FRIDAY, APRIL 20: With the present outbreak of violence in the gang culture, Bermudians cannot ignore the fact that we need sudden and drastic change.
In fact, we have never seen the frequency of gun violence in Bermuda as we have in the past few years.
How are we going to see any real change to this? Are we headed for more violence?
Should we just get familiar with it, and stop desiring change or should we start to understand some of the core issues and be a part of the solution?
Personally, I think we should try to understand the core issue — or issues — and strive to be part of the solution.
It is important to understand that the perplexing problem of gang violence is complex and indicates that there is not just one problem, but many.
We can identify a few as core issues, however.
For the past 20 years I have been working with youth in one way or another, trying to make a difference in our young people.
I know I am not alone as there are many that have gone before me and are busy doing the same.
Through my years as a youth worker, counsellor and Assistant Dean of Students at Bermuda College, and as a senior pastor at Cornerstone Bible Fellowship, I have learned a few things that I would like to share with the general population.
Most of these come directly from our youth and others from their friends.
I firmly believe that any effective solution has to move beyond what we all ‘think’ should be done as adults; rather we need to take the time to be a ‘student’ and learn from our youth before we can stand up and teach on solutions.
What seems to be a common denominator to our at-risk youth in our island?
One of the main areas of disappointment among both our young men and young ladies has to do with their own families.
I cannot count the number of times that I have heard the greatest disappointment that youth endure is the lack of parental involvement in their lives, and the greatest complaint is that their father is not there.
Many have either had their father leave from a divorce when they were younger, while others have not seen or heard from their dad since birth.
The problem of absent fathers is viral in Bermuda.
To add to this issue, it is quite common for mothers, strained from working two jobs to make ends meet, to be dealing with the guilt that their children pile on them for their father not being present.
I do not think it fair or right to put more pressure on mothers to fulfill the father’s duty.
This brings us to an important point that we can either fight or accept to bring about change: The role of the father.
The concept of fathering is a Biblical concept. It started in Genesis 2 and 3 and has continued today.
God’s design for the family is a father and mother, but we all know due to circumstances, unpredictable events and disappointments, that the ‘ideal’ family is becoming more and more of the minority today.
However, what was the original design and how does it help with a society? I would like to summarize the role of the father in two verses.
1 Thessalonians 2:11, 12: For you know that we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children, encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God, who calls you into his kingdom and glory.
There are three words here used to describe the roles of a father. The first one is ‘encouraging’.
The meaning is to instill ‘courage’ in the life of the child. For example, it is to instill courage in the life of a child to overcome fears and to do the right thing despite circumstances.
This includes breaking the peer pressure that is so constant.
The second word is ‘comforting’.
It is interesting that the Holy Spirit who guides and teaches is known as the ‘Counsellor’ or the ‘Comforter’.
The comforter is one who provides wise counsel in times of uncertainty or crisis.
Finally, the word ‘urging’ is where we get the expression ‘to tow the line’.
It means when a father tells a child, who is testing the boundaries — or as many will say ‘acting-up’, to ‘cut it out’ or ‘enough is enough’. The father is there to help to keep them ‘in line’.
This is not to say mothers cannot effectively do this, but that fathers should be present and active in a child’s life to show them love and support through guidance and correction.
While one of the greatest problems today is that our young people do not have the presence of a male figure to give them firm instruction, encouragement to do the right thing, and firmly correct them when they are doing the wrong thing, how do we provide such men in a society where fathers are incredibly absent?
This is where other male role models can come in as mentors, men who can get involved in the lives of our youth to provide guidance.
This cannot be emphasized enough. Our youth need change, a one-on-one change that a mentor can give.
The change in the gang crisis will not happen by a change in the masses; the change in gang culture must be strategic and intentional.
It will happen by a change in individuals, one life at a time.
There are many opportunities where men can get involved: Big Brothers, Big Sisters; Mirrors; and Chain Reaction, to name a few.
“Research has demonstrated that adolescents with at least one high-quality supportive relationship with an adult were twice as likely as other youth to be economically self-sufficient, have healthy family and social relationships, and be productively involved in their communities.” (Jones-Brown and Henriques, 1997).
“Unfortunately, at-risk youth and youthful offenders often have limited impact with positive adult role models with whom they can form and sustain meaningful relationships.” (Jones-Brown & Henriques, 1997).
Let’s get busy making a difference. Next week we will learn how.
• Gary Simons is the senior pastor of Cornerstone Bible Fellowship, which meets every Sunday at the Ruth Seaton James Auditorium, CedarBridge Academy, Devonshire, at 10am. Visit www.cornerstone.bm for more information.