There are times in our lives when our stories collide with those of others. I am writing this post to share one of the life-breathing stories I had the privilege of hearing over the past summer. If I could, I would invite you into a friend’s church in North Minneapolis. I would introduce you to my friend Terrell and his family. I know them well enough to know that you would be invited in and welcomed with big hugs and warm greetings. Because that is not possible, I will try the next best thing by sharing his story as shared with a group of leadership students that we hosted in July. When I asked Terrell if it would be ok to share his story with others he said, “Share away!”
I will begin with where our stories first crossed. About five years ago I met this big teddy bear of a guy through my pastor. Terrell and his wife shared their desire to bring love and transformation to the Jordan neighborhood in North Minneapolis through their church, Beacon of Hope. Their passion was contagious. They shared how they provide food and clothing to people in need and offer hope to those in challenging situations and circumstances. To this day, Terrell not only pastors at Beacon of Hope Church but also works closely with City Life Works, as well as any other mentoring or serving opportunities that come his way. Over the past 5 years I have continued to be inspired by Terrell’s transparency in sharing his story of growing up in foster care, becoming a drug user, and ultimately ending up in federal prison as a drug gang leader in the Chicago area. By the time he left prison, he was determined to map out a new path for his life, telling a better story, and giving back to the world around him. He has been a powerful mentor to us and the student leaders we have introduced to him over the years.
Fast forward to almost a year ago when Terrell was diagnosed with a very aggressive form of cancer and then this spring when his doctors gave him a prognosis of 4 months. Our hearts were broken but we decided that through Play to Your Strengths and MissionMinneapolis we would be intentional in walking beside Terrell in his work to serve his community this summer. We would come together and share life and purpose. We hosted two mission teams this summer, one team of 20 from Michigan and another team of 50 from Indiana, two weeks apart. Both teams did various work projects as well as love on Terrell’s neighborhood. Some of them had worked with us a few years ago and had met Terrell. They were now returning to bring any support they could as they were drawn to his passion to love others well. What inspires me about Terrell’s story is the joy he finds even in the rough patches of uncertainty. He also has a spirit that has always pushed back against the expected outcomes of situations. His story is one of resiliency and deep love for Jesus. I hope you will be inspired by his story as I have been. Let it move you to love hard until you have nothing left to give.