By Richard Feero
Have you ever met someone who, despite being way younger than you, demonstrated the love of Christ in ways that amazed, humbled, and encouraged you? Cardale, an 11th grader in the STRIVE program, is one of those people for me. In the summer of 2016 as a rising 10th grader, Cardale worked as an intern with the 5/8 Summer Program, a program he participated in during middle school. With Dylan moving to Norfolk, Cardale took advantage of the opportunity to work as a leader with me in this year’s Summer Program. The five-week program meets four days per week and includes breakfast, Bible study, black history, group reading, movies, sports, service projects, lunch, free time, and trips to the lake or pool.
A key aspect of Christian Community Development is nurturing the growth of indigenous leaders. Cardale has experienced many of the typical struggles and challenges with being a black youth in Prospect; this gave him credibility amongst the group that neither I nor any of the other volunteers possessed. Though Cardale is soft spoken and mild mannered, he created and led team-building activities each day with confidence and authority. The themes and lessons in these activities enhanced the quality of community that was growing amongst the guys each day this summer. Cardale conducted himself as a seasoned staff member: he always showed up on time (if not early), remained calm and flexible amidst change, and offered wise advice and counsel in tense moments. Cardale displayed the professionalism, integrity, leadership, and responsibility of someone well beyond his age and achievement. Even as his supervisor, there were multiple occasions where I found myself learning how to model Christ through observing Cardale’s demeanor and actions.
Cardale’s ministry is a great reminder that you don’t need to have a college degree or be outgoing, loud, and flashy to work in God’s kingdom. Cardale has been in Abundant Life programs since 5th grade, his two older sisters grew up in Abundant Life, and his mother has participated in job training and financial literacy classes. In fact, their involvement stretches all the way back to 1997, Abundant Life’s second year of existence! Lifelong family connections and community members supporting the community – this is at the heart of Abundant Life’s ministry – working together to share in an Abundant Life.