VOL 1. ISSUE 3
Building a city through faith
REFUGE: Joe Quinlynn Changing lives of at-risk youth
Thriving YFC programs Impact souls for Christ throughout the Metro
YO UT H F O R C H R I S T w w w. y f c o k c. o r g
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To a d v e r t i s e o r s u b m i t a r t i c l e s t o IMPACT OKC s e n d e m a i l s t o b r i a n @ y f c o k c. o r g
REFUGE: Changing Lives of At-Risk-Youth
Ryan Tate: Building a City Through Faith
Ignition to Impact
Entrepreneur Spotlight: Vernon Deas
Artist Spotlight: Jabee
Focused on whatâ€™s important.
REFUGE C H A N G I N G L I V E S O F AT- R I S K YO U T H
SO HOW MANY PEOPLE ARE LIVING AT THE REFUGE NOW? Probably about sixty. There are about fifty at the REFUGE, the main building on California Avenue, and there are about ten more in the neighborhood. So if you’re looking at the REFUGE community, it’s about sixty. SO YOU CONSIDER THE REFUGE (RATHER THAN BEING A BUILDING OR A PROJECT) TO BE A COMMUNITY? Yeah. We just like to say that we’re the Church. So even the name REFUGE – we don’t want to carry that name into the neighborhoods. We don’t want to have a brand that we’re building in the neighborhoods. If the Lord leads us to other cities, we don’t want to take that name with us. The name that we want to brand is Jesus, and that’s what we want: to be known as disciples of Jesus, and as individuals that follow Him in full obedience no matter where that takes us, no matter what the cost. The REFUGE “ T h e n a m e labeled us in the beginning, and it’s what has stuck with us. It’s what we’re known by, but we really don’t want to focus on building that brand.
t h at w e w a n t to brand is
J e s u s. . .”
WHY DID YOU ORIGINALLY MOVE IN? I moved in on October 31, 2008, about a year after I moved here from San Diego. There was a lot of work that went into gaining occupancy within the city. It was once
a crack house. In fact it was, according to different police reports and officers that we’ve talked to, the largest crack house in Oklahoma City. There was a police team who did a SWAT-like raid on the facility, busting in doors. One of Oklahoma’s Most Wanted was arrested in the raid, and then from that point in 2007, the building sat vacant for about fifteen months. Now it was part of the process of trying to get it to a place where we could move in. That was a long process requiring a lot of patience. It required a lot of prayer. I remember that day we moved in very clearly. WHAT ABOUT THE FIELD NEXT TO IT? DO YOU WANT TO SPEAK A LITTLE BIT ABOUT IT? Yeah, I could tell you a little story about the actual day that we moved in. We had a lot of different churches and individuals come down and help with the efforts of cleaning up the building and surrounding neighborhood to catch the vision. Through those resulting relationships, a lot of people were interested in moving into the refuge building and essentially becoming “urban missionaries.” They wouldn’t quit their jobs to do that, but integrated it into their lifestyle while keeping their job and having a normal life in an abnormal area. This is because during this time, there was a ton of prostitution, drug dealing, and drug use there. They were occurring on a daily basis all around the neighborhood, more specifically, behind the REFUGE in the alley. We started calling it “crack alley” because we would see people doing crack in the alley every day. I had a room where windows
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I’M SITTING HERE WITH JOE QUINLYNN. HE’S BEEN PART OF THE REFUGE FOR THE LAST FOUR YEARS. THEY MAKE QUITE AN IMPACT IN OUR CITY, SO WE’RE GOING TO BE TALKING OVER LUNCH TODAY. WE HOPE YOU ENJOY IT.
“ I n fa c t, I t w a s. . .
t h e l a r g e st crack house i n O Kc . ” faced it, so I would see things I didn’t want to see all the time. Like I said, it was about a fifteen-month process to prepare moving into the building. The city finally said, “If you get a proper heat source in one room, we’ll let you move into one room.” Initially they had said heating must be in all the rooms before they’d let me move into one room. As a result we had to redo all the electrical, which cost about 20,000 dollars, and we had to run wiring up to the rooms. We actually got the electrical done in three of the rooms. Now the electrical contractor called into the city to get the inspection done on the units and he found out which inspector was assigned to him. He called us and said, “Hey guys, I have bad news. We have the worst inspector that we could ever have assigned to us.” He continued, “Every single time I get this guy, he always finds something wrong with anything that I do. There’s always a two-week, three-week, four-week delay. I’m sorry, but I don’t think we’re going to be in by this Friday.” This was on a Tuesday. The inspector was coming on Friday. We just started praying and asking the Lord for favor and that everything would be according to what the city’s expectations were. I remember meeting the guy that Friday morning. He was just silent, not saying a word – generally, a quiet fellow. We walked downstairs, and I was going to show him the electric panel in the back of the REFUGE. As
we walked, he said nothing. It’s a good distance, but it was complete silence. He was looking around at all the stuff that people had donated to us, such as mattresses, tables, and chairs. At that point we didn’t know exactly what we were supposed to be, so we were taking donations. We got back to the panel, and he looked at the panel and started taking notes. Looking up and looking down. He said, “Okay, I’m done.” So we started walking back towards the front of the warehouse. About halfway back, he said to me, “Did you know this place used to be a candy factory?” I was thinking, That is pretty random, but I said, “No, I didn’t know that. How did you know that?” He said, “Well, fifty years ago I was nine years old, and they hired me to kill the rats down here. I used to work out of this warehouse.” “That’s pretty crazy! And now you’re doing the electrical inspection on the building today,” I said.We walked upstairs and when you get up to the top, there are basically two ways to go. You can go straight, or you can turn right and down two hallways. I went to the “ W e j u st right because that was where l i k e to the rooms were. s ay t h at I expected him to follow me, w e ’ r e t h e but this guy conC h u r c h .” tinued walking straight. He didn’t follow me; he just kept going in his own direction. So I was thinking, What is this guy’s deal? but followed him anyway. He walked in the total opposite way that we were supposed to go. He came to this room and stopped in front of it. The inspector said, “This is where
