“859 House” is less than a mile from the U.S. Capitol building yet it may as well be 10,000 miles away it’s that different from where the well heeled and influential on Capitol Hill go about their daily work oblivious, of how close another world is to their own.
“The House” is an outreach haven open year round and is community home for young boys and men in one small part of Washington D.C.
It’s a place for love and spiritual guidance and is an oasis amidst a sea of crime, discrimination, drugs, guns and little hope of any kind.
It is a place for kids to go, to learn and do something worthwhile, to keep them off the street, for some to keep them out of jail, or get into drugs, or worse simply to keep them alive. Its that kind of environment.
The mission of the “House” is simple and practical- nothing fancy but it’s powerful!
“To bring love and service, and Christian beliefs into the hearts of young people – to transform kids into the best they can be and to give them dreams and hopes and a self belief that they are truly worthy.”
They are loved and cared for by the volunteers and mentors who work there.
Guns and drugs and shootings are part of their daily life. Kids dare not stray to the other side of the road as that belongs to another gang. They are often stopped in the streets or in stores for here trust and color do not sit easily together.
“The House” opens its doors in the summer, when school is out, to other teens, boys and girls and organizes sponsored funded trips so that the kids can “get away from it all”
They go to places like Michigan where my family lives and hosts “two kids from D.C.”.
“The 859 House kids” have to earn the right to go on these trips. Community work is what they have to do, to earn their place on the 12 hour-long bus trip to Michigan.
They are with us for 7 days. Then they go back and dream of the next trip two years into the distance.
They look forward to these trips. They remember everything from the last time.
This past week we hosted and are the parents for one week of our “two kids from D.C.”
Two African American girls who when they first came 2 years ago, were so scared they would no even go into the fridge for some goodies – an American kids pastime!
We remember, they would not even touch my wife’s handbag to get the purse out for some money- even though we asked them to take out 5 dollars.
This time, it was different. You see trust is an important part of life, and we formed a bond two years ago that meant they were not scared to treat our home as theirs for the brief week they were with us.
In these seven days we were one family and no one saw color.
We learned from each other:
Our lives are so different and we take what we do in our Michigan town every day as normal.
Their normal is not our normal – the quietness of rural Michigan scares them they are used to the noise of screaming and sirens and gunshots.
They come from tough neighborhoods where goals include, staying alive, not getting raped, avoiding the prejudice and simply having fun without looking over your shoulder or watching which way you walk to the next fast food store.
They come from an environment where 85% of the kids don’t know who their father is and drugs and other bad stuff is their daily way of life.
They come from a life where they all know someone in their family who is in prison or has been seriously injured or shot.
That in spite of their world they love and want to be loved and care and feel the same things we feel and want the same things we all want.
Color differentiates where they live but not in our home, their home -color is part of what makes Gods environment
They come to Michigan every two years and they have to earn the right to do so.
Everything in life has to be earned; they have learned this from an early age.
They are loved, they are kids and we are in one country but live in different worlds.
In Michigan and in our house and for seven days in their lives it is all one country and one world and one community.