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Musings and Memories

There’s always hope

Doug Dezotell
Posted 8/27/22

I met Anthony in the Desire Housing Projects in New Orleans shortly after his 17th birthday.

In so many ways, Anthony seemed so much younger than those 17 years, and in other ways he seemed old …

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Musings and Memories

There’s always hope

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I met Anthony in the Desire Housing Projects in New Orleans shortly after his 17th birthday.

In so many ways, Anthony seemed so much younger than those 17 years, and in other ways he seemed old for his age too.

He had never been outside of the city of New Orleans before I met him.

He had gotten involved in drug abuse when he was in elementary school, and started selling drugs shortly after that.

The Desire Projects were considered to be one of the worst and most dangerous housing complexes in the whole country at that time.

Anthony had a little son that was almost two years old at that time. The baby’s mother was one of Anthony’s girlfriends, and he didn’t see his son very often. But, he liked to brag about his boy.

I came to New Orleans that week to pick up Anthony and take him home with me to Memphis.

I was the executive director of Teen Challenge of Memphis at that time, which is a Christian organization with the purpose of introducing drug and alcohol addicts to the Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

We provided these men, not only with a place to live, but also a training program to help them overcome their addictions and learn to live a new life in Christ.

My friend, Greg, was the director of the Teen Challenge Center in New Orleans, and he had known Anthony and his mother for years.

Greg called me one day to tell me about this young man that needed to get out of New Orleans and start a new life.

Anthony had been in and out of trouble for most of his young life. He was not only a drug abuser and dealer, but he had been involved in the gang life for years.

His life had been threatened on many occasions and he wasn’t safe on those streets.

His mother came to see Greg one day, and begged him to help her son. She was afraid he would die on the streets of their city.

Greg called me to see if I would help his young friend.

I made the trip south with one of my staff members to meet this young man that so desperately needed a fresh start.

Our ministry in Memphis was a year-long residential program, and we provided men with an opportunity to start a new life following the teachings Jesus Christ and the holy scriptures.

Anthony had agreed to come back to Memphis with me, and he carried all of his belonging in one small trash bag that he loaded in my van.

As we drove out of the city of New Orleans, Anthony was excited, and in awe. He had never been on the causeway before, and as we neared Lake Pontchartrain he was amazed at that large body of water, thinking it was the ocean.

We headed north on I-55 and left Louisiana behind and crossed into Mississippi.

This young New Orleans native had never seen open country before, and for the first time in his life he saw real cows grazing in the fields on either side of the roadway.

Anthony was thrilled at the sight and hollered to us, “Hey! Look at all those pork chops!”

We laughed and explained to him where pork came from.

When we made it back to the center in Memphis, we helped Anthony get settled into his dorm room and to get started on his journey of a new way of living.

It took Anthony a while to get adjusted to sleeping on clean sheets and on a comfortable mattress.

He wasn’t used to eating three healthy meals a day. Back home he would go days without eating anything.

Anthony tried to stay alert during our chapel services and discipleship classes, but he would drift off thinking about life back in New Orleans.

He hadn’t been with us for more than a month when he came to my office one morning and said he needed to go home.

My staff and I tried to encourage him to stick it out and really give it a try. But, he was determined that he needed to get back home and see his “baby mama” and his son.

We prayed with him and counseled him, all to no avail. He boarded a bus that afternoon headed south to Louisiana.

I called my friend, Greg, and informed him that Anthony was headed back home, determined to get back to his life in New Orleans.

Greg thanked me for our help and told me that he would let me know how things went for our young friend.

It wasn’t two weeks later that I received a phone call from Greg.

He had some sad news to tell me about Anthony.

The night before, this young man, who was still just a boy, had been shot and killed in a drug deal gone wrong in the Desire Projects.

My staff and I were heart broken. We knew we had tried our best to help our young friend.

We loved him and encouraged him to accept the teachings of Jesus. But, the draw of the streets and “the familiar” was too strong of a pull for Anthony and he lost his life on the streets he had attempted to leave behind.

As I look back on that young life lost so tragically, I know that I need to continue to spend my life trying to help people find a new beginning.

Not everyone is willing to accept the hope I share, but I am going to keep on pointing people to a new life in Christ.

There are so many other young men who have found hope for a new life in our ministries; men who have gone on to have successful ministries of their own. I thank God for each of those fine men of God.

But, I often find myself thinking about Anthony and others like him who couldn’t resist the lure of the streets.

But, I continue to pray for those who are bound and addicted. And I share the hope that I have in my heart with whoever will listen.

Christ can set us all free from our sins, whatever they may be. We just need to cry out to Him, and ask for His forgiveness. And then turn from that sinful life and live for Jesus.

I am praying for you.

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