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“You need to get these kids out of here,” Jackie Perez remembers her landlady saying. Her living room was overflowing with kids every afternoon, and she wanted to continue helping them, but she didn’t know what to do next.
When the public housing project buildings in her New Jersey neighborhood had been torn down, the local children were left without a place to go after school. Jackie knew that these free hours can leave youth particularly vulnerable, so she opened her home.
“It breaks my heart to see a kid not have love or be able to understand that God loves them,” Jackie said.
You might not have a living room full of kids with nowhere to go, but like, Jackie, you might feel stuck by the problems and issues plaguing this world. Your passion to help is limited by your human capacity. You think, I don’t have infinite amounts of time, money, resources, knowledge. Where would I even begin?
Even if you had the resources, sometimes the problems seem so daunting that you doubt whether you could actually make a difference.
Millions of people enslaved in human trafficking.
Relief efforts after the earthquake in Nepal.
Spreading the gospel to people who have never heard the name Jesus.
All the people in your neighborhood or dorm who think Christianity is just another religion about rules.
Do any of these stir a passion in you?
In Brooklyn, Jackie met a man on the street who handed her a gospel tract. Jackie told him about her passion for children, and the man told her to call the inner city ministry of Cru.
The ministry started a partnership with Jackie to launch a S.A.Y. (Save America’s Youth) Yes! Center for Youth Development – an after-school ministry dedicated to building a strong biblical foundation for children and youth – at a church in her area.
“[Cru] encouraged us and helped us do all the planning.” Jackie said. “We used every resource that they had to be able to establish the ministry.”
Once established, the S.A.Y. Yes! Center served 30 children from kindergarten to 8th grade every weekday. Later, Jackie started a second S.A.Y. Yes! Center.
Around the United States, S.A.Y. Yes! Centers influence nearly 3,000 youth. Cru’s inner city ministry has partnered with individuals and churches to start centers in more than 15 cities. And Jackie is just one part of the bigger picture.
“‘Why in the world would it be me?’ she asks herself. “I feel like I’m moving but not on my own power. But you’re just making yourself available and facilitating the Lord’s love, and that’s it.”
Jackie was available and willing to use her skills and passions to spread the gospel. Though she wasn’t sure where to begin, she discovered resources to help her and she put them to use. She started small. She asked questions and sought help. She followed through.
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