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my grandfather lived when I was a kid.” When I asked if he were serious he nodded his head yes, saying that the owners of the apartment complex actually made his grandfather the property manager and named the apartment complex after him. He then asked, “Do you mind if I go in and look at the room?” I said to go ahead. He went in, he looked at the room, and came back out, and we continued to walk around the REFUGE building. We walked around another corner, which is basically the opposite from where we were (where his grandfather lived), and he stopped again in front of another room. The inspector said, “This is where I lived when I was a kid. I lived here with my parents. There were five of us kids.” He had a camera in his pocket, and he pulled it out and went into the room and took pictures. He was telling me stories of when he lived there fifty years ago. He continued on with “It has the inspection, looking at n ot h i n g all the baseboard heaters, to d o w i t h and signed off on it. I asked, “Does this action. mean we can move in?” It has He replied, “Yes, it does.” everything I didn’t really believe to d o him because we had so with our much back and forth with the city on this so that we h e a r t .” could get occupancy. I actually went down to the city and met with the guy that heads up that department, who is a man of God and loves the Lord. We sat down, and he basically gave me the official go ahead that we could move into the building! It was pretty awesome. YOU GUYS HAVE BEEN DOING THIS FOR FOUR YEARS? We’ve been living there since October 31 of 2008. So this will be four years. WHAT IS THE GOAL? NOT THE BUILDING, BUT THE COMMUNITY. IF YOU WERE LOOKING AHEAD AND COULD SAY,
“IF IT IS WHAT WE BELIEVE IT CAN BE IN TEN YEARS, I THINK IT WILL LOOK LIKE…”? WHAT DOES THAT LOOK LIKE? That’s a pretty big question, but there are a few things that I would love to say that would hopefully be consistent ten years from now. It has nothing to do with action. It has everything to do with our heart. I would love to see a community of believers that are following in full submission and full obedience to Jesus, actively bringing the kingdom on earth as it is in heaven, and being willing to go anywhere and do anything for the sake of the gospel of the kingdom, doing that life on life by the power of the Holy Spirit. I feel like that’s the most important thing that we can do, and it all starts with Jesus. Everything flows from Him to him through Him. For us we want to learn how to become a living sacrifice both individually and collectively. We want to learn how to spend ourselves on behalf of others. The context of that right now is in a poor neighborhood, but we want that to be wherever God has placed us in his sovereignty: in our neighborhood, in our network, where we work, where we hang out. We want to be “all in” when it comes to the kingdom and living that out – really learning what it means to count the cost of following Jesus, really learning what it means to pick up our cross daily and follow Him, really learning what it means to battle ourselves, and really learning what it means to live out scripture and not live in light of culture, but live in light of the kingdom. When you start off living in light of the kingdom around you in the areas that need to be redeemed and restored, you start to live your life in a different way. Things that you think matter don’t matter (anymore). So I would love for us as a community to continue to grow in that truth and really learn what it means to be followers of Jesus, disciples of Jesus. I don’t know what that translates to practically, but I do know if we stick to that, some amazing things are going to happen. INTERVIEW BY SAMUEL “BRIAN” HILL
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B U I L D I N G A C I T Y T H R O U G H FA I T H
ithout a doubt, the scripture held nearest to my heart is Romans 8:6 - actually I go farther to say the entire eighth chapter of Romans is my favorite part of the scriptures. From my time as a child being a PK (pastor’s kid) and into my college years spent wrestling at the University of Oklahoma, to the honor of being CEO and President of our family business Tate Publishing, the principles in the eighth chapter of Romans have absolutely shaped and molded my life in every area and at every turn. I am probably more grateful for God’s grace now “OUR EMPLOYEES than at any point IMPRESS ME WITH in my life. His EVERY OUNCE OF mercy and unWORK THEY DO.” conditional love allows us to be stupid humans with a loving Father always there to catch us. At Tate Publishing and Enterprises we have grown from two employees in 2002 to over 200 employees worldwide. Our employees impress me with every ounce of work they do. We are very proud to keep skilled professionals in state 8
by creating good jobs that draw people to Oklahoma as well as keep Oklahomans in our great state – I am a proud Oklahoman. There are several divisions of the company, including a state-of-the-art, one-of-a-kind print facility, which operates “I AM A PROUD 24/7. Also we have .” main line book publishing and ghostwriting, a marketing firm Key Marketing, and our music label Tate Music Group. We work with authors and artists from around the world providing them with national exposure via television commercials, videos, trailers, and more. We’ve published and recorded many “headline artists” such as Neil McCoy and Lee Greenwood. We have had several New York Times best sellers, and are one of the largest publishers in the United States. This success my company and I can only contribute to God.
