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Seeing Others

What do you fear? Amy Williams suggests that it might be because you do not know it …


Seeing Others

By Amy Williams

When people know I intentionally moved into a gang neighborhood, they often ask me, “But weren’t you scared?” Truth is, I was never scared. For me, it’s hard to be scared of young people you have a relationship with. When God called me to this work, it brought more peace than fear. Knowing he called me to this neighborhood gave me confidence to do what he was asking me to do. If he had called me to live with those he wanted me to serve, he had to have my back—and that’s what I was counting on.

You can’t minister or serve those you fear. If you do, they’re just projects, clients, not real people with real needs, real desires, real lives. We fear what we do not know. There are times when fear is real and valid. There are also times when we must push through the fear, take the time to get to know the stories of others, and move to relationship.

What does it mean to “develop community” with others? For some of us, it’s moving onto the block, hanging out on that corner, heading into that community. When I had that conversation with God about moving into a gang neighborhood, one of my responses was, “But Lord, I can do ministry with youth in gangs without living among them.”

I immediately heard him say, “True, but these youth? They need you there.”

The fact is, for me to serve these young people, they needed my consistent presence. They needed to see I was committed. They needed to see I was invested in them and the block. I considered this a sacred holy space to walk with them in. Walt Whitman said, “We convince with our presence.” Moving into the community created a new relationship. It went from they and them to we and us. Now when you throw trash on the ground on my block, I care because this is my block too. I can advocate for change in the neighborhood.

But one thing to note here: I didn’t come in marching around like I owned the block. They had been there long before me, some for generations. I was the newcomer and I needed to act accordingly. I was not the savior of the block. I needed them to teach me the ins and outs, the history, the dos and don’ts. I needed to find my place, slowly but surely letting them know I was here for the long haul. They taught me, and I learned. We are now in this together. I am still learning.

Trey and I, along with a couple of other youth, were hanging out on the block on a hot summer afternoon having a great time. As I walked Trey back home, we ended up talking about his brother.

“Amy, I’m doing real good,” he said proudly. “My brother needs help. You can go hang out with him now. I’m good.”

I felt a lump in my throat and a dagger in my heart. Did Trey think I was out here helping youth just when they were in trouble or down and out? Did he think he was a project for me?

After explaining to him that wasn’t my focus, I went home and cried. I didn’t really know what to say, but I felt horrible that somehow I had communicated to him that I was better, I knew better, and I was the answer to his life problems. All I wanted was to help and point him to God, but in that small exchange, I realized he saw me as the lady who moved into the hood to help youth as her mission. Yes, that was true—to an extent—but I didn’t want it to be at the expense of people feeling they needed to change to what I thought was in their best interest. That meant I took the lead role, was the divine guide—the know-it-all. The truth was, I had no idea what was best for Trey or his brother, but God did. I am thankful for that exchange because it opened my eyes and changed my ministry.

I am no longer the leader. They aren’t the followers. We are in this together. We teach each other. We both contribute to the relationship. Kinship.


Adapted from from Worth Seeing  by Amy L. Williams. ©2024 by Amy Lyn Williams. Used by permission of InterVarsity Press.

Youth ministry veteran Amy Williams ministers to teens involved in gangs and those lost in the criminal justice system with a key strategy of life-on-life mentoring. As a certified gang intervention specialist, she heard God's call to move into a Latino gang neighborhood in Chicago's Humboldt Park community to be a "Hope Dealer" doing street outreach and walking life with young people on her block. She is the author of Worth Seeing: Viewing Others Through God's Eyes. Amy is project coordinator at New Life Centers, bringing in restorative justice programming to youth at juvenile prisons.

Amy has been a youth pastor, a reentry coordinator, and a youth mentor and advocate. She is a graduate of both University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and National Louis University. She resides in Chicago and loves salsa dancing and is a true beach baby. Connect with her at



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