that we are a fallen people.  When Adam & Eve chose to disobey God, sin entered the world.  

God is all good and can not tolerate sin but the bottom line is we all sin. Sin is so offensive to God that there is nothing that we as humans can do to make up for our sin.  All the good in the world does not erase sin.  Heaven is the perfect place and sin can not be allowed to enter Heaven.   Therefore, we humans are not able to enter Heaven on our own and on our own we would be destined for eternal separation from God.

This created  a problem because God truly wants all of His children to be with Him in Heaven. There was one and only one way for human sin to be forgiven. 

The only path to forgiveness is for someone sinless to take on the sins of the world and make a blood sacrifice.  That someone was Jesus Christ, the second person in the Trinity.  He took on human form.  During His time on earth Jesus was both Divine and human.  His Divinity allowed Him to be remain sinless but is humanity allowed Him to feel pain and loss.  

We see the human side of Jesus several times in the Bible.  Two examples are when He learned of the death of His friend, Lazarus and He cried and another is when He asked God to let Him be spared Crucifixion.   

We see His Divinity by the miracles He performed, His understanding of scripture, His relationship with the Father and His teachings.

There are approximately 61 Old Testament prophecies concerning Jesus' birth, life, death and resurrection. Twenty nine of which were fulfilled in one day.  The day of His Crucifixion.  For a list of these prophecies and where they were fulfilled in the New Testament please click on this link.  

Resurrection Sunday is the day that Jesus was resurrected fulfilling a significant prophecy that confirmed He was truly the Messiah.  Jesus appeared not only to His Apostles.  He appeared on multiple occasion and these appearances were witnessed by approximately 500 people. For a listing of Jesus' post resurrection appearances please click this link.

This is the weekend we focus and remember God's grace and redemptive nature.  While we should take time each and every day to thank God for this great gift, this weekend is when we need to take time from our busy schedule and focus on it.  Let's praise and glorify God and remember this most gracious and wonderful gift.  

Watch for my next blog which will appear later this week "Just a Christian".  God bless each and everyone of you.  He is Risen. He is Risen, Indeed.