The Center is WGM’s major ministry in Stockton, California, touching the lives of thousands of children and youth each year. It is an after-school drop-in center for many at-risk kids. The majority of these children are from single-parent families, many of which are consumed by drugs and/or alcohol and the gang lifestyle.
The following is not only Carlos’s story but also the story of many generations plagued by local gang activity and the gang lifestyle.
His father and two brothers are dead, killed amidst the gang violence. His mother learned the gang life at a young age and has opened their home to violence, drugs, and prostitution. His sister has been forced into prostitution for the gang as the cycle continues.
Carlos has a goal in mind—something he wants to achieve that no one in his family has ever done—he wants to be a high school graduate. Dreams feel lofty as the dirt of everyday life in the inner city has challenges at every turn. Carlos has been indoctrinated into this lifestyle from birth. He is in a ninth-generation gang affiliated family. Violence, drugs, and prostitution are just some of the things Carlos has to wade through to concentrate on his homework in his own house.
He doesn’t have the tools to be successful, because generational gang life has prevented it. Achieving his goal of graduation seems distant. There is, however, light in the darkness. Bob Margaron, who serves at The Center with his wife, Lisa, stated, “Carlos was having trouble doing his homework because he was doing it on his phone. Most assignments at school are submitted online, which requires an Internet connection. The Center went out and got him a Chromebook so he can use it for school, and [we] helped get him a job as well.”
One of the mottos of life in gang households is: “Love your mother, love your church, but die for the gang.” The Center provides kids in Stockton a safe place to go where they can get away from that destructive lifestyle for a few hours and concentrate on homework, play on the playground, and, most importantly, hear about Jesus Christ and how they can have a personal relationship with Him.