I know I don’t write much about the ministry here. That is only because this blog is a bit of release for me – where I think for 5 seconds about things unrelated to our work with students. Believe me, it’s about all I think about the rest of the minutes of the day. I can’t tell you how hard it is to discipline ourselves around the kids and stop talking about students, Bible studies, strategic ministry plans, and Nav Nite snack ideas.
I wanted to share a quick story though – a story that touches on so many of the reasons why we are here. I recently met a black student from the south side of Chicago. He lost is mother to diabetes at a very young age and has been raised by aunts, uncles, friends, and an older sister. He is an incredible athlete and was pursued by several prestigious colleges during his high school years. During his junior year he fell in with the drug culture – more like he finally succumbed to the incredible pressure to make a few dollars to help pay the rent for the many family members struggling to make ends meet. He narrowly avoided arrest several times and all the college prospects dried up as he could barely keep his eyes open in school after late nights on the streets. He barely graduated.
After yet another narrow escape from prison, his sister picked him up and drove him to the home of NIU’s football coach. No appointment, just showed up. She told the coach that her brother’s life was in danger – that he was throwing away his life and his potential and she basically stayed on the doorstep until the coach agreed to help her brother out. She left him there.
That coach took him around to every academic and athletic office the next day and got him signed up for school and a scholarship. He is a grad student today in economics. Can you believe that? What a miracle! What a success story! To make the story even sweeter – he is a Christ-follower and ministering in a local church here in Dekalb!
From what I gather, things like this happen all the time at this school – quietly and without fanfare. The faculty and staff at NIU are making a huge difference in the lives of so many! Most people I talk to in the community though think NIU is a dump – low academic standards, too many federally funded kids from the “hood” stirring up trouble on the white streets of Dekalb, drugs and violence – the list goes on.
But here’s the deal – NIU bends over backwards to help kids from the inner city of Chicago get an education. By nature, that requires a certain degree of flexibility, it invites a certain degree of risk, and the cost is very high. It is not lost on us that the big push right now in almost all Christian circles is the push to the urban communities – and I just have to say – there is a huge amount of ministry to the most “urban” young people in America right here in Dekalb, IL. The perk is that these students are already to some degree interested in becoming leaders, they desire to go back and help their families, and they want to succeed.
NIU is a very unconventional place and has unique challenges, but so many opportunities too!