“Heeding Cries for Help from Discarded, Disconnected Young Men”: LA Times

feature–and do read to the end:

…Fifteen years ago, Ruett and Rhonda Foster were grieving parents in a courtroom. Their 7-year-old son Evan had been shot and killed by a gang member at Inglewood’s Darby Park.

Evan was clutching his soccer trophy in the back seat of the family car when bullets aimed at someone else tore through the windshield and struck him in the head.

Three young men were convicted and sent to prison. And the Fosters began performing their own sort of penance, making regular visits to local youth prisons, reaching out to troubled young men.

I joined them on a visit 10 years ago, and it has stayed with me since. They shared the details of Evan’s life and the contours of their loss. We listened to young men try to justify the violence in their lives.

“He comes from this ‘hood; I come from that ‘hood. So he’s automatically the enemy,” one 16-year-old killer explained. “I didn’t understand that he’s a person, just like me. You just think, ‘I can’t wait to put a hit on this fool.’ So you get him. Or you get the person he kicks it with.”

Or you get a 7-year-old or a toddler, who die in their parents’ arms.

What I heard sounded like callousness, indifference, a sense of inevitability that had warped their vision. What the Fosters heard was a cry for help from discarded, disconnected young men.

They are still making those visits, they said, when I visited their Compton home this week. It’s draining and often disappointing, but it’s what their faith demands.

“The God we serve is a God of second chances,” Ruett Foster said. “We don’t like the crimes they committed. They’re horrific. But at the same time, we’ve got to help these people turn their lives around.”

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