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Thursday
Jul232015

A Fourth Second Chance

Is it okay to stop giving second chances?

When is it socially acceptable to give up on someone? After they fell down 5 times, 10 times, or 20 times?

As a society, I would argue we give up hoping for individuals way too early.

I was struck by an email I received today from a Momentum Business Partner. The employer had taken a chance on a graduate, a graduate who had fallen down a lot, a graduate who has 5 felonies and 22 misdemeanors.

Most would have given up on her, most would be skeptical of her, most would at best keep her at arms length, and most would be wrong. Turns out this time someone helped her she was ready, she is doing an amazing job at work, and the employer could not be happier with her performance. She now has a job, and also was reunited with her son, because someone did not judge her based on how many times she fell down.

Yes she fell down, a lot.Momentum Graduation 2015

She also got up one more time than she fell down.

When a young child is learning how to walk, we praise them for trying to walk; we do not punish them for falling down in the midst of trying. In contrast, when an ex-offender starts to take baby steps to put their life back in order, we focus on their instability or their stumbles, instead of praising their effort. Maybe if we changed our perspective and realized many have been crawling, and attempting to take those first steps is scary and unknown, maybe then we will be more likely to support and praise instead of criticize, maybe then we will be more generous in giving our time to help?

How many times would you reach out to hold a child's hand as they are taking their first steps, how many times would you reach out to catch a toddler as they are losing their balance, how many times would you want someone to reach out to ensure you stay on your feet?

So, how many times should we give someone a second chance? I would answer, as many times as they need.

~ Luke Kujacznski, Executive Director

Wednesday
Jul082015

The Risk of Real Relationship

 

Human beings are made for real relationship. Unfortunately, we live in a world that makes it all too easy to bypass real relationships. We are more concerned with organizing our personal lives, and keeping things nice and tidy than opening up to that quagmire called real relationship.  This thought is further enforced by the fact that all relationships are messy and uncomfortable at first.

It is far easier to make an assumption of how someone would act, or what would be safe, than to wade into the waters of relationship and find out for yourself.  There are multiple problems with this; the most devastating being the fact that there individuals out there who need you and who need you to be in a relationship with them.

In the work we do here at Urban Alliance, we meet a wide variety of people; every one of them is unique. I can say that because I know them. However if you looked at those we encounter on the streets,  in our housing program and through our job readiness program, you could probably fit them all into one, maybe two stereotypes. Stereotypes, you know those neat little categories we put people in to mitigate our personal risk?

Do you see the disconnect?

We are missing the individual, we are missing making someone feel important enough to know his or her name, and we are missing the point of life.

I was looking at the statistics of our Momentum Program today; 97% of those in the program have a criminal past, but each one is an individual made for relationship. 81% have current substance abuse issues, but again each one is an individual designed for relationship. 90% come from single-parent households and 74% are parents themselves, and again each one was designed for relationship.

I was asked the other day, what can be done to help those with criminal backgrounds, you know what I said?  Have a larger portion of the community engaged in relationship with them. Why? Simple really, when you enter a relationship you stop seeing a group, and you start seeing the individual. You stop assuming and start knowing. This applies to both sides of the relationship.

Statistics may give us a glimpse into a life, but behind these statistics are real people with amazing stories. The risk in real relationship is that our preconceived notions fall apart, our excuses for engagement disappear, and we are left with this beautiful mess. And that beautiful mess is what is also known as relationship.

So my challenge to you is this, the next time you see someone who could easily be lumped into a group, take the time to initiate a conversation with them; and then a relationship. See the individual and choose the risk involved to become part of the solution. This world has enough problems. It's time WE chose to be a solution. Relationship is a solution.

If you would like help in taking that risk and becoming part of the solution, there are several opportunities to volunteer at Urban Alliance where we are Embracing, Engaging and Empowering People in Urban Communities. Take a risk today! Volunteer!

~ Luke Kujacznski, Executive Director


 

Wednesday
May062015

Build Eternal and True Legacy Through People

 "For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ.  If anyone builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, their work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each person’s work. If what has been built survives, the builder will receive a reward. If it is burned up, the builder will suffer loss but yet will be saved—even though only as one escaping through the flames." - 1 Corinthians 3:11-15


As a leader I am constantly looking at maximizing my time and efforts. As someone who loves Jesus I realize that this means carefully leading my life according to the pattern He modeled because I believe this will yield eternal results. This may sound easy but it's not. We very often get drawn into building things that won't last. 

We build houses that will eventually decay and get bulldozed.

We build bank accounts that we cannot take with us when we die.

We spend time building up our bodies only to see them break down and eventually return to dust.

We build programs and projects that eventually lose effectiveness and stop.

Realize that, in and of themselves, none of the building just mentioned is pointless activity. It could be eternal work that will bear lasting results. It could be fruitless work that yields little or no eternal reward. If the houses we build are used as tools to minister to our friends and neighbors and build a family, it becomes a tool for eternal building. If the bank accounts we build are used selflessly to advance the kingdom, they become holy tools in the hands of God. If the bodies we build are given over to serve the Lord in any way He sees fit, the building is not in vain. If the programs we build are built to love everyone they touch, the programs last beyond their finish date.

Jesus, the master builder, invested in people. Every movement he made was aimed at loving the precious lives He would eventually die to save. So I must learn to build like Him.

Nate and Street MinistryThis means, I am learning to carefully look at what and how I'm building. One of the questions I have begun asking of everything I am involved in is, "Will this love people for the glory of my Savior?" A closely related one, but just as essential for the person who wants to build things that last: "How can this activity/meeting/assignment love people well?" Systems will eventually fail. Bank accounts will eventually dry up. Businesses that were successful in one generation will wane in another. But the truth of the matter is, there is eternity hidden inside the heart of every single human we meet. If we want to build true legacy, we have to learn how to build up people.

This is why I believe in Urban Alliance. Each component was built with people in mind. Whether it's in the streets with some of the most hurting in our city, or with Momentum helping restore hope for employment, or with His Kingdom Housing and providing a pathway to home ownership, each part of UA is trying to love people well. And this gives me joy. This means we are learning how to build eternally.

With Love from the Streets

N8