Christians reach out to gang members in the USA

By December 2, 2008

USA (MNN) — Youth for Christ is an organization that embeds itself in local communities. It wants to make a difference. It's doing just that with gang activity in the United States.

President of Youth for Christ USA Dan Wolgemuth says Jeremiah 29 has become a key passage of Scripture for their work in Tacoma, Washington. "We, as an organization, have really embraced the words that talk about seeking the welfare of the city where God has us in exile and to pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you'll find your welfare."

Wolgemuth says YFC staff members in are involved in the juvenile justice system and specifically in gang activity.

The director of the Tacoma YFC Bobby Arkills says their new City Life ministry is heavily involved in urban ministry, including gang outreach. He says one gang member attended YFC's program on and off. Philip was killed last month in a gang related shooting at a Tacoma community center.

What followed was nothing short of miraculous, says Arkills. "Over the next six hours our staff was contacted and literally counseled kids through that night Saturday night, all day Sunday. We have been on the frontlines ever since."

YFC has had meetings in their offices with community, police, and church leaders who wondering how to deal with gang activity and the potential for gang warfare.

Arkills says the shooting has provided opportunities for outreach. "At the memorial service for Philip, there were over 400 people. I believe it was over 90 young people responded to the message of the Gospel. And then, at our Tuesday night drop in center we had about 150 people there. Many of those kids came forward and said they wanted to stop where they were at in gangs," he says.

He says their work is having an impact, especially with the TF gang. "We literally have seen some girls come of that gang, gang leaders, come to Christ, go back to their fellow gang members and say, 'this will not meet your needs. This gang, these people don't have your back, they will not cover you, they will not be your friends when it gets difficult. We're leaving the gang and you should, too.'"

Wolgemuth says through a long relationship, this young woman is doing more than encouraging her peers to leave the gang. "This young woman now has turned her life around and is prepared to confess Christ to them and talk about what it means to walk with Christ and the difference that will make in relationship to gang activities."

He says the program will be replicated in cities around the U-S. However, he says there are challenges. "We really fundamentally believe that God has called us to reach kids that nobody else is going to reach. You talk about unreached people groups. And, that does require funding that frankly is more difficult at times to come up with."

Arkills is asking people to pray for their staff who are literally on a battlefield. "Kids are being shot. I could be shot. It's something we pray about every day. Especially in light of these shoots as we pray for Darin, Dwayne and Krissy as they go out. They walk in some really scary territories, but at the same time we know there are angels surrounding them and we know that what they are doing is for the Gospel."

If you'd like to support the work of City Life, click here.

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