Kevin and Latrice Rayford unobtrusively walked into church one sunny Sunday morning, hoping to go unnoticed. They came with searching hearts united with purpose: to discover something that could relieve their heavy souls. It wasn’t too long into the sermon before Kevin and Latrice realized that the only way to lighten their burden was through the saving grace of Jesus Christ.
Kevin’s life was wrought with crime and danger. He had been shot five times. His teenage and young adult years were consumed by drug trafficking and other offenses, which culminated in a long stint in prison. By definition, Kevin was a “menace to society.” In other words, he was a liability.
Kevin knew that change was necessary in order to ensure a better life for himself and for his family. Not only did he need spiritual renewal but he also needed to make some logistical and social changes as well. Kevin and Latrice accepted Christ and became faithful believers. They adopted Ephesians 5:8 as their way of life: “For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord.” Their lives have been a picture of transformation ever since that day.
It wasn’t long before Kevin found gainful employment and began his journey to becoming a model citizen. He is currently employed as an executive for a large company and is also the proprietor of several rental properties. Latrice is the proprietress of a thriving beauty salon. The Rayfords are not only committed Christians but are also servants in their community. With their combined incomes, Kevin and Latrice are able to significantly donate to their church. In addition, Kevin uses his rental properties as a ministry by offering quality, affordable housing to low-income people. Latrice’s primary ministry to the community is as a prayer warrior. For two hours each day, she goes to church to pray for the needs of her neighbors and for the needs of her city.
There is a great awakening in our urban areas, and many of the urban poor are rising from deprivation to fulfillment and from the underserved to the servants of society. They are eagerly awaiting an opportunity to walk hand in hand with those who have come from darkness to light. They are ready to embrace Ephesians 4:28: “He who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with his own hands, that he may have something to share with those in need.”
There is a tremendous opportunity for our churches to be the salt and light to those who would stride through the doors of our sanctuaries unannounced, just to witness a powerful demonstration of the Gospel. The responsibility is on us to view these souls through the eyes of Jesus Christ and to see the possibilities for their lives. Like the Rayfords, there are many formerly marginalized people who have been emancipated from doom to become devoted contributors to their communities.
Not only does the church benefit from such transformation of lives, but it is also an awesome experience for our communities to witness those who were once menaces to society become messengers of hope. The “Urban Answer” lies in the witness of God’s awesome, redemptive grace as He transforms liabilities to assets!
by Dr. Joeann Ballard