God’s Promises on North Market Street

March 25, 2024

{Pictured is Babitha, second from the left, with some UrbanPromise students}

A few years ago, in my desperate need, the Lord graciously led me to a job at UrbanPromise, a field of grace where I have been given the gift of gleaning wisdom as I look at life through the lens of teens who call the city of Wilmington their home. The mission of UrbanPromise Wilmington is to equip children and young adults through Christ with the skills necessary for academic achievement, life management, personal growth, and servant leadership.

I’ve lived in North Wilmington since I moved here from India eighteen years ago. I was warned not to drive into the city unless strictly necessary, and especially not N. Market Street. This was rightly so, as Wilmington has been dubbed the murder capital of the nation. Since my time at UrbanPromise Academy located on N. Market, I have realized that what I’ve feared and somewhat thoughtlessly avoided is home to my students and most of my co-workers. They can attest to the reality of those things I’ve only heard of.

During a regular school day last year, a shooting occurred right in front of our school. My students heard it first, many of them being more sensitive and familiar with something this tragic. As we tried to have conversations with students who witnessed the scene through classroom windows, many of them termed it “ordinary.”

One of my eleventh graders, named Grace, is currently homeless. She often comes to class not having had access to an internet connection for her homework, having slept poorly in the living room of a friend with all her siblings, or not knowing where she will spend the weekend. Our principal has driven her and her siblings to and from school this past year. She has squinted to see and complained of headaches for two years now. How do we seek a full life for Grace and meet our  vision? How do we equip her with skills necessary for academic achievement and life management? Will there be transformation? Can students in the city be successful?

In the first chapter of his book, Nehemiah weeps at the broken-down condition of Jerusalem’s walls. My heart weeps for my students facing situations beyond their capacity. Most of them were brought into the world in trauma and experience more of it as they continue to grow. Most of their walls are broken. So we cry out to God on their behalf. In her book, God Does His Best Work with Empty, Nancy Guthrie speaks of God’s commitment to meet our “true and deepest need fully and forever,” and I pray this for my students.

At fourteen, Grace found UrbanPromise and started working for us as a StreetLeader, the highest paying job for teenagers in the city. She helps K-6th grade students in UrbanPromise’s after-school camps. Starting to experience true love and the joy of responsibility, with encouragement, Grace realized how talented she really is. She then wanted to join the Academy and that’s where I met her. She is one of the best StreetLeaders and was quickly moved to a position where she manages other teens. She has desire and resolve but lacks the presence of a consistent adult requiring responsibility for her and meeting her needs. At school, she learns daily that God loves her, will help her, and provides her with hope and a future. So we buy bus tickets, offer occasional rides, help make ophthalmology visits for glasses, as well as help her finish high school. We seek to cast a vision for the future through God’s great promises.

Now, as I drive N. Market Street each morning, I get to pray into my day, welcome Jesus into my heart, and ask for his ears, eyes and heart. I weep when I see little boys and girls roaming the streets without supervision, but I get to invite Jesus into my city and partner alongside men and women who’ve left the comforts of their families and careers and moved into Wilmington to seek a full life for all involved. Seeing the needs of my students is overwhelming and sometimes brings temptations to despair, but hope swells time after time as I hear and see transformational stories of perseverance and resoluteness in these young people. Guthrie continues, “Your desperate need is not the evidence that He is against you but rather an opportunity for Him to demonstrate the ways in which He is for you.” God’s provision in bringing me to UrbanPromise in my time of desperate need has come with a perspective and task that has not only changed me, but etched me with gratitude.

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