The following is from an email Lucas Rouggly originally sent to supporters of LOVEtheLOU.
Lucas Rouggly, Executive Director & Founder of LOVEtheLOU, recently shared this photo of a bed that the Skills Center helped a student design and build.
“It was his first bed, and he was very proud (not only because he now gets to sleep on a mattress and frame, but because he built it),” says Rouggly, whose family has now lived in North City for 11 years as “obvious outsiders” by his own acknowledgement.
Spending more than a decade explaining context and the need for reconciling relationships in St. Louis to anyone else on the outside, Rouggly now finds himself sharing stories like this differently.
“Some of this might be because the neighborhood is indeed changing, but also because I am changing,” explains Rouggly, “God has been changing the way I look at my neighbors in North City.”
How the Way I Talk About Our Neighborhood Has Progressed
The First Years: “Oh those poor kids.” It’s true. Poverty in our city has led me to say “entering into North City is like entering into a different world.” I don’t know if I ever called my neighbors ‘poor’, but my heart has been broken by vacant lots, unfilled refrigerators and empty hands outstretched asking for money.
2014-2016: “It’s like a warzone.” Once again this wasn’t a false statement, but I’m sure it left everyone that I came in contact with fearful. Not only that, but many of them ended up praising me and exclaiming that their faith wasn’t strong enough to be like me. They didn’t use the term “white savior” but I wonder if that was a subconscious goal of mine. As I look back on conversations, I wonder how often I allowed fear to win the narrative.
2016-18: “If we can just get them a job…” There is an obvious lack of resources in North City. We started taking vacant lots and turning them into gardens. We would then hire kids to run the gardens throughout the summer. I will never forget when one of our staff members exclaimed, “It is great that our students are learning to work and earning money, but we should want them to be owners of business, not just hired as minority laborers.”
2018-2020: “Gain the whole world, but lose your soul.” We were starting to experience some amazing fruit. These neighbors are true overcomers. I am constantly reminded of the saying from NYC, “If you can make it here, you can make it anywhere.” We are seeing a crop of world changers made right before our eyes…but it would be a shame if all we ever accomplished in this life was leaving the city and making lots of money.
Present Day: “The greatest is called servant.” This year we will have several of our former students return to the city to teach the younger generation. They will make some money (not as much as they could elsewhere.) They will get some recognition (not as much as they deserve.) They will pour into the lives of 15-year-olds and expect transformation.