First time out of the state.
Out of the city, too, for that matter.
Fifteen, black, poor, never known his father.
His mother scraping by on two jobs. Government housing.
A coach invited him to a Christian sports camp; a businessman paid his way.
After an 8-hour bus trip with 38 other lads, he was in the Blue Ridge Mountains. He stood there in his worn out tennis shoes, holding a small gym bag with his only extra tee shirt, two pairs of socks, a change of underwear, a toothbrush.
Wide-eyed at the gathering campers numbering nearly 600, he surveyed the incredible vista of North Carolina’s high Blue Ridge Mountains with new eyes.
“My name’s Delwar,” he said, shaking my hand limply, his shoulders stooped, eyes averted.
Assigned to a small group with a college-aged mentor, he’d spend the next four days rising at 6:15 A.M. for calisthenics, reading his Bible during 30 minutes of quiet time, playing intramural sports, listening to professional and collegiate sports heroes testify to Jesus in their lives, and discussing his feelings with his small group.
For the first time in his short life he was not surrounded by profanity. Or violence.
There was no sex, no hip hop music blaring, no TV, no cigarettes, no alcohol or drugs. Just inspiration and perspiration. And responsible male role models.
I saw him go forward at the invitation the third night. No tears. Just a look of firm resolve on his face. “I’m choosing Christ,” he said.
The last day he came to my class on “The Ten Most Asked Questions of the Christian Faith.” Didn’t want proof of God or riches or health or athletic stardom. He wanted to know how to tell his mama there is hope, how to tell his classmates there is another way besides lust and violence and self.
I shook Delwar’s hand as he boarded the bus to head for home. His shoulders were more squared, his handshake had firmed, and he looked me in the eye like the boy-more-become-a-man he was.
“Remember Jesus,” I urged as he left. And I prayed for him, his mama, his school, and the coach who was waiting for him down the mountain, in the city, on the playground, by the school, across the tracks from the factory.