For Parents

A letter from Josh Harper, the National Director of Urban Programs

Dear Parents,

Thank you for taking the time to read this letter. It shows that you are concerned about the well-being and safety of your child. As a father myself, I appreciate that. I would like to share my own story with you and explain why I think that allowing your child to participate in this program is a great idea.

In the summer of 2004, my wife and I moved to Oakland, California. My wife grew up in a suburb of Sacramento and I grew up in a small town in the mountains of Northern California. The inner city of Oakland is the last place I ever imagined I would live. I understood the city to be an overcrowded, ugly place full of crime and violence. My perception was based on the news, which is almost always negative, terrifying anecdotes of friends of friends who were mugged, and my comparison of the natural beauty of my hometown to the concrete and industrial filth that I witnessed the few times I passed through.

Our decision to move to inner city Oakland came about after actually spending time in the city. We discovered that in the midst of trash and graffiti, there was beauty. We found beauty in people, in the diversity of cultures, and even in old buildings in desperate need of repair and streets that could use more trees. We have seen firsthand some of the difficulties that plague our nation’s cities. But we encountered God in the city in new and fresh ways. We humbly realized that God is at work here, and that our being here was much more about God transforming us than it was about the resources that we bring to our neighborhood. We regularly experience God’s healing and transforming power in our lives and in the lives of neighbors.  

Since moving to Oakland, my wife and I bought a house, planted a garden, and had two daughters. I understand a parent’s love for their children and concern for their children's safety. But I am equally concerned about my children's character. I want my girls to know gratitude instead of entitlement, generosity instead of greed, and compassion instead of selfishness. I want my daughters to appreciate the beauty of people from different cultures and ethnicities and to see how all people are created in the image of God. I want them to be spiritually developed and nurtured in a church community that values a global perspective on faith. These are some of the reasons why we chose to raise our family here.

We are not alone in this. All across the country there are Urban Program directors who have made a similar decision to raise their families in the neighborhoods in which they lead their programs. We feel secure about leading your child into these places because more often than not, we are raising our children here too.  

We take strong measures to minimize risk and I encourage you to read our Safety page which explains how we do that in more detail.  

Thank you for learning more about the Urban Programs.


Josh Harper
National Director of Urban Programs