From Scott Bowers...

Our scheduled summer youth activities have ended as our youth head back to school in the era of Covid. One of the hallmark activities of our summer was our biking; mixed with field trips and camping. You played a vital role! Thank YOU.

 Many people helped us financially in buying equipment, purchase a van, and go camping and on field trips. Many showed hospitality  to our youth; and, it did not go un-noticed. I am grateful for the extra-effort you made in welcoming us and making our stay unforgettable. Both the youth and adults commented not realizing just how expansive the Underground Railroad in Ohio, especially Southwest Ohio, was.

Personally, I am now a fan of the Reverend John Rankin and Mr. John Parker from Ripley, Ohio. Reading the book, “Beyond the River”, really made the area and the exploration of the area that much more meaningful. Springboro was amazing too.

Our youth celebrated the many trips they made. For many, it was their first time camping, riding a more sophisticated bike, carrying their camping gear on their bikes, and learning how to ride as a group. I think if you asked them the one word that they had to remember while riding as a group it would be “Predictable”.

For safety purposes, they had to be predictable! That meant they had to ride with intentionality and to use the proper signals – especially when passing people on the trail. “On your left”, became the common phrase on the trail. It did not come without our share of bumps and bruises.

Most important, was the time we had together just hanging out with the kids, and creating a safe place allowing them to be kids – away from the violence of their neighborhood. Most of them commented on the beauty of the Loveland Bike Trail and surrounding area that many saw for the first time.

While roasting s’mores, we had a theological discussion. While swimming, we heard that some in our group did not want to go on living.  While eating ice cream, our 10-14 age group informed us they learned about sex via Porn-Hub. Not only did they learn it; some claimed they put it into practice.

The discussions flowed as if they were talking about the weather. In retrospect, I am grateful for the candor of the discussions that occurred while riding bikes and camping. Our youth trust us enough to confide in and let us into their world. We are permitted to respond with equal candor in challenging their assumptions, experiences, and worldviews with biblically based insights and probing questions. In short, serving our youth can be complicated.

Over the summer, our devotionals followed three main points layered in scriptures. The points were taken from FOCAS’ culture of expected behavior and what that behavior looks like. In short, we targeted the following three ideas:

 1 – E (Event) + R (Response) = O (Outcome or objective)

 2 – Discipline over Default

 3 – Do the work!

Many of our rides and camping trips involved the rain. (Rain or shine, we pressed on.) Our event, or circumstances, was the rain, with the destination as our objective or outcome. The only thing we, or the youth, could control was our individual response. We used the rain and biking to teach our youth how to manage their response(s). The Proverbs speak to the richness concerning the virtues of discipline, self-control, and work. These topics were introduced into a sub-culture that defaults to taking the easy way out, entitlements, and low expectations. Using God’s word, we challenged each other to identify how we approach tasks and our responses to the planned and unplanned “events” in our life. 

Lastly, our thinking must translate to action that makes a difference. The work can be hard. It can take a long time. However, we must do the work if we want to realize our intended outcome or objective. Otherwise, we fall into doing it the way we have always done it; or we fall back into a default mode of behaving.

These simple truths, wrapped with scripture and life examples, challenged the thinking of our youth. You made these activities and assets available to create an environment for change. God can use these activities and the relationships formed,  to impact individuals, families, generations, and neighborhoods for His Glory!

As our summer comes to an end please know that you helped to make it a more meaningful one with your actions, kindness, and generosity. Museums, historical societies, docents, campgrounds, and many people fearlessly accommodated our youth in the midst of a pandemic. Everyone’s collective generosity helped to contribute to a very active and safe summer. In all, about 30 different youth rode with us.

Does it make a difference? The first week of August, one of the mothers mentioned to Brandon Welch, our Street Outreach Chaplain that they are not a religious family. She said they don’t go to church or talk about spiritual things. Her son, one of our most consistent riders, asked her for a Bible.  I asked the kids what are some of the lessons they learned from riding and hanging out at the Lord’s Gym this summer? Not all jumped at the answer.

However, there was one young man, 14 years old, who stepped up. We had just finished talking about Joseph who was sold into slavery at the age of 17 – a teenager, by his brothers. While his life situations (Events) seemed unfair and demoralizing, he never lost faith in God or discontinued obeying God. He even found the strength to flee from Potipher’s wife who tried to seduce him. At the end of his life he showed how he always chose the right responses to his most difficult situations. He showed discipline and did not take the easy way out. He concluded that God worked things out for good!

One 14-year-old was paying attention. He said he learned two things this summer. 1. We choose how we are going to respond to situations.  2. We can choose the easy way or doing things like we have always done; or, we have to have discipline to do the right thing even if it is hard. I sat there and just smiled.

We went riding, and finished out our last scheduled ride of the summer with a stop at the creamy whip. Upon calculating the mileage, young Cortez, at age 10, did not miss one ride when we began the first week in May. Four months later he would ride 209 miles, more than any of the other youth. He told me he wants to ride more! Thank you for making the summer a meaningful one for our youth.

Stand firm.

Scott Bowers

Executive Director

 PS – Please mark your calendar for Wednesday, September 30th, at 7:30 am for our Virtual Lord’s Gym Community Awareness Event. Also, check out our virtual athletic event the Youth Resiliency Adventure at YRAdventure.com. I am asking for you to share this information with your friends, family, church, and work to help us get the word out.