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“TATE PUBLISHING WAS STARTED WITH ONE MISSION-TO BUILD THE KINGDOM OF GOD.”
“ROMANS 8 TEACHES US THAT LIFE IS ABOUT CHOICES.” Tate Publishing was started with one mission-to build the Kingdom of God. When my wife and I were first married we both worked for Youth For Christ, and we quickly learned it takes something called “money” to run a ministry. God began to lay heavy on my heart to build businesses and entities that fund the work of the Gospel and to use the gifts He’s given me to win the lost. We will always be centered on using our resources for His glory. Labeling something a “Christian Company” doesn’t to me mean merely slapping a fish on your letterhead or adding a verse at the bottom of your logo. It means making every decision under the microscope of His word. It means yielding weighty choices involving the lives of so many to His Holy Spirit. It means giving – when it’s not always easy – because you know “that” is the whole point of this life. It means living daily in the knowledge of your weaknesses and relying on His strength and power. And it means being extremely grateful for the environment He’s provided to take advantage of the occasion for hard work and to create opportunity and seize it without fear. Romans eight teaches us life is about choices. Daily we choose to walk
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“LABELING SOMETHING A CHRISTIAN COMPANY DOESN’T MEAN MERELY SLAPPING A FISH ON YOUR LETTERHEAD.” in the Spirit or in the flesh – I’ve done my share of both and can attest to the fact that choosing the former produces the fruits of joy and peace that cannot be paralleled to what the world offers. I’d like to present a challenge to the readers of this article. I would like to challenge you to two things:
1) Read Romans chapter eight and choose
a verse to memorize. Not simply to requote for pride’s sake, rather to write it on your heart so the Word can recharge your soul to be about His plan for you.
Building a business is not always easy, wait scratch that, it’s never easy! If it were, more people would do it. Anything worth anything takes sacrifice and risk. Making a payroll, being responsible for so many people and bottom lines, when “the buck” actually does “stop with you”, you cannot go it alone. Listen to His guidance then jump in 100% and fight everyday. Turn your desires into pursuits – it’s “the stuff dreams are made of”!
2) Yield to His calling to become complete-
ly consumed with building His kingdom or as I like to call it, Kingdom building. This doesn’t mean at all that you sell everything and move to Africa today. No, it means you stay right where God has you, work hard to be the best at whatever your trade may demand, and look
for every opportunity of which to take advantage to become a true Kingdom builder. Use the model in Nehemiah chapter four (another inspiring read) which tells us the people built the wall with a weapon in one hand while the other hand was hard at the work of construction.
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“THE STUFF DREAMS ARE MADE OF”
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M E NTO R I N G AS A LI FE STY LE by SAMUEL “BRIAN” HILL We live in a society that values mentoring on many levels. Companies hire consultants to guide their executives staffs, Teams hire coaches to guide their players to win, and individuals pay life coaches to give them an edge to succeed; however, we as a society do not put the same value on finding mentors for our children. Simply put, mentoring a younger person is the greatest opportunity each of us has to Impact our world. Whether we are mentoring a family member, a student we teach, a younger employee at our company or just the kid down the street; mentoring provides us the opportunity to leave a lasting legacy. If our desire as leaders is to develop a generation of cultural influencers that will serve as the next leaders of our city and nation, then it will take intentional guidance into their individual lives to achieve that goal. The first step to mentoring is to realize we have something to give. You have a wealth of experiences: successes & failures, trophies and scars, dreams and fears. All of these combined together to develop the man or woman that you are and those experiences should be used to guide a young person towards their future. You just have to decide to be willing to share yourself. It’s a life choice. It also does something positive in you. Each of us was built to give to others, to be generous with our lives and to guide those generations that follow us. If we do not take up the challenge to teach misguided boys how to become real men, no one will. If we do not carry the mantel of fatherhood to this next generation of father-less children, then who will? If we do not display the meaning of “family” to those without a proper example, then the hope of the broken breaking the cycle is lost. We must choose to mentor for a change to happen.
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Once we decide that mentoring is not only a good thing, but rather, necessary and that we need to pour into someone else’s life, we must then resolve how to get past the obstacles to make it work. It typically is not easy to just begin “mentoring”. Like anything else worth building, it takes time and commitment. But once you decide that it is necessary, you begin to push past the obstacles involved with guiding others (especially youth) and you begin to pursue developing relationship with them. Time and Relationship are key to the process of successfully mentoring! You may be asking yourself, “How do I begin?”, “What do I do?” and most likely, “Where do I find the TIME???” Success is all in your Strategy! This is a simple and very effective tool to Mentor not just one, but 3 individuals in Only 1.5 hours a week!!! (I recommend that you start with 1 person and include more as you feel prepared. Adapt this model to fit till then.) You start by taking Person 1 to lunch or Starbucks to hang out for 1 hour. You are typically going to take a lunch during your work day anyway, so why not set one of those aside per week to develop a life? Next, you take 15 minutes in your week to just talk with Person 2 (Calls or Water cooler talks are perfect for this). This isn’t a “deep discussion” time, but rather a “Hey, how are you? Did you watch that game?” kind of talk. The important part of this tool is the voice to voice. For a person to know you care, they need to hear it in a way that only a voice can convey. For Person 3, you pen them a “hand written” note. This is old fashioned, but extremely effective! An individual is much more likely to read, keep and internalize the importance of something hand written compared to a text or email. Let them know they matter! An individual decides how much you value them based on the
amount of time you spend connecting with them. If you take these three tools and rotate them every week, you will effectively mentor three individuals and impact them for life! Simply put, the value of Mentoring can be traced throughout the Christian walk through Jesus’ example. Although He ministered to thousands and gave His life for All, He only choose twelve men to Disciple (mentor). Christ knew that those chosen few would not only Impact their generation, but rather they would Impact all generations to follow! He could have used any style or system to spread the gospel, but Jesus poured His life into a few that would then do the same and now, we are the harvest of His mentoring. Are you willing to meet the need of mentoring someone? Are you willing to give of yourself? God has created you with certain gifts and prepared you through your experiences to Impact someone’s life forever as a Mentor.
