“We’re part of something bigger. UrbanPromise is huge, and it’s not just us here in Charlotte.”

This is how Emi, one of our high school StreetLeader captains, responded when I asked her how her time at the UrbanPromise International Summit affected how she viewed her role as a StreetLeader at UrbanPromise Charlotte.

This year, Emi and our three other StreetLeader captains joined me in Camden, New Jersey for the UrbanPromise International Summit—a two-day event where nearly 150 staff members from the 14 UrbanPromise affiliate sites gathered as the family of UrbanPromise ministries to hear from each other, to learn together, and to be renewed in our vision of ministry.

One of the speakers at the Summit, author Margot Starbuck, talked to us about the difference between guilt and shame. According to Margot, guilt is the feeling that you have done something bad, while shame is the feeling that you are bad.

Margot challenged us to relate to the children we work with “shame-free,” to look upon them as Jesus looks at us, in a way that says, “There is nothing I would change about you.” 

The night of Margot’s talk, I heard our StreetLeader captains chatting well past midnight. I didn’t force them to go to sleep, but I wondered why they didn’t want to rest up for the next day of speakers and workshops.

In the car the next morning, I asked what had kept them up so late. My heart leapt into my throat as Emi took our her phone and began reading me the list of new strategies they had brainstormed to communicate love to the children at our AfterSchool Program.

It seemed they had taken Margot’s challenge seriously.

I saw Bob Goff, author of Love Does, recently tell one of us Twitter followers, “I love who you are and who you are becoming.”

I can’t imagine a quote that more perfectly captures how I feel about our StreetLeaders. Not only am I enormously proud of they young men and women they show themselves to be each day, but I also delight in watching them grow in their understanding and practice of leadership.

Since our return from the Summit, I’ve watched Emi approach her role as our Bible teacher with a newfound sense of purpose. Earlier this week, she told me,

“I want to show our kids that we love them just how they are, but we don’t want to leave them there. I want to show them that there is something more for them in terms of faith and academics.” 

Thank you for giving of your time, encouragement, and resources to UrbanPromise Charlotte. Your support shows our StreetLeaders and the children we lead that there is a community of people that not only loves exactly who they are but that also believes in the leaders they are becoming.

Grace and peace,