I had a wonderful childhood.
I really did. I was raised in a very safe suburban environment with a stable family, good schools, big houses that gained value over time, plentiful food, and lots of churches to choose from. We had a high employment rate with living wages, nice places to shop, and a stable local governance. Most of the children who grew up in the upwardly mobile, homogenous neighborhood with me were expected to go on to college and become the next great contributors to our society. I was surrounded by people who looked like me and thought like me. There weren’t many problems to speak of. There just wasn’t a whole lot of diversity, ethnicity or socioeconomic status where I grew up.
Life was good.
It wasn’t until I got out into the real world as a young adult that I noticed the bubble I had been raised in. I was thankful for that bubble, and I still am today. The solid foundation that I was given helped to prepare me for so many things in life. However, I have to admit that I was relatively unprepared to build relationships as an adult with people who were different from me.
I learned that life is filled with many different kinds of people and life situations, and God, in His love, designed many opportunities for me to learn and grow through the people I interacted with. That process began in college and spilled over into my twenties as my path crossed with many different people in various parts of the United States and the world.
I have learned a lot from the diverse array of relationships that I have been fortunate enough to develop as an adult. But it wasn’t until I started to serve as a volunteer mentor to inner city kids through a mentoring program that I realized how limited my worldview was, and how much I really had to learn about life and God’s plans in the world. Mentoring has presented a path for me to learn from some amazing and courageous kids and families.
God has used mentoring to transform my life.
Where I was selfish, mentoring taught me to give myself away to others.
Where I thought that I was kind of tough, mentoring taught me a great deal about resilience.
Where I thought I knew a thing or two about how the world worked, the kids that I mentored showed me so much about what I didn’t know.
Where I thought that I was blessing a young person by volunteering my time, it always turned out that the young people blessed me in countless ways.
Simply stated, mentoring is often a transformational experience for the adults just as much, if not more, than it is for the kids who are being mentored.
I like Vinay Samuel’s definition of transformation:
“Transformation is to enable God’s vision of society to be actualized in all relationships, social, economic, and spiritual, so that God’s will may be reflected in human society and his love be experienced by all communities, especially the poor” (from the book Global Church p. 215).
Where I was lacking in relationships with people who were different from me socially, economically, and spiritually, the Lord opened up the way for me to experience the full relational richness of the human experience through serving as a youth mentor. I can’t even begin to describe how much I have learned from the young people that I have had the privilege of mentoring. As my life undergoes a process of transformation, God also does what He does best in the lives of the kids that I spend time with.
As the positive changes take place in our own lives through mentoring, we are also more uniquely positioned to bring about transformation in our neighborhoods.
Mentoring brings suburban, urban, and rural people together to learn from each other. Mentoring brings people together across the barriers that might ordinarily separate us. And as a result individuals experience transformation. Schools experience transformation. Churches experience transformation. Families experience transformation. Communities experience transformation.
It all works together toward the common good. That’s the transforming power of mentoring relationships.
Dr. Bryan McCabe, Pastor of Transformational Urban Leadership, North Way Christian Community