Finding Hope in the Dirt of Gang Life

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.

gangsHis 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.

120 Years of Service

Welcome to Stockton, California!

Here you will find children and youth from the inner city who were or are struggling to find purpose and to get away from their negative surroundings but now have positive influences to help change their situation. Peniel Mission (The Center) has been operating for 120 years. Peniel Ministries was founded by Theodore Pollock Ferguson in 1886 in Los Angeles, California.

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“Some children grow up in homes with loving families, positive role models, and provision. Other children are not so lucky, growing up in homes surrounded by gang activity, drug abuse, and unmentionable acts. A child having a place to belong, mentors to look up to, and people around them cheering them on in life is priceless. Regardless of a child’s home life, religion, race, economic standing, or abilities, Peniel Mission (The Center) is here as a beacon of hope and a warm embrace in a part of our city that can be cold and hopeless,” wrote Peter Powers in Positive Perspective Magazine.

Though the ministry never stops, The Center’s most influential time is after school. The Center is open Tuesday through Friday for the kids to come for 3 hours; during the summer, The Center is open for 4 hours each day. When the kids come, they have the opportunity to go to homework club or be involved in other activities. The Center has an incentive program to challenge the kids to finish their homework, do their times tables, or read a book. The kids also have access to computers  that use games to teach typing and math skills.

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WGM missionaries Bob and Lisa Margaron are huge advocates for education. “I believe education is a key to being able to break the cycle of poverty in the inner city,” Lisa explained.

When asked what sets them apart from a normal after-school program, The Margarons’ reply was, “The absolute value transfer we give the kids. We are involved in their lives, we treat them as family, we pray for them, and we love them.”

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Please pray about supporting this ministry monthly as you read about  the impact firsthand. Even $20 a month can make an impact in children’s lives by helping to provide food, educational resources, and a safe environment at The Center.

Congratulations, Peniel Ministries, for 120 years of service in Stockton.”

To read the whole article, click here.