Family is powerfully transformed through Christ’s love
Our first point of connection was actually over his time in prison and my own felony drug charges. Over time Delta and I had their family over to eat and we began hanging out together; celebrating kids birthdays and family events. They really accepted us and quickly opened their lives up to us. One day Walter came in and told me about some severe marriage problems he and his wife, Taliena, were having. He asked me to counsel them (my first couple out of seminary, and I had taken a semester of counseling, right!?!).
It was really hard, but it seemed like progress was being made. They were working through forgiveness of deep sin against one another and dealing with patterns of intense anger and outbursts. Everything seemed to be going well until I got a call at 2:00 A.M. one morning. Taliena and the kids needed somewhere to go after a night of life-endangering violence.
“Someone was going to die that night; it saved our family when you took us in,” she would later tell me. Though Taliena and the kids returned home, a short time later both Walter and Taliena came close to killing one another (not hyperbole).
For months we met together and talked through the implications of the gospel on their lives. It was about that time that Common Ground Montgomery shifted its focus from Carver High School to the neighborhood itself and began working with children. This opened the door to spending a lot of time with the Brayboy’s two children: Walter, Jr, and Waltreunnah. “Little Walt” was 3 and his sister was 7 when I first met them. Eventually, both siblings were brought into the CGM After School Program and Summer Camp.
By the time Little Walt was 6, he had developed severe speech problems. CGM was able to recruit a speech therapist to come volunteer in the After School Program to work intensely with him. A little over two years later, Taliena stood up and testified, in tears, that Little Walt had made A/B honor roll for the first time ever and that his speech had improved so much that he was able to communicate much more clearly and effectively. This year, as a 10-year old, he placed third in the entire school in an essay he wrote about “What it means to be an American”.
Both Little Walt and Waltreunnah came to know Christ during one of our summer camps. They have attended every summer for 5 years. Walter, Sr., said, “They came home talking about God, and I really didn’t know myself what to tell them.” Both parents say it has been a life changing experience to have the kids involved in the ministries CGM has helped launch.
Over a year ago, Walter, Sr., and Taliena entered the housing and adult ministry, House to House at Washington Park (H2H), a ministry CGM helped start. They faithfully attended all year long the weekly training classes, worked with their mentor, studied financial literacy training, participated in bible study classes, and, eventually, graduated the program. After ten years as adults living in the public housing projects, they moved into a newly renovated home in Washington Park this year and are in position to be home owners in the future. They love their new home. They are thriving in many ways as a family, and they come home to a sense of peace and safety that thy never realized while living in public housing projects. In their old public housing project “drug dealers, addicts, and gang members were all around… plus the shooting.” It was dangerous there, and they had to keep their kids inside of the small apartment most of the time. Yet, even with this new sense of housing safety, they’ve not just kept it all themselves, they actually recruited and are mentoring a young woman in the H2H financial literacy class this year.
Walter, Sr., talks about the changes going on now through the ministries: “When you grew up in a neighborhood and you see such big change, it makes you really want to be a part and have even more pride in where our community is headed. Not a day goes by where I don’t hear something positive about Common Ground and House to House.”
He says that he truly believes that many lives, especially youth, are not only being changed, but literally saved. “It used to be a drug area, shootin’ and killin’, but since y’all moved here it has changed so much. The fact that y’all moved here and stayed is the big deal. Y’all have changed Washington park especially the younger generation. Some of them might be dead if this (ministry) wasn’t here.”
The Brayboy family is a beautiful picture of what life-on-life holistic ministry has looked like in our neighborhood over the last seven and a half years. I wish I had time to tell you the stories of the many more whose testimonies are as beautiful as theirs. Christ’s redemption is a beautiful thing! One last thing, I had the privilege to stand as a minister in their renewal of wedding vows a few years ago. Their first wedding was at the courthouse and they wanted to do things differently. It was beautiful. H2H recently sent them on a “Weekend to Remember” marriage conference retreat. Both Walter, Sr., and Taliena credit the weekend to yet more powerful transformation in their family.