Saturday, March 2, 2024

THE OPEN HAVERSACK: From gangster to church


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Drugs, guns, women, gangs – those were the words John (not his real name) knew from a teenager. Quite recently I had a conversation with a young man who confessed he was a gangster, drug dealer and womaniser from a young age but it took a startling experience for him to change his life around.
The experiences of John have prompted me to share with my readers. From his accounts he never wanted to join a gang. The gang found him – a young lad trying to fit in during the late 1980s. He recounted being a big leader of the gang and having “soldiers” to do his work. John informed how he never lacked for anything, for his drug business afforded him all he wanted – drugs, guns, women.
He further shared his account of being incarcerated for a drive-by shooting where he shot a man in the chest for allegedly stealing three of his guns. John found himself hospitalised, paralysed from his waist down and the doctors stating he would never walk again.
There in the hospital he found himself alone – no friends – and in his lonely moments he found a New Testament. By reading it he started to find inner peace and this led to him going to church. He is now a spiritual man who has turned from gangster to Christian.
On reflection, John said his mother ensured he attended church but this stopped when he started going through puberty at 11 years old. Puberty and adolescence is the time when peer influence and pressure begin to have a strong hold on the youth.
Quite recently a magistrate insisted that the parents of two teenaged boys ensure they spend time in church on their release on bail. That suggests the need for our children to have the connection with the spiritual.
The church is a forum that keeps and reinforces strong Christian values and teaches Christian principles. It plays a significant role in the spiritual development of the child and should be one of the strong voices speaking out against the ills in society.
Not only should the church speak out, but it should provide opportunities to reach the children at all levels – emotionally, physically, financially, socially. It appears that the church has become dormant as a voice and in its capacity to meet the needs of the family.
Parents should not wait until the tree is too old and cannot be bent to try to straighten it. Bend the tree when it is young. Put succinctly, it is critical that children are provided with a solid spiritual foundation from an early age.
Parents need to be involved in all aspects of the lives of their children and ensure that their spirituality is intact. They need to have an open level of communication where they listen to, reason with and engage them in meaningful discourse.
These opportunities will help eradicate some of the deviance seen in our schools and the wider society.
Parents should not only send their children to have spiritual fulfilment, but accompany them as well.
• Rhonda Blackman is an educator, a reviewer with the British Research Journal and a member of the American Education Research Association.


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