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Ministry for at-risk youth celebrates anniversary

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by Brennan Leathers, The Post-Searchlight

A local ministry that serves at-risk young black men celebrated its first anniversary Sunday.

Wallace Sholar, field representative for U.S. Rep. Sanford Bishop (D-Albany), presented a plaque recognizing the efforts of the Rev. Adren Bivins, who founded the ministry with his wife, Sylvia. Bivins’ Laymen Brotherhood Second Chance Outreach Center has provided mentoring, Bible study, positive recreation and advocacy for several dozen young men since it began in September 2007.On the first three Sundays of each month, the Bivins welcome an average of 15 to 30 young men at the Bainbridge Church of God’s activity center, where they received permission to gather.

Rev. Adren Bivins, a retired professional wrestler turned evangelist, mixes basketball and refreshments with Bible study and a direct style of speaking he calls “Man Talk.” The Bivins’ goal is to encourage and inspire young men who are at risk of getting into trouble or may already be facing problems with spiritual and practical advice.

Bivins said some local judges have referred young men placed on probation to his outreach center and said he has attended court to speak on their behalf.

District Attorney Joe Mulholland was the special guest speaker at Sunday’s meeting and used the opportunity to caution the 15 youth in attendance, all of whom were under 21 years old.

During the last Superior Court session, six men under 18 from the five-county judicial circuit Mulholland serves were sentenced to serve at least 20 years in prison.

In Georgia, people accused of a crime generally have to be 17 years old before they are considered adults. However, district attorneys can choose to prosecute children under the age of 17 in Superior Court if they are accused of committing serious crimes such as armed robbery, murder, rape or child molestation.

“Can you imagine what it would be like to spend [20 years] in prison?” Mulholland asked. “That’s longer than most of you have been on this Earth.”

Three of the young men who were recently sentenced to life in prison, which effectively means having to serve at least 25 years before becoming eligible for parole, were convicted of robbing a convenience store and committing a home invasion within Decatur County. The trio obtained $1,000 for the robbery, which Mulholland said was a small amount compared to the $100,000 or more a person working a minimum-wage job could gross within 10 years’ time. Meanwhile, the robbers will make next to nothing during the same period, he said.

“When a drug dealer goes to prison, what do you think we do with his car?” Mulholland asked the teens to consider. “We sell it, he gets nothing. If he has children, a mother, what do they think when they have to come visit him in prison?”

Like Bivins, Mulholland stressed the importance of getting an education and making a living instead of going to prison. He said statistics show about 82 percent of people in Georgia prisons never graduated from high school or obtained a general equivalency diploma (GED).

“People who sell drugs for a living eventually wind up in one of two places: in prison or the cemetery,” Mulholland warned.

Personal stories used to inspire youth

Bivins used Sunday’s Bible study to focus on the first chapter of Genesis, which describes God’s creation of the Earth, man and woman.

He said God telling Adam, the first man, to “be fruitful and replenish the Earth” was God’s way of ordaining of marriage and family. Bivins said he believes that sex outside of marriage is a sin, an act the district attorney said could also have other consequences. He cited Georgia’s strict laws on statutory rape and child support requirements as examples.

“There are consequences for every thing you do,” Mulholland said.

Both Bivins and Mulholland said they were once at risk of getting into trouble. For Bivins, his father dying when he was 10 years old meant he had to work in the fields picking strawberries and beans when he wasn’t attending school. He eventually overcame asthma and his humble beginnings to attend Prairie View A&M, a historically black university in Texas, and later had careers in the armed forces, professional wrestling and the clergy.

With his wife’s help, the Rev. Bivins has received numerous honors, including 2002 Decatur County Man of the Year, the local NAACP chapter’s Humanitarian Award and recognition from Bishop, Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue, former Georgia Secretary of State Cathy Cox and the Bainbridge City Council.

Mulholland recalled that when he was 14 years old and living in Colorado, he had fallen in with the wrong crowd and behaved badly.

“I was lucky enough to not get caught, but fortunately my parents saw that there was a problem and we moved [to Albany, Ga.],” Mulholland said.

Mulholland said that while playing college football, he joined the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, which he credited with setting his life’s focus on a path that eventually led him to become Georgia’s youngest district attorney in 2004.

“There’s always hope and there’s always time,” Mulholland said. “Rely on your community resources to help you out.”

“God can restore you, if you are born again in Christ and turn your life over to God,” Bivins said.

The Laymen Brotherhood Second Chance Outreach Center meets the first, second and third Sundays of every month from 3 to 5:30 p.m. at the Bainbridge Church of God Annex, located near the intersection of Water and Independent streets. People who seek more information on the program or wish to help make it more successful may contact Bivins at (229) 465-3752.

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Written by Symphony

September 10, 2008 at 3:06 pm

Posted in mentoring

Tagged with , ,

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