“…KEEP OPEN HOUSE; BE GENEROUS WITH YOUR LIVES. BY OPENING UP TO OTHERS, YOU’LL PROMPT PEOPLE TO OPEN UP WITH GOD...” MATT. 5:16 (THE MESSAGE) “THIS VERY OBVIOUS FACT –THAT EACH GENERATION IS TAUGHT BY AN EARLIER GENERATION– MUST BE KEPT FIRMLY IN MIND.”
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—C S LEWIS—
IMPACT PARENTING BEING INTENTIONAL A S W E PA R E N T
I come home from work, the routine reminds me of the great movie Groundhog Day with Bill Murray. I pull into the driveway, walk through the garage, and open the back door to the playroom, shutting the door loud enough that everyone knows I’m home. I walk through to the living room and yell, “Daddy’s home!” I hear the pitter-patter of my four-year-old angel running across the wooden floor at mach speed – quickly followed by the slightly heavier pitter-patter of my nine-year-old son as they race to see who can give me a hug first. Then I make my way over to the kitchen table to say hello to my twelve-year-old, diligently working on his homework. Previously he’d tackle me at the door when I came in from work, but he’s apparently “too old” and “too cool” for that now. I finally make eye contact with my beautiful wife as she is usually putting the finishing touches on a great meal for dinner. As I greet her, I laugh at what is about to happen. My wife and I embrace, and within five seconds my little girl comes running over to join in, grabbing one of my legs and one of my wife’s. Over the years, all my children have reacted the same way as they see my wife and I show affection to each other. We can sense the feeling of security and love being transferred into their little hearts. Many studies have been done for years pointing to the fact that great marriages have a positive effect on the children in the home. That’s not really earthshattering news to you, I’m sure. But, as I write that, I think to myself – how many of us really focus on that during an ordinary day?
b y T ODD LOV ELAC E
How many of us think about the fact that if we want to teach our kids about things like respect and love, the obvious place to start is in the home, as we show our children what it looks like as we treat our spouse with respect and love? I have been challenged this week to think about how my love for my wife should be a reflection of how God loves her. Think about that for a minute. You see, God gave us the gift of our spouse not just so we could have a partner in life, but also so we could feel and experience God’s love in a real, tangible way. We should sense the love of our heavenly father through the love of our spouse! In other words, what I’m learning is that I need to love my wife the way God loves her, regardless of what I get in return. I am God’s number one tool for demonstrating His love to her. The same is true for you and your spouse. What would happen if you and I worked harder at loving our spouse the way God intended us to, with the same love that he has for them? What would happen in our kid’s lives if that kind of love were modeled daily? Can you imagine the impact that kind of love would have in our homes, in our city, and in the kingdom for generations and generations? It starts with you, and it starts with me. Let’s pour it on!
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Do Suburban Teenagers
Need Our Resources?
grew up in a typical Houston, suburban area called Deer Park, Texas in the 80s. It had a reasonable cost of living, and most of our parents worked in the oil industry. That made us better off financially. Most of the teenagers drove new cars with high-powered stereo systems so you couldn’t just hear the beat of Michael Jackson and Run DMC, you could feel it. The clothes we wore told people who we were – we had what pop culture told us we must have. Our parents had money to spend and wanted us to have what they did not. On the surface our parents thought we were good kids, but underneath we were hurting inside. We were suffering from boredom and a lack of purpose. We covered it up with drugs, binge-drinking parties, and sex. We were a messed up group of teens with very little meaning and purpose in life. It was no wonder that I was on the verge of suicide before I reached out to a youth pastor for help at eighteen years old. Although trends come and go, the suburban culture has not learned their lessons from the past. Parents are still giving teenagers stuff as if that were the answer to happiness and fulfillment. We have problems with prescription drug abuse, suicide, and pornographic addictions. We have all kinds of disorders ranging from anxiety to bulimia and bipolar disorder. This generation is broken, but they are certainly far from needing to be thrown away. They need more people speaking the truth into them, and with lots of care and attention, they can be restored and used for a purposeful existence. The problem is that many overlook the needs of our suburban communities because families appear to love their kids and have nice homes, cars, and clothes. I know many would ask, “Why serve people with the most in our community? Wouldn’t our time, money, and resources be better devoted by raising up those that have the greatest need?” I have asked this myself
BY RUS S ELL MIGI
in my twenty years of investing in this demographic of students. We need to make this investment because suburban students today have more potential than any other generation to bring about change in this world. The world is much smaller to them, and they believe in making a difference. These students are primarily the future leaders of our communities.They will be accepted into our colleges and will be on the forefront of shaping our culture. The more I read and observe this generation, the more I love them. Their overall sense of meaning is refreshing to see. They desire to use their talents to impact and change our culture is without a doubt the foremost message they are sending us. They may love to engage in social media and play extreme games, but the main thing that drives their souls is purpose – unlike my generation that often drifted to decadence out of boredom. If you stop and talk to the average suburban teenager, it will not take long to hear their desires to make their mark in this world. Why devote time, money, and resources to impact this suburban generation? The answer is clear: they will affect generations to come like no other generation. Why will they impact this world so much? They have heart and passion to make a difference. Will we help them exchange their materialistic, vain existence for something eternal and fulfilling? Can we give direction to their sense of purpose? Can we point them to the Creator and allow Him to shape them? For the sake of suburban kids out there who are growing up just like I did, the answer must be yes.
