October 20, 2020

Pastors offer at-risk youth alternatives

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The Cayman community mentorship programme is responding to the recent rise in violent crime.

Seventh-day Adventist Church pastors are trading suits for jeans and sermon helps for dominos.

They aren’t shirking responsibility. Ministers in Cayman are hoping to mentor young people in the community who are vulnerable to drug abuse and gang involvement.

“Our Islands have seen a sharp and unprecedented rise in violent crime this year,” said Dannie Clarke, President of the Adventist Church for the Cayman Islands.

He and his pastoral team have observed more young people turning toward a life of crime, baited by the sense of belonging and quick money that gangs promise. “Absentee parents and few positive influences only worsen the situation,” he said.

“We want to be there to support them, to put a hand on their shoulders,” he added. For some churches, that means offering young people sports and social programmes.

“We want to be personally connected to these guys before they reach a place where they consider doing something that can have catastrophic consequences,” he continued.

Through a community prayer and mentorship programme launched last month, Adventists are offering an alternative to gang involvement.

Pastors hold community meetings and prayer rallies once a week, where they offer counselling and support to young people “on the fringes.” They pray for the community, law enforcement members, perpetrators and victims, and their respective families.

“Many young people reluctant to talk to the police or other authority figures find it less threatening to speak in confidence with a pastor,”Clark said.

Affected young people are already opening up. One even helped solve a string of murders. Another passed a note to Clark after a recent community meeting. “It just said, ‘Please give me a call. They have my name on a hit list and I want to talk to somebody because I fear for my life,’” he said.

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