Ten years ago, I decided to help one of the mothers out on my visitation route in the Ora Lee West projects by bringing home her son who was in the second grade and help him get on his feet in school. It was an agreement for a two weeks stay. Jerome educationally was challenged and socially was a terror - at school, in his neighborhood, and at home.
Those two weeks has turned into a decade. Jerome eventually became my son. After a lot of discipline, his negative social actions seemed to dissappear over a couple of years. Educationally, Jerome struggled every year at school.
Many parent can identify with the glee of your child getting out of school for the summer and the dread of them going back in the fall. When they were in school, you had to work. You spent the same amount of work on their homework as they did. Each school year was stressful on us both.
In December of 2005, Jerome came home from working at Wild Adventures, a theme park in our hometown. A group of disciplined cadets from the Florida Youth Challenge came to the park for a day of fun. He was impressed with their discipline and came home with a website for us to start studying how he could apply for the Georgia Youth Challenge. After a long discussion and encouragement from my wife, Karen, I reluctantly agreed.
He began the program in March. 22 weeks later, Jerome graduated on August 26th. We attended the award ceremony and when leaving, Jerome told me he had something for me. When we arrived at our car, we had our own awards ceremony.
He pulled out this button that said '5.' He told me it was the last button that he had just received from the coloniel the day before. It was the last of five pins which represents him passing all five of his GED tests. When the coloniel went to place it on his lapel, he stopped her and requested that when I came the next day, I could have the honor of putting it on. In the middle of Augusta, Georgia with the heat bearing down, I proudly place the pin on my son's lapel. He had achieved what he had sat out to accomplish!
Many of the kids got their number 5 pin in the previous months, but Jerome struggled through the whole 22 weeks achieving it the last day before graduating. His goal at the Challenge was not to get other rewards or accomplishments, but to recieve his high school equivalency diploma and be the first in his biological family to recieve a diploma. It wasn't easy. There were many hurdles and problems. Jerome perservered. He said it was the hardest thing he had ever and probably will ever do. He equates it to literal hell on earth.
He names was not called for any awards yesterday. He didn't recieve any scholarships. In all, he went home satisfied because he went and conquered the almost impossible. Getting those things would have been nice for him, but his main goal was the diploma.
What will he do now? Well, while he was there, the Lord began dealing with Jerome about ministry and making plans for Him. He is packing up his room as I write this. He is joining me, his dad, in Atlanta to minister there. I thought it would be important for him to have a title so I have officially made him Head of Operations/Drummer/Security Guard. There will be a lot more titles coming in the near future. I will leave the name plate on my door to be removable. He will most likely became a minister one day and then eventually get my job. We will see.
For now, I am proud just to say he is my son. I know. I know. We don't look that much alike. I learned a long time ago that blood is thicker than water and Spirit is thicker than blood. We are not blood but the Spirit of God brought Jerome in my life when he was eight years old. We are both better people now. He has helped me and I have tried to help him. I couldn't see leaving him in Valdosta and going to Atlanta without him. He has always helped me in ministry.
Closing, I have a few remarks to make to Jerome:
1. You are blessed!
2. You are favored with God and with Man!
3. God is going to enlarge your territory and your sphere of influence!
4. And always remember, YOUR BEST IS YET TO COME!!!