This is the second in a series of posts telling the story of Urban Scholastic Center through people involved with the ministry. Read the first post, telling the story of USC founder, Chuck Allen, here.
The house is one block from the Urban Scholastic Center, around the corner from where Tre Coppage grew up, