This month my church partnered with the Tacoma Area Youth for Christ in our latest outreach event. YFC is building a youth and family center in Tillicum. Dan Livingston, the director of the project, told me that they have been ministering in the Tillicum schools for some time now, but that it was tough to tell the kids that God loved them when they had no evidence of it at home. Poverty is rampant in the area, and some of the kids had to sleep under trash bags to keep themselves dry from the rain that leaked through their ceilings.
YFC wanted to build a place where kids could stop by after school do their homework, play video games, and hang out with people who would mentor them, teach them life skills, and pray for them. All of this would be done in the context of the Gospel. So, they purchased the Wander Inn Tavern, they gutted it, and they are in the process of renewing it into a safe place for the kids of Tillicum.
On November 8th, our church went out to Tillicum to help them with the project. We built a couple of storage sheds for them, and we helped demolish some windows and bar equipment that had to go before construction can begin on the center. In addition to the construction project, we also helped YFC with their annual fundraising auction. We put together two packages—a “grandparent survival kit” and a gardening kit. Both items were auctioned off and the proceeds went to the Tacoma Area YFC's annual budget. One of the coolest parts of the project was getting to write on one of the support pillars in the tavern. Dan told us that one of the biggest problems they have with the construction project is that local gang members often tag it, and they are constantly cleaning off graffiti. Gang members tag, he said, because they are staking out territory. So, he wanted us to “tag” the building for the kingdom of God. Each of us got to write our name and a Bible verse or encouraging thought on the pillar, which would be present behind the walls forever.
The YFC Tillicum project is an awesome illustration of renewal to me. They took a building that was probably doing more harm than good to the community, and they are transforming it to be a holy place. That’s just what God does for us. Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” (1 Cor 6:9–11 NIV)
God takes old things and He makes them new.
We love what YFC is doing for the youth and families of Pierce County. I look forward to seeing what the new center will do for Tillicum. I have a feeling that the transformed building will help transform the community, as kids in the area will have other outlets for their free time than gangs and drugs. We had a great time working with YFC and we prize the relationship we have with them.