“I have attended 9 out of the 10 elementary schools in Springfield, as well as all 3 middle schools!” Bryan exclaimed, with a look of achievement in his eyes that quickly turned to one of pain as he remembered why he had needed to switch so frequently.
Bryan is a 17-year-old senior enrolled at Cliff Park High School and is looking forward to graduation this coming spring. Bryan has dealt with great adversity to get where he is, including the tragic loss of a sibling and his mother receiving a cancer diagnosis.
I first met Bryan when he joined our STARS Afterschool Program as a 5th grader at Snyder Park Elementary. I was the STARS director and remember Bryan as a bright-eyed, enthusiastic boy who loved participating in our chapel time. He was fantastic at memorizing our bible verse of the week and was always thrilled to open his candy reward!
In only a few weeks I discovered more of his story. Bryan and his three younger brothers lived in a small apartment about a mile from the church with their grandmother, Doris, who had COPD and no transportation. Seeing Bryan’s tough situation, our SCYM team began the search to find him a mentor. As Bryan entered his 6th grade year we introduced him to his new mentor, Rick Wade. Rick picked him up at Doris’ apartment and they would enjoy their time once-a-week shooting hoops at Fellowship Christian Church, grabbing a burger, or checking out places like the Boonshoft Museum of Discovery.
The first year went well so Rick and Bryan decided to continue their mentorship. During this time Bryan’s mom, Sanceia (who had been incarcerated), was released from jail. Sanceia had realized her mistakes and was determined to make up for lost time with her family. She landed a steady job and the boys returned to living with her. Finally, there seemed to be a sense of optimism for their family when the unthinkable happened.
In August of 2014, Bryan and his brothers decided to go for a swim. The spot they chose was out behind Mitchell Boulevard and the boys were unaware that this particular spot had a reputation for being a very
dangerous place to swim. What was meant to be a fun, refreshing day ended in horror. Colin, Bryan’s younger brother, became trapped under the water and couldn’t be saved in time. August 18, 2014 is a day I never forget. Through the pain and grief of this tragic loss, Rick and Bryan continued to meet.
Walter and Austin, Bryan’s two younger brothers, also joined our STARS family. As a 7th grader, Bryan had aged out of STARS but he insisted on returning as a volunteer. Rick picked him up and took him over to Westside Christian Community where Bryan faithfully helped students do their homework- while enjoying a few donuts! Bryan, now enrolled at Schaefer Middle School, joined me for Wise Guys lunch group meetings twice a week and Manpower afterschool. This continuity of programming exemplifies what SCYM is all about. Through multiple connection points as kids grow, we seek to provide them a network of loving support that is easy to find- even if they change schools. them a network of loving support that is easy to find even if they change schools.
Soon after Bryan entered high school, Sanceia received a cancer diagnosis. With a desire to do whatever he could to help support his family Bryan began to work a part time job.
“Me and my Mom are very close. I would do anything for her.”
Bryan found that he really enjoyed working and making money but was working late hours and his grades, as well as his attendance, began to slip. Rick and I had several conversations during this time discussing the reality that Bryan may not graduate high school. Regardless, Rick and Bryan continued to meet. Rick lovingly directed Bryan towards some local options and resources that helped him get back on track scholastically.
Almost eight years have passed since I first met Bryan and his family. While interviewing Rick and Bryan in anticipation of this letter, I was impressed by the resilience of this young man. I was also moved by the many mercies of God in the midst of tragedy.
“Rick isn’t my blood but he is family now. My life wouldn’t be the same without him.”
During our interview, Rick noted that he knows Bryan is very intelligent and is working with him currently to set some post-graduation goals. I am pleased to say that we recently were able to match Bryan’s brother, Walter, with his own new mentor, Dwight Dobbins. We are close to matching the youngest brother, Austin, with one, as well.
When trials and tribulation strike the families and youth of our community, God mobilizes the church as His hands and feet to bring His love, His healing, and His peace.
Bryan’s story is framed by the people who used their gifts and talents to help build him up. The volunteers who helped him with his homework, prepared a meal for him to eat, or donated and prayed over the years made this story a reality.
This year’s theme is “Let’s Keep Building.” Ephesians 2:22 and 1 Peter 2:5 describe the people of God as “living stones”. As believers, we are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit. When we serve Christ by giving back to Him what he has so generously given to us, we see His kingdom advanced, lives changed, and cities transformed.
This year end, SCYM is seeking to raise $40,000 to invest in the work of seeing stories like Bryan’s multiplied a hundred times over in our city.
“You live fully in me and now I live fully in them so that they will experience perfect unity, and the world will be convinced that you have sent me, for they see that you love each one of them with the same passionate love that you have for me.” John 17:23 TPT
If you haven’t already made a year-end gift, I invite you to join us in this cause.
Let’s keep building,