From Mary Magdalene Missionary Baptist Church, a small congregation in Roseland, I see a series of enormous tasks that our community faces, including the need to save our youth from the violence that plagues our streets. A recent Chicago Reporter headline said it all: “More young people are killed in Chicago than any other American city”  [March/April 2012]. The sad truth is that too many of those young people are from Roseland.

My congregation and I believe that change is possible, and that it will come one youth at a time. To that end, we host two youth programs at Mary Magdalene that are open to our entire community. Through D.I.V.A., a group for teen girls, and SAINTS, a youth basketball program for adolescent boys, our goal is to help combat the negative images that our teenagers face today, to help them grow in their personal relationships and to learn Biblical truths. We believe that each child whom we reach will affect another youth and progress will be made by influencing both their home and community life. Changing their outlook will change their character and morale.

Part of changing their outlook is giving our children opportunity to grow. For the boys in the SAINTS program, the next step is moving out of the local gym space that we rent and into a competitive league. Our barrier is uniforms that cost $35 a player.

I grew up in Roseland, and when I was a kid, there was always a local business that would sponsor our Little League team. I have walked up and down the commercial stretches of the neighborhood and failed to find a single business that will support our youth by sponsoring the SAINTS.

I wish that these business owners would recognize that our efforts are not exclusive. The church is only a part of the solution. For our attempt to remain viable as a community, local merchants are needed. We encourage them, and the rest of the city, to rally around our youth. It’s up to us to teach them that change is possible. And that it will come one youth at a time.

The Rev. Stephen Henry, Senior Pastor
Mary Magdalene Missionary Baptist Church