Friend for LIFE

Hakeem and Dan

Note: This story, along with several other stories and testimonies about the impact of JfL in cities around the world, can be found in the 2015 Annual Report. >> Click here to view

At Jobs for Life, the outcome of what we do may be about jobs but the real focus is on life. What people who have experienced the class have found is that this focus on life creates an incredibly beautiful opportunity for relationship and true friendship. Hakeem and Dan in Atlanta is one of those amazing stories.

Hakeem was living the epitome of how our culture views young black men. His mother was an addict; his father was absent; and he grew up in poor, difficult neighborhoods. Hakeem knew God enough to resent Him and rebel. Hakeem experienced everything the “system” had to offer and at the age of 30 he had enough. He was tired of running from God. It was at this point, he found himself at the Atlanta Mission, ready to begin a sabbatical to escape his current situation and transform his life.

Dan worked for a computer software company and had been volunteering at Lazarus, an Atlanta-based outreach to the homeless, for seven years. He loved the work but it was hard to build the long-term relationships he desired.

In a narrative that could only be orchestrated by God, Atlanta Mission, Lazarus and several churches came together to start a Jobs for Life class. Hakeem and Dan connected in the class, became friends, and began a student/champion relationship. It’s not easy to begin a friendship when your life experience is very different but they had common ground as brothers in Christ.

Both Hakeem and Dan had reservations about the class but as each week went by they both grew as a result of the authenticity and transparency of the group. Dan initially thought his role was to help but every class he walked away amazed at all he was learning. They met for lunch outside of the class and when it was over they remained close friends.

Through JfL and a job attainment program at the mission, Hakeem gained employment. But in an interesting turn of events, Dan was laid off and found himself unemployed and struggling to understand God’s will for his life. It was Hakeem’s encouragement and prayers that helped Dan learn to just “be” and listen to God.

In Hakeem’s words, “We serve an intentional God. When we really step out of the way and allow God to maneuver, that is when things get uncomfortable.  That is when our faith and trust matter – knowing he is in control – it will be for our benefit.”

We often struggle with labels and titles at JfL and this is the perfect story to demonstrate our heart. It was the student who became the champion and the champion who became the student. This is how the class is designed to work – a place of common ground to be vulnerable and create solidarity. There is no position of power or superiority in the Kingdom of God. In our world full of mistrust, where everyone is on guard against agendas, the class begins to break down fear and encourages community, compassion, healing, and reconciliation.

Dan is now working part-time at Lazarus and started his dream business as a travel guide ( Hakeem is back to college at night and was so moved by his own encouragement of Dan, that he is also in the process of starting his own business. He is creating t-shirts that express people’s personal testimony and walk with the Lord to help inspire others.

JfL is not another program. It is a place to build intimate relationships and question your own assumptions. According to Hakeem, “Jobs for Life brings people out of the doors of the church and into community.” It also brings people out in the community in to church. It creates unity where there is division and solidarity where there is strife.

“Stop trying and become willing.” - Hakeem

“You are already equipped if you are called. Don’t let fear stand in the way” - Dan

>> View this and other stories in the 2015 JfL Annual Report