taking the words of Jesus seriously

Red Letter Christians around the world should get to know Jodina Hicks, who now heads up a program in the city that Times Magazine calls, “the worst city in America.”


Jodina came to Eastern University to become one of my students. She had heard that we had young Eastern students daily deployed in various “at risk” neighborhood across Philadelphia, and especially throughout Camden, NJ. Camden impacted her because the needs there were so great that she felt that she wanted to invest herself to make a difference in a difficult place.


During her first semester at Eastern, she went over to Camden several times a week (about a 20 mile commute each way) in order to work in after school programs, teaching Bible study groups, and counsel children who had seemed to be overpowered by social and economic oppression. She fell in love with the boys and girls and served them well. But then, one of her co-workers challenged her by saying, “if you really love these children, why don’t you move here and become one of us.” So, Jodina moved to Camden and during the rest of her time at Eastern, she lived there and commuted to her classes at the university. After graduation, she went to work for Urban Promise, and for several years she did all she could to help that ministry.


After years in Camden, there came a time when she sensed a leading from God to attend law school to defend the poor and be a voice for them when they had no voice. After receiving her law degree, she went to work for a think tank, then a very large major non-profit, where she managed prison reform efforts that improved the conditions for 10, 000 people per year. She worked for policy change and led all of the programs with clients.


But then the wonderful community leader to whom she had become committed, was shot to death on the streets of the city. She was shattered and did not know what to do with her life from that point on. She soon learned that an Executive Director was needed for the Urban Promise Ministries in Camden, NJ—the ministry that had challenged her to work with inner city kids in the first place. The people of Urban Ministries wanted her back.


What makes Jodina a special hero to me is not limited to the extensive programs she helped to develop for thousands of needy people, but her willingness to lovingly take in five very different children off the streets who seemed to have no place to call home. It’s one thing to develop large programs that touch the lives of thousands, but what really knocks my socks off is her willingness to give up any semblance of a private life by taking in five children who needed a place to live and then loving them with a Christ like love.


When I last visited Jodina I watched as these boys and girls whom she brought in off the streets ran up to her and hugged her. Then she hugged them back. She showed herself to be a follower of her Lord who, in the red letters of the Bible said, “Suffer the little children come unto me, for such are the Kingdom of God.”

About The Author


Tony Campolo is Professor of Sociology at Eastern University, and was formerly on the faculty of the University of Pennsylvania. For 40 years, he founded and led the Evangelical Association for the Promotion of Education, an organization that created and supported programs serving needy communities in the Third World as well as in “at risk” neighborhoods across North America. More recently, Dr. Campolo has provided leadership for the Red Letter Christians movement. He blogs regularly at his own website. Tony and his wife Peggy live near Philadelphia, and have two children and four grandchildren.

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