Central Indiana Youth For Christ reaches young people in our inner cities to strategically pursue lost youth and develop them into leaders while engaging them in a life-long relationship with Jesus. We do this through an army of volunteers, ministry leaders, local churches and many other partners to provide sustainable youth and family ministry.
I have the honor of being a storyteller for City Life Indianapolis – Near Westside. I volunteer to write newsletter stories for City Life Director, Danny Marquez to share with our financial supporters the impact of YFC and specifically what is happening in the lives of urban youth on the near West side.
Danny wanted me to write about the extraordinary success story of Bryant Rhoades. But that story must start with Danny and since he would never allow the focus to be on himself, I took the liberty of writing the story my way and posted it on my own blog site. I will sneak it in to the newsletter one way or another!
Danny Marquez wowed me when he spoke at Rainmakers Christian Professionals. Here was this punk guy from the Bronx, unshaven, baseball hat on backwards in tennis shoes and a hoodie and I was a little skeptical. But what came out of his mouth, changed my life and the lives of many young people.
Danny told his story which is much like the stories of the youth we serve. Abandoned as a child, father dying of aids and drug abuse, insecure from rejection and neglect, Danny pushed out into the streets to gain acceptance. He learned the power of money, the lure of drugs and the authority of a gun. And in the hands of a broken and lost young man, it was Danny’s ticket to a 45 year prison sentence.
Danny had no sense of direction and no purpose. God reached Danny in prison and gave him the calling. “I want you to go back into the same kind of communities you once helped destroy and I want you to start to rebuild them.”
And one relationship at a time, truly loving on students, investing in them and showing the light of Christ, God shows student after student through Danny, that our Lord has the power to transform the most wicked heart and fill the most empty and broken places.
Bryant’s story shows yet another side of Danny Marquez. Bryant is a very sweet, rather shy, reserved young man who is now 19 years old. He has faithfully attended City Life Near Westside until he aged out of the program. Danny was concerned for Bryant and mentored him for years trying to find just the right work to keep Bryant on the right path. Nothing seemed to click. Danny could not put his finger on it.
Finally Danny went to Bryant’s house and told him they were going to learn how to ride the bus. They rode the bus together to Second Helpings, a food ministry providing hunger relief, food rescue and a culinary job training program through the generosity of The Eugene and Marilyn Glick Center.
Danny would describe Bryant as one of the FAT-G kids. Bryant is Faithful, Available, Teachable and Grateful. The perfect attributes for a successful future, but what could Bryant do for a career. Something was just not clicking.
Never Give Up
Danny’s persistence and time investment in Bryant paid off. Bryant surprised everyone and maybe even himself by riding the bus to the start of the Second Helpings Culinary Job Training Program. Bryant learned that the program was seven weeks in length and an award would be given for perfect attendance. Bryant arrived at the bus stop promptly at 6:30 am for seven weeks to win the award for perfect attendance.
Bryant learned culinary skills, proper knife handling and food safety. He helped prepare daily lunch for 50-60 volunteers who help Second Helpings attack hunger in Indianapolis. Those volunteers prepare 4000 meals daily.
I visited Bryant two days before graduation from the culinary program and spoke to his instructors Kyle and Keith who are professional chefs. They love Bryant but had to admit at the half-way point, they just were not sure Bryant would make it through the program but they just could not put their finger on what was not working.
The Missing Link
Near the end of the training, Bryant learned he had Autism. A light bulb went off in everyone’s mind. That was the challenge that made most everything a challenge for Bryant. The instructors changed their approach and Bryant thrived.
The Perfect Environment
Chef instructors Keith and Kevin described the perfect environment for Bryant as a hospital, nursing home or school cafeteria where things were calm and structured. He could do pantry prep and repetitive procedures with ease. Bryant is patient with himself, calm and streamlined. A restaurant would be too high pressure of an environment.
Not only did Bryant earn the perfect attendance award, but he created his own Pepper Pot soup recipe for the soup competition and he won first place.
A Place For Everyone
Bryant shows us there is a place for everyone and with the right nurturing and care, anyone can bloom. It was Danny who never gave up on Bryant. It was Danny who took him by the hand and showed him step by step how to catch the bus and transfer and then make it back home. It was his chef instructors who were patient and kind and helped Bryant excel in the environment most suited for his needs.
Making a Difference
And I get to tell you the backstory of all the unsung heroes who show the love of Christ and help a young man to find his way. I have plans to let Bryant teach me how to ride the bus and we are going on an adventure!
Will You Get Involved?
We need volunteers to come alongside young people as ministry leaders. Can you sponsor a meal for a small group? Can you commit to six weeks of building relationships with students in a small group setting providing transportation and a listening ear. Do you have a flair for making donations. We have just the perfect role for you. Come for a visit and see the love of Christ in action.
Polly Riddell writing as G. Polly Jordan is a freelance journalist on an adventure with God. She connects people through the stories they tell and is the chief storyteller for City Life-Near Westside.