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NORTHWEST BY GLENN IRWIN
is difficult when you don’t see the fruits of your labor. It’s easy to get discouraged when students you’re mentoring continue to climb the same mountain. However, there are those moments that make you remember why you do what you do – those moments that tug on your heart and bring tears to your eyes. It’s that fruit that you see being produced in a student. I’ve seen this growth in one of my students named Elijah Jakes. For the past few years, I’ve seen him struggle with common
issues teens struggle with, and I’ve seen him defeated by the pressures of this world. Over the summer Elijah was able to attend a youth conference and had an encounter with God. Since this encounter, his life has changed. He has begun leading students younger than him and setting an example for his peers. I’ve seen him praying for other students; his curiosity has created a hunger in him for the Word. His actions show that his life has genuinely changed. Moments like these remind us why we give ourselves away.
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What’s Behind The Smile
student spotlight B by Markeia Yarbrough
eing mentored by Hilary has made a difference in my life because she gave me someone to look up to as a positive influence. When Hilary first met me, I had many family and health issues. Despite everything I had going on, she stuck around and showed me a positive outlook on life. Although becoming involved with Impact Leadership Club, I was also heading down the wrong path. My grades were slipping, and I was ditching class without concern for how it affected my future and me. Being involved with Impact, I was with a group of people who cared enough to keep track of my grades, take time out of their lives to talk with me about problems I was having, and do everything in their power to fix them. It was also beneficial to be around people my age and see them have just as much fun doing positive things. Since being involved in Impact, I have grown closer to God and was able to experience new activities, such as our mission trip during Spring Break. When Spring Break rolls around, most people go on vacations. Instead, YFC Impact Clubs from northeast OKC went downtown and gave back to the community. We went to a truck stop, picked up trash, and prayed over it because at that very truck stop, there are girls my age (or even younger) that are involved in all types of prostitution and sex trafficking. We went on a prayer walk to the homeless shelter. While on that trip, God showed me some things in myself that I really needed to change, such as ungratefulness, selfishness, and respect. Overall, I can say my involvement in YFC has completely changed me as a person. When I came into Impact, I was not saved. I didn’t really have a relationship with God. I’ve been involved with Impact
for a year, and in that year I was baptized, gave my life to Christ, and accepted Him as my Lord and Savior. It wasn’t easy, and I will not say I’ve been perfect. I still have my faults, but every time I start to fall, I have people like Hilary to catch me and keep me on the path with Christ. We attend People’s Church together weekly and do lots of volunteer work there. I enjoy doing positive things, and I’m glad I made the decision to get involved with YFC. What Hilary and our group of YFC mentors do is amazing, and I hope more lives have been and will continue to be impacted by them. —Markeia Yarbrough, age 17, John Marshall High School, Northeast YFC OKC
camp testimony C by Alisha Ward
amp was a different experience for me. It was filled with laughter, sorrow, hope, and fun. I was able to learn about scriptures pertaining to different subjects that I can refer back to and how to open up and really allow God to change my life. Out of all the camps that we have gone to, KAA was by far my favorite one. They always kept us busy, and there was never a dull moment. I loved this camp because it was the first one that I can actually say changed my life.
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—Alisha Ward, age 17, sister of Derrick Ward, Senior class of ‘13
SO, VERNON, FIRST OFF: WHAT IS GROUP FLY?
Group Fly, by definition, is a group of people elevating to a higher destination.
VERNON, COULD YOU TELL US HOW YOU GOT STARTED WITH GROUP FLY?
I told my wife I wanted to start a brand called Group Fly, where people elevate to a higher destination. We took 10,000 dollars out of our savings that was actually for a mini-van because we were going to start our family, and we invested it. We came up with a couple of t-shirt designs and began to attend local hip-hop events and church events. Any place that would let us set up a table, we would set it up and hand out flyers. Little by little we gained momentum with our brand. God has taken it further than we ever would’ve thought, and to where we are shipping right now. We have shipped to nearly every continent, and we’re in stores in Boston, Kansas City, and Los Angeles. Even to this day, right on our fifth-year anniversary, we moved in to our first warehouse that we got for free. It’s been a wild ride, but it started with us simply stepping out in faith. God has brought us along the way with it. We’ve made great business decisions with it, but He has led it all.
WHO DO YOU CONSIDER YOUR PRIMARY MARKET AS?
Our market is anybody that appreciates great sportswear as far as clothing. I would say it’s targeted even toward our generation that’s into the subcultures of skateboarding, independent fashion, art, music, hip-hop, collectors’ items, and collectibles. You know, people want to be fashion enthusiasts, so our target market is really a broad range.
I REALIZE YOU HAVE A COUPLE OF CELEBRITIES CONNECTED WITH GROUP FLY NOW. WHO ARE SOME OF THE INDIVIDUALS?
Well, we were fortunate enough to work with Kevin Durant and his charity All-Star Basketball Game, so we were able to work with him on that level. We did the event shirt for that, and we were able to give shirts to Lebron, Chris Paul, Westbrook, and James Harden, just to name a few. But that was a big deal to be able to do the shirts for that charity and work that event. We’ve also worked with national hip-hop recording artists from Def Jam, such as Big K.R.I.T, who plays on secular radio. They just need to cross over and affect that culture with positive lyrics like Living. Then we also sponsored Darnell Jackson, pro-basketball player, who won a national championship for Kansas, and Jarrett Jack of the New Orleans Hornets, so he’s worn our stuff as well. We’re trying, little by little, to influence culture at every level, and particularly celebrity if we can. Those doors have opened, and we’re grateful for it.
I HEAR THAT YOU’RE MOVING INTO CYCLING? IS THAT RIGHT?
Yes. Cycling is something that I picked up probably a couple of years back and just really took to. We actually have a team that rides in support of the MS150, and it’s called Rollin with the Homies. We’ve made everything from jerseys, gloves, socks, and t-shirts in support of that ride. Also, it’s like a cycling bike gang. They come from all walks of life. We’ve got CEOs and your average joe.
Entrepreneur art., VERNONDEAS e n t r e p r e n e u r // GROUP FLY
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WHO OR WHAT INSPIRED YOU, AFTER A DECADE OF URBAN MINISTRY IN THE STREETS, TO START A CLOTHING BRAND?
It was actually urban ministry and being involved with urban culture that inspired Group Fly. I remember having a conversation with my wife. At the time I was working with Youth for Christ and was reflecting on all the things that God had done and all the things that I would like to do as far as my gifting and talents. I thought, Man, what’s a better way to infiltrate all the things and subcultures that I enjoy than by combining them into one thing? And that’s what Group Fly was for me. In 2008, my wife and I took 10,000 dollars out of our savings account and invested into a brand that would infiltrate the cultures that I loved, which is action sports, creative media, hip-hop music, and a love for overall fashion. We combined all of those entities and made a brand called Group Fly, and we’ve never looked back, never regretted a thing; the Lord has blessed it. But I would say what inspired that was my upbringing in skateboarding, being a former MC, and being involved with those cultures. All those things – plus my involvement in urban ministry, serving people, and inspiring people to be their best – inspired me. Everything culminated to start this company, and I’m grateful for all those times in ministry because I’m still gleaning from those moments today in business.
OKLAHOMA CITY IS NOT REALLY KNOWN AS A FASHION CAPITAL… You are correct. (Smirks and laughs.)
THAT SAID, WHAT IMPACT IS GROUP FLY MAKING IN OKLAHOMA CITY?
I think what we’re doing is, I mean, we’re taking those influences from overseas, high fashion, high-end urban fashion from urban cities like New York, Chicago, Atlanta, and California, and what we’re doing is we’re giving our interpretation through the Midwest. So we see it’s a humbling thing to go to the mall and see people wearing our shirts or getting text messages from people saying, “Hey, I saw your shirt today.” I think the impact we’re making is we pride ourselves in making quality apparel. I think Oklahoma City as a city has never seen somebody with our background and our genres putting together a line like ours. So I think it’s made a great impact. I’ve seen individuals that have been inspired to start their own brand through our journey. That’s inspiring because they’re speaking through our Group Fly, and all I can say is we want to create amazing apparel, lead and create a culture, and then inspire others to live out their dreams. That’s why we came up with the tagline Fly or Die. Either you’re elevating towards your Godgiven dream or you’re taking up space and dying. That’s what that’s all about. I tell my people all the time that we want to lead, create, and inspire.
WHO OR WHAT ARE YOUR “CADETS”?
Oh, I like that. A Cadet is anybody that’s elevating to the next, the higher, destination. A Cadet is somebody that is waiting for the perfect morning, is inspired, and is ready to do their best to go after their God-given talent. We always say through text and social media, “Good morning
Cadets, let’s fly or die today. Let’s take every opportunity to be great today and elevate to the higher-level destination, the higher level of excellence.”
WHAT IS THE BIGGEST SHIFT CHANGE FROM FULL-TIME URBAN MINISTRY TO FULL-TIME ENTREPRENEURSHIP?
Man, I would say the shift wasn’t really that great because in working in a higher-level urban ministry like Youth for Christ, I had to get up every day and be self-motivated. I had to lead with character and integrity, and I had to give it all I had because souls were on the line. So, it’s that since of urgency. There hasn’t been that much of a shift because there’s that sense of urgency with business too because we want to impact culture; we want to be a representative for the kingdom. The other shift I could say is if you don’t sell your product, the lights don’t stay on. I know with urban ministry we always had a great support system from the staff and great leadership at Youth for Christ. We didn’t have to worry too much about not paying for the light bill. Sometimes we just prayed through, and God always showed up. Those are things that I’m still owning up with my business, when things get tight I’m still holding onto my faith that God’s called me to do this, and he’s always going to provide like he did when I was in ministry. It’s been neat to see God use me in the marketplace, and that shift has changed a little bit because I’m in the marketplace now. But there’s not too much of a difference between a high-level urban ministry that we did at Youth for Christ and trying to develop a highlevel clothing brand because, at the end of the day, I have to go on, get it done, and put one foot in front of the other while trusting God with the other foot.
WHERE DO YOU SEE GROUP FLY IN TEN YEARS?
What we’re inspired to do as a brand is become a national brand, and that’s where we’re putting all our efforts right now. We’re working on a cut-and-sew program; we’re going to have button up shirts, chino pants, coach jackets, and such. We are aspiring to be alongside the rights of brands that made it through time, that sit at Neiman Marcus and Dillard’s. So I’d say in ten years, I definitely want to see our brand at a higher-end level. Definitely built into our upper-end brand structure is after we make a profit, fifty percent of it goes back into urban creative arts and to mentor urban at-risk kids. That’s something I’m excited about – that would drive me to make sure that this is a success – so that we could get back and inspire our urban youth to excel in the creative arts. I’m very passionate about that – with the music, creative arts, and multimedia. I want to see our young people in the inner city have an opportunity to have the tools to be creative. That’s something that’s very heavy on my heart to accomplish, along with raising the next level of urban entrepreneurs. In the next ten years, I see us sitting on the racks at Barney’s all the way down to Zoodies, and at the same time, hiring talented, at-risk youth that have come through our programs (and that’s everywhere from marketing to the business end). My goal is to look down the corridor and see a multitude of students that have come through our programs and are now working full-time and paying their family, doing what they love to do. Apparel-wise we strive
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RNONDEAS to produce great-quality apparel and become a household name. Some of the names that I love to talk about are Scott Sasso from 10 Deep, who is one of the forefathers of high-end urban wear, and Ralph Lauren. That’s our prayer every day: to give us influence like Ralph Lauren. Those are our attempts and those are our goals, so if you ain’t behind and flying, if you ain’t aiming at the moon, you might land on the stars, so we’re aiming for the moon. We’re putting all our efforts and being diligent in working with our design team out of New York. Everyday, my business partner and I are trying to put our best efforts to be here for a long time and to have that dream of being able to give back to our urban youth. Pretty tight, huh? I’m pretty excited.
WHERE’S VERNON DEAS IN TEN YEARS? WHO IS HE? WHAT’S YOUR LEGACY?
Oh man, Vernon Deas in ten years…what I want to do is definitely be an awesome husband to my wife and a great father to my two girls. Right now I’m the proud father of a three-year-old and a five-month-old, and I definitely want to have the opportunity to invest in them as much as I can and shape them to be the women of God that He has called them to be. That’s very important to my family and me. At the same time I want to inspire the next level of urban entrepreneurship and want to rip the veil off that sucker. I want to show kids that if you put God first, as in Matthew 6:33, His kingdom shall be added to you. It’s God’s promise; it’s not a “maybe” or an “if.” I live by that, and that’s very dear to me. Then I would say like to be able to support entities, like Youth for Christ, which have been so valuable to where I’m at today. With support along with the ability to dream big, lead, make mistakes, and be all right the next day…you know what I’m saying.
THERE’S A 12-YEAR-OLD BOY ON THE EAST SIDE RIGHT NOW. IF YOU CAN TELL THAT KID ONE THING IN THIS MOMENT TO INSPIRE HIM, WHAT WOULD IT BE?
I’d say: Right now, today, is your day to be great. Right now, at your age, dig your heels in and find that God-given talent, that God-given gift that you can wake up every morning and run to with passion. Begin to develop and hear that, and develop your faith and courage to be able to run after that. That’s what you were born to do, that’s what you were created to do. Concisely I would say, “Today is your day to be great. Dig your heals in and go after it. Fly or die.”
FLY OR DIE. IF SOMEONE IS JUST NOW BECOMING FAMILIAR WITH GROUP FLY, HOW CAN THEY CHECK OUT YOUR STUFF?
You can check us out online at grpfly.com, same thing with both Facebook and Twitter. We also have an online store. In addition, we just developed a pop-up boutique trailer. It’s a 6 x 12 trailer that you can actually walk through and shop out of, and it’s mobile. It’s like our “BoBo’s chicken” model. (Laughing.) Check us out there and hit us up online at grpfly.com.
INTERVIEW BY SAMUEL “BRIAN” HILL
ith a new school year approaching, Bethany Middle and High School students are looking to take over their campus ministry. The work that our team of student leaders have put in has paid off and allowed us to come together even stronger. Impact Club really changes the lives of our young people. It provides a safe place to be able to come and talk to their peers. In small groups, our students are able to open up about their personal lives. I feel confident
It would be a trip to be able to give back and really support people that have really poured into my life. That’s a thing that weighs heavy on my mind and my heart, a legacy that I want to leave behind to where I’m inspiring this culture of urban thinkers and entrepreneurs and creatives. So that’s what we’re trying to develop with our brand. We’re not where we want to be, but we’re further than where we started. It’s a journey that we’re just going to keep on rocking with.
“ TAKE OVER” that God is going to continue working in the Bethany area, where we can continue to thrive as a student ministry. —Calvin Roberson, Bethany Middle and High School Impact Club
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ONE BY ONE, WON BY ONE By Samuel “Brian” Hill
Jabee is an edgy music artist who focuses his strength on producing a positive message in a predominately negative hip hop culture. On the day of this interview, while sitting in Kamp’s 1910 in Downtown OKC surrounded by a busy lunch time crowd, I had the privilege of seeing a side of this popular award winning artist that most have not caught a glimpse of. During this interview, he opened up, became very transparent, shared where his faith in Jesus Christ began and what has led him to live life on mission to Impact this Generation with the Truth. Jabee, when did you get saved? When did Jesus come into the picture? “Probably about 16. And that’s kind of… a lot of that story… is why I am (here) today. I mean, because it all started with church. Like everything, like all the music, everything, Little Earth (music group Jabee started performing in), all that started with the church.” “Whenever I was in high school I had a class with this kid and I would see him and he would see me. And he sat in the front of the class, like in the very front and, of course, I sat in the back (Smiling). And he (his friend) told me this later, he was like, he would say “man, when you would walk back, I would be scared.” You know what I’m saying? Because around this time at school, I had, like you know what I’m saying, like this big fight. Everybody knew about it and not only asked me but, you know what I’m saying, like after school and like people were jumping me and everything. People were saying, when I walked past him, he would be scared. And while he was thinking (that), I remember sitting back in class thinking he was the coolest kid in the world. Because the teacher at the time, I don’t know what class it was, but whenever the teacher would talk about something, he would go, “okay let’s hear what the Christian kid has to say about it.” And this kid always had his Bible. He would stand up and go, well I believe this or the Bible says this. Everybody would listen. And it was so crazy, that he was that bold and that fearless and it was so crazy that he would let him do that, you know what I’m saying. And so, like he would see me walking past and he would be scared of me and I would be looking at him going, man, that kid’s powerful. In a lot of ways he saved my life, you know what I’m saying. And so he said that God put on his heart to talk to me and so he didn’t know what to say, but he knew I rapped at school all the time. And so he said, “you want to come to church with me?” And I was like, ‘is there going to be girls there?’ (Laughing) He was like ‘yea. You can come rap too.’ And I was like ‘I’ll go rap at the church.’ So, I probably didn’t go that week, but I ended up going. That’s how I met Him (Jesus Christ).” (begins weeping) This one kid reached you? (Nodding his head yes while tearing up) How old was that boy at the time and what school were you at the time?? “He was like 14. I was at Northwest. Like to this day, he’s my best friend (sobbing). He’s family, everything. Know what I’m saying? He just took care of me. I just know if he had stayed scared of me and Jesus didn’t say talk to him and him seeing, like . . . Because I wasn’t going to talk to any of them, you know what I mean.” Where would you be had he not? “I don’t even know, man. I don’t even know. Ain’t no telling where I’d be? You know, it’s just crazy to think that at one time, like, the chain reaction of everything. Like, meeting Cody (the boy), meeting Vernon (Deas)(was a downtown Youth Pastor and the former Youth For Christ Urban Direc-
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tor), you know. And, you know, everything wasn’t just good, like he had to come back and get me a few times but he just never let me go, you know what I’m saying. Like, you know, I don’t know man. So that’s like, pretty much where it all started, you know what I mean.” One kid reaching another kid. You’re still friends? (Shakes his head yes) What does he do for a living? “He works as a land man. His name is Cody Bass. I mean he’s still as cool as he was back then. But, you know, I wanted to be like him. Like when I was in so much trouble… Because I remember looking at him and saying man, like, I thought he was cool, so much. And he just wasn’t afraid of anything. And in school, I guess, it was corny of you to talk about that kind of stuff, but I just thought it was dope because he wasn’t afraid to be corny or he didn’t care what (any)body thought and, you know, I was like man, I wanted to be like that, no matter what. To be like, you know, I’m going to say what I believe in. And that’s a real big part of why, you know, why I’m who I am and where I’m at, you know what I mean. You know, that’s part of my burden too.” Give me three words that describe you. “Passionate, Strong and Bold.”
Note from the writer: What I learned from Jabee’s story is the Importance of Listening to God’s voice and the Power of just One committed person. Cody (Jabee’s classmate) had no idea the importance of him reaching out Jabee in the long term scheme of life. His simple obedient response to God’s voice led a troubled youth like Jabee to a relationship with Christ and has produced a harvest of the young generation who Jabee has reached with the Gospel. My prayer is that this testament to consistently sharing our Faith will serve as a catalyist for us as readers to carry the Truth of the Gospel into our daily World and Impact others with the Good News of Jesus love. If you would like to catch up with Jabee’s current projects or upcoming concerts, you can find information at his website, iamjabee.me or on his twitter and facebook at mynameisJabee. You can also find Jabee and the other artist featured in upcoming issues by staying connected on the IMPACT Magazine (impactokcmag) Facebook and Twitter. Continue to look for great OKC artists like Jabee coming to you from IMPACT Magazine.
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Integrating God’s mission for the world into our daily lives. We gather every Sunday morning at 10:00 in the Sandridge Auditorium, located at 123 Robert S Kerr.
Youth for Christ based, IMPACT OKC Magazine: Vol. 1 Issue 3, November 2012 Contains articles about Ryan Tate, Refuge, Vernon Deas, Jaybee,...
Published on Nov 1, 2012
Youth for Christ based, IMPACT OKC Magazine: Vol. 1 Issue 3, November 2012 Contains articles about Ryan Tate, Refuge, Vernon Deas, Jaybee,...