When a 13 year old takes responsibility for his actions and puts his mind to allowing God to change him you know there was a process to get there. For Malachi, that process started long before he was even born. Malachi’s mentor is Damon Johnson. Damon started and runs TCF, Tennessee Chosen Few Basketball, a mentoring program built around skills development in basketball. He also runs the mentoring program at Rise Up!, a nonprofit in Johnson City, Tennessee.
Damon played professional basketball overseas for 16 years and at the end of his career he felt God was calling him back home. Home had been a place of struggle. Growing up in the projects and losing his dad at 13 took a huge toll on Damon’s life, but God used basketball to rescue him and it took him all over the world.
When he came home he noticed a spiritual reality that hung over his city. The words, “I can’t” rang from the mouths of most of the youth. “It was like a spirit of keeping people down, that no one could change their circumstances.” This moved Damon to start TCF and work at Rise Up!, working with close to 300 students between both organizations.
“I was acting up because I was hurt, I am ready to come home.”
One of those students was Malachi. Damon describes Malachi as an, “extremely musically gifted kid who plays drums at the church but outside the church he was a nightmare.” Malachi wanted to fight anybody and everybody. Damon invited Malachi into TCF and struggled for the last 2 years to see any significant change in this young man. Earlier this year, Malachi stopped showing up. Damon knew it was because he was ashamed of his behavior. Instead of being done with him, Damon realized that Malachi had started to care about something – basketball. Damon gave Malachi a couple of weeks, then the next time he saw him Damon asked what he wanted to do. “I want to play ball,” Malachi then explained why he acted out. He felt hurt because he saw his father and was ignored. This was the first time Malachi owned his behavior. “I was acting up because I was hurt, I am ready to come home.”
Imagine all the leaders from the most challenging places in our country going back home and helping the Malachi’s in their communities constructively deal with the pain in their lives as they grow into the leaders they were meant to be. This is the impact that leaders like Damon are having all over the country. Your support equips Damon with training like our National Conference and resources like the Discipleship Toolkit, that Damon uses within his mentoring programs. Thank you for impacting the lives of urban youth.
UYWI, Chief Strategy Officer
Damon using the DKit with his group of guys.