A Father to the Fatherless—Part 2

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The Father’s Love … in Inner-City Philadelphia
[Part 2]

Story by Kate Larsen
Photos by Josh Larson

Calvary Chapel Word of Life in Philadelphia, PA, is responding to the needs of many inner-city boys who lack a father figure. Senior Pastor Mark Abrams is reaching out to fill that role in their lives through the church’s newest program, Forever Mentored. With the assistance of young men Mark previously mentored (see Part 1), boys as young as age 7 are learning to become responsible men and to love Jesus.

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During a Forever Mentored meeting at Calvary Chapel Word of Life, boys are actively engaged in a “Books of the Bible” memorization competition. Senior Pastor Mark Abrams and Assistant Pastor Joshua Grace teach the boys about the importance of being able to recite Bible verses that will help them later when they face temptation.

Forever Mentored: Mentorship for Life
“We call our program Forever Mentored because it’s mentorship for life,” Mark Abrams shared. “And now some of the Monday night guys [young men who were previously mentored by Mark as teens] are there helping out.”

Forever Mentored meets on Thursday nights, reaching kids as young as 7 from the inner-city streets of Philadelphia. The group is intentional about making the boys feel loved, welcomed, and wanted. Calvary Chapel Magazine staff members were able to ride along as Assistant Pastor Joshua Grace picked up three boys from their home and helped them memorize the books of the Bible on the drive to church.

“In these times, a lot of young men don’t know their value,” Joshua stated. “They don’t know, and they don’t have someone who cares about them. That is why they make the decisions they make. Pastor Mark showed me my value and that I have a family in the body of Christ. He showed me that he cared for me, and he discipled me. That’s been a blessing and is what so many need in this city today.”

Hear, my children, the instruction of a father, and give attention to know understanding; for I give you good doctrine: do not forsake my law. Proverbs 4:1-2

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As teachers at Forever Mentored ask questions, two boys search together through the Bible for answers. This ministry is reaching a group of boys younger than the leaders had ever imagined possible. “In these times, a lot of young men don’t know their value,” Joshua stated. “They don’t know, and they don’t have someone who cares about them. That is why they make the decisions they make.”

He spoke of the need for men willing to be involved in the lives of the boys and young men living their lives in fear in Philadelphia. “They see things happening to the neighbor down the street or to a family member,” Joshua continued. “They see these situations happen around them, and they are traumatized and don’t know how to deal with it. They don’t know that there is a God in heaven who loves and cares for them.”


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Forever Mentored consists of weekly meetings with a message from the Bible, worship, food, fellowship, small discussion groups—and most importantly, love. Beyond meetings, mentorship is conducted full-time.

Joshua observed, “So many young men don’t get the opportunity for someone to tell them, ‘Hey, brother, you know there’s Someone who loves you. There’s Someone who cares about you. You do have value. You don’t have to throw your life away. You don’t have to compromise with the friends that you have or the choices that you make.’” He emphasized, “There’s a cry for help in the inner city, and we need more men who are willing to just sacrifice some of their time.”

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Former Philadelphia Eagles’ linebacker Mike Reichenbach enjoys reading the Bible with two of the program’s boys. He had attended the meeting that night to teach and encourage them.

The Urban Mission Field
What should suburban churches know about Forever Mentored, and how can the body of Christ support it?

“The suburban church is such a blessing,” Mark explained, “because most of them are comprised of families. The value in them coming alongside the urban church is priceless, because there are a lot of skills that inner-city kids just aren’t exposed to—like fishing, rowing a boat, camping. And we could always use the resources financially, but I think the greater thing is prayer. Supporting the ministry and being able to come and be a part of it, too. We would welcome all those things.”

“And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up.” Deuteronomy 6:6-7

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Pastor Joshua gives a teen a welcoming hug. Joshua helps Mark disciple the young men at Forever Mentored. Mark has always been a father figure to the fatherless in inner-city Philadelphia and is now receiving help from men he formerly discipled—including Joshua—to help train up a new generation of godly young men.

Hope for the Future: Men of Substance
“The end goal is that they first continue to walk with Jesus. We desire that solid walk with Jesus, a foundation with Christ,” Mark stated. ”We want to see them pursue however God has wired them. Some might be doctors. Some may be lawyers, construction guys, electricians, scientists, or even military guys. But whatever direction the Lord takes their lives, our hope is that Jesus would be first and that His Word would be in their hearts so they can share Christ."

Mark continued, "Our prayer is that they would grow up to be good fathers, good husbands, and great providers for their families. I think it’s so important that they turn out to be men of substance; hopefully some will become pastors and plant churches. That would be a whole other side of it all—but good fathers, I would take that first over anything.”

“I [Jesus] will not leave you orphans; I will come to you.” John 14:18

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Pastor Mark counsels one of the program’s boys during a meeting. “Our prayer is that they would grow up to be good fathers, good husbands, and great providers for their families,” Mark said.


Click to learn more:
Forever Mentored  •  ForeverMentored.com
Calvary Chapel Word of Life, PA  •  ccwordoflife.org

Click to read Part 1: A focus on the history of the church’s outreach to fatherless boys. 

This story originally appeared in print in Issue 92 (Summer 2022) of Calvary Chapel Magazine


(To learn more about U-Turn for Christ, visit their website)

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All verses above are quoted from the New King James Version, unless otherwise noted.

© 2022 Calvary Chapel Magazine (CCM). All rights reserved. Articles or photographs may not be reproduced without the written permission of CCM. All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.® Used by permission.