Ronnie Lillard, Miami YFC

Liberty City, Miami is home to Tommy Lucas. Tommy is 18 years old and lives in a low income apartment complex with his mother. Tommy father’s struggles with cocaine abuse and subsequently Tommy has had to bear the brunt of leading a family of immigrants with no steady income. Tommy’s mother is out of work and they’ve frequently been on the receiving end of eviction notices and an angry apartment landlord.

When Tommy was younger he made some mistakes that seem like they will travel with his name for the rest of his life. To add to his problems, he and his mother were recently evicted. One might ask how many opportunities in life there are for an 18 year old teen who lacks a formal high school education and has a criminal record. How will a young man ever pull himself up if he’s constantly holding up those around him? Tommy dropped out of school twice to help his family make ends meet. When does Tommy get a chance to be something different than his mistakes? When does Tommy get a chance to experience a life beyond his circumstances?

I first met Tommy in a re-entry program in Miami called Project-Dade. Project Dade serves delinquent youth who are trying to assimilate back into the society. He was the type of kid that displayed qualities that would make you ask yourself “What in the world are you doing here”? Tommy was smart and funny. Not to mention he is thoughtful, inquisitive, and displays a type of wisdom and perspective beyond his years.

However, Tomm,y like many other youth in our city, has real hurt, real pain, and often feels discouraged despite his positive outlook on life. Tommy states “I just want to do everything right at this point, so I can get everything behind me.” He continues, “I’m tired of probation, curfews, tired of these court fees and alternative schools… I just want to start my life!”

I shared with Tommy the man of Jesus Christ in a time of transparency on openness. Reflecting on Jesus being a poor immigrant who could relate to difficult circumstances, Tommy was impressed by Jesus, not in the spiritual sense but in the qualities of Jesus’ character and perspective on all things. However Tommy remained skeptical about needeing Jesus’ forgiveness.

I shared that although Tommy has done some noble sacrificial things for others in his life, and although he was making positive strides, that God has a standard for living that we’ve all failed to live up to. God requires us to be honest, loving, truthful, abiding and to care for others not just our self. I expounded on sin, and how all men choose things that either hurt themselves, others or offend God and that the Bible states that no man is righteous except for Jesus Christ. Jesus is the Son of God, and he always does what pleases the father – even death on a cross.

Tommy asked, “If he always did what pleased the father then why did he die on a cross?”

I responded, “For you… so that you would be more than your mistakes, so that you would have a second chance, a new life in him, and so that you could experience forgiveness… and that you would be able to extend forgiveness.”

Today Tommy is in the process of finishing his GED. He plans on going to college and one day owning his own mechanic shop. He is truly a changed young man and the light he shines liberates those around him.