One of our favorite people in Memphis is DeAndre Brown and his wife, Vinessa, who founded an operate Lifeline to Success, a model of an outreach ministry that is a significant player in the campaign to revitalize Frayser.  We appreciate Pastor Brown submitting the following post:

Attempting to change a culture of negative behavior & attitudes is difficult work & sometimes it makes one wonder if the effort is worth it. This sub-culture of criminal behavior is so deeply embedded that it feels like I am attempting to dig a hole in a stone with a sponge.  How does one “unlearn” what he has known as fact for his entire life? What factors will motivate him to live a different lifestyle – that is contrary to his normal and will cause him to be ostracized and mocked? How does one value something new and foreign, and often times uncomfortable and frightening?

These are a few of the questions that I wrestle with on a daily basis, in order to find the right words and strategies to actually make a difference in the lives of our team members.

This criminal culture is filled with socially acceptable norms of negative behavior. Going to jail has become so common that many of those that live the life already have attorneys on retainer and they have bail money hidden away because they know they will eventually get caught. The sad thing is, those are normal and expected parts of life and that lifestyle. Jail is no longer a deterrent. It has become something that gives more credibility to those that go. People aren’t even ashamed to tell that their loved ones are locked up. How did this become OK?

So many negative behaviors have been embraced by our community that any ideas that are contrary to the negativity are unwelcomed.  Now, residents allow criminal activity to take place next door, or across the street, or around the corner. They REFUSE to get involved and remove the infection! Good citizens that care about their neighbors and want safe environments are seen as snitches and nosey neighbors. So they hide in their homes and pray that no one intrudes on their privacy.

I have found that we will rally around a cause, but if there is no cause, men and women don’t seem to care. I don’t understand that train of thought. If an issue is present, we MIGHT get involved. If a teacher corrects a child and it is viewed by the parent as abusive, they will run to the school, ready to fight- without getting an understanding of the situation. But this same parent will allow the dope boys to shoot dice in front of his house because he wants to be accepted. And I want to teach him how to see the world from a completely different perspective- without changing his environment or giving him something for his trouble, something tangible that he can look at and see why what he is being taught is important. Needless to say, it’s not easy!

Value must first be instilled in the person. We must empower them to be whole.

Then, we enlist them in the fight and allow them to build value in others. Now, the issue is not about the man, it’s about the cause, which has been carefully and masterfully imparted into the man that is now fighting the fight. He can see the issues in the culture now, and he is ready to fight. He has his tangible mission that will bring about a change, not just for him, but for his family. And, if done correctly, he has an opportunity that is tangible, to earn a living while doing it. He has now become change! He is an example! Now the neighbors have proof.  NOW WE HAVE TO TRAIN #2. A lot of energy is spent, but the return on that investment will be exponential.