A rock in a hard place

"A rock in a hard place" Continued...

Issue: "Tilting at turbines," July 17, 2010

The program offers more than boxing. Children too young to train in the gym can spend evenings upstairs in a reading program. The Rock has been renovating its building room by room for the last five years, with a music room, a computer room, and an art room in various states of completion. There are plans for residential quarters for the interns and an apartment for a boxing coach.

Adults who circulate through the gym, and Christian murals on the walls, reinforce the Rock's ethos, but it's mainly enforced by the kids themselves, no matter what age. One rule in the gym is that cursing earns you 10 push-ups: "They monitor themselves," Jimmy Sherman says. "If they catch a kid cursing, they'll make him do push-ups. It gives them a sense of direction, of right and wrong."

Sherman is a prototypical grizzled trainer, the Mick to the Rock's budding Rockys. His voice rasps and croaks, his skin is sandpapery, his hands and wrists are swollen and discolored from years on the heavy bag. Almost every night he can be found at the Rock, training kids. "I see the glory of the Lord even in Kensington," Sherman says. "These people feel like they're forgotten, but God hasn't forgotten them. And I feel privileged to be here and remind them of that."

Kids also get reminding through a worship service: Sweaty and tired, they sing praise songs. Then they sit and listen quietly while worship leader Craig Cerrito delivers a short homily: "We know life isn't easy. When you have a problem, I want you to be encouraged, because Jesus is real." Then he prays and invites kids up for an altar call: No takers tonight, but the message is out there, and the kids are listening. Whenever they are ready, the Rock will be there.

That consistency helps the Rock to combat the hopelessness that surrounds life in Kensington, both on the streets and at most of the children's homes. "Fatherless homes, families with multiple temporary father figures, brothers and sisters from different fathers," Orr says. "Some families are so messed up from alcohol and drugs that the oldest kid is raising the other kids." The Rock is a constant presence in an otherwise constantly shifting world, Osbourne adds: Kids "come, they go, they come back. They know we're always here. We're a family. For some of these kids we're their only family."
Click here to listen to WORLD editor in chief Marvin Olasky discuss with Alisa Harris the Northeast regional finalists.
To view a video profile of Rock Ministries and of each of the other 2010 regional finalists and to read profiles of finalists and winners from 2006 through 2009, visit WORLDmag.com/compassion.

Rock Ministries Factbox

Location: Philadelphia, Pa.
Founded: 2003
Mission: Bringing inner-city youth to Christ through boxing
Size: All volunteer-run; 3,000 children served since 2005
Budget: $400,000 per year
website: www.rockministry.us


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