Urban LIFE Ministries, Kansas City, MO Leadership Integrity Fellowship Evangelism

Urban LIFE Ministries, Kansas City, MO


It was the third time Rodney, a sixth-grader, had missed his bus that week. His dad was not going to be pleased about having to come out to school to pick him up—again. As he considered alternatives, Rodney spotted some friends getting into a blue van with the Asher brothers. Figuring that this ride was better than nothing, he climbed aboard too. Because Tom and Tim Asher had previously discussed inviting Rodney to attend the club with them, each assumed that the other had made arrangements for Rodney to come that day. Rodney came, played basketball, ate snacks, and was compelled to sit and listen unwillingly to one of the Asher brothers talk about the Bible. Was this an accident? Maybe by human measurements, but not in God’s sovereign plan. Unknown and unplanned by the Ashers, God’s plan was to seek Rodney in order to transform his life.

Without God’s work, Rodney would likely have become like the typical teen in his community, which boasts one of the highest crime rates in Kansas City. Before Rodney’s conversion, he had very little interest in the things of God. He would talk to his friends and mock the devotionals. He took his authorities to the limits in many little areas, such as keeping playing basketball after the teens were called off the court and dragging as slowly as possible over to the devotional. In general, he sported an attitude of defiance as a quiet rebel. Finally, Tim Asher had to pull him aside and inform him that he would no longer be allowed to come and play basketball unless he shaped up . . . so he shaped up enough to keep coming.

Eventually, Rodney began to grasp the message the Ashers were trying to transmit. Then one day, God did the work of salvation in his heart. During the devotional, Tom asked the young people, if they were to die as they stepped out of the doors, whether they would go to heaven or hell. That question struck home with Rodney and kept him awake for hours that night. Finally, he prayed the prayer he remembered Tom suggesting and was immensely relieved.

The Lord kept at the miracle of transformation in Rodney’s life, and he soon became the ministry’s model teen. He began to apply Biblical principles to his life and to serve others. For example, the group watched a video about Elijah which stressed that Elijah would not take money for the miracles he performed. After all the other teens left the mess they had made with popcorn and snacks, Rodney stayed behind to clean up and refused to accept Tom’s reward of appreciation because he wanted to serve, like Elijah did, for the Lord alone. He began to look out for and to include others in the group. For example, he positioned a poor basketball player, drove down the court, passed off the ball to him, and told him to shoot. This uncommon tactic resulted in that poor player’s sinking the winning shot in an important game. Rodney testifies that, even though it was not easy to live a Christlike life when he had to go home to his community, the environment that Tom helped create provided relief from the constant pressures.

Rodney began to think about his need to change environments. He approached his youth pastor to ask what it took for a teen to attend the Christian school. About that time, God provided another miracle for Rodney. Tom called one day to tell him that someone had paid his way to go to the Christian school. He now spent from 6:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. daily at school because of basketball practice. Rodney describes the Christian environment he experienced as “a complete blessing.”

After graduation, Rodney became the first teen from Urban LIFE to attend a Christian college. He originally studied to be a pastor, but was redirected into the field of P.E./coaching. Since sports played such a vital role in Rodney’s transformation, he desired to use them as a tool to give back to his community and to the people like Tom Asher who invested in his life.

Rodney has become a significant help to Urban LIFE. He has interned for and volunteered with the ministry. Working for Urban LIFE was, according to Rodney, “the perfect opportunity to give back.” Rodney is now married and moved away, but he still takes vacation time to come and preach to the young men, and he hopes God will bring him back to pastor in urban Kansas City soon.

The impact of Rodney’s transformation may be measured, in part, in the lives he has touched. It has reached far beyond Rodney himself to his family. His mother accepted Christ as a result of his changed life. His junior and senior years of high school, he drove himself and his cousin to church because he knew it was something they both needed. He has made a lasting impact on other Urban LIFE teens as well as co-workers and church members.

Tom Asher’s ministry has provided a completely different life for Rodney than the one he was headed for. Tom has served as a spiritual father figure for Rodney who says, “Everyone in my family now knows of Tom . . . . He has impacted my life tremendously.”

But we all know who was truly responsible for Rodney’s story. No one planned his getting onto the blue van with the Ashers. No one could have predicted the impact of the devotionals he was so disinterested in—no one but God, that is. God Himself answered prayers that man did not yet know to pray and accomplished in Rodney the miracle of a changed life.

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