“The first time I saw him he looked like a wannabe gangster,” Gustavo (right) said when he first set eyes on Omar (left). The child carried himself like many of the boys from the neighborhood. It wasn't so much Omar’s clothes, but the exaggerated sense of swagger.
It was a path that Gustavo could have easily taken himself. Abandoned by his mother, Gustavo and his older brother, both in their late teens, were left to fend for themselves after their father was sentenced to prison. The streets had a strong allure for the brothers but Gustavo's brother-turned-guardian resisted the temptation. He sought help from the church where he and Gustavo ultimately turned to Jesus.
Gustavo, now in his 30s, serves as a mentor at a S.A.Y. Yes! Center for Youth Development, hosted by a church in Los Angeles. S.A.Y. Yes! (Save America's Youth) is a nationwide after-school mentoring-tutoring program developed by Cru Inner City to resource urban churches. The goal is to give at-risk children a solid foundation from which they can build a successful future. Through the local church, each child is ministered to spiritually, emotionally, physically, intellectually, and socially (Luke 10:27).
Gustavo met Omar who, as a young teen, started hanging out at the church's after-school center where staff and volunteers assist students with homework and tutoring while mentoring them in vital life skills. For months on end, Gustavo and the S.A.Y. Yes! volunteers guided Omar, exposing him to a host of options to keep him out of the clutches of street gangs.
Two years after showing up at the center, Omar prayed and accepted Christ as his Savior. Quickly, the hangout became a haven as Omar's involvement increased, including participation in a Bible study. Other neighborhood kids took notice and started showing up at the S.A.Y. Yes! Center. "He attracts so many other younger guys because they see his testimony," Gustavo said.
One of the invited teens offered a tongue-in-cheek observation, “Sometimes I think that you guys buried Omar's body somewhere in S.A.Y. Yes!, because he's a different person now.” The observation wasn't lost on the Gustavo, "When I heard that, I was like, man, that's deep and that's Omar. He's being transformed and now he's a new creation. It's a pleasure seeing this kid do ministry, you know. He loves the kids so much.”
We are thankful for your partnership with us in ministry, so that people from all walks of life can hear the good news of God’s love and forgiveness. You are a blessing to us!
Yours in Christ,
Steve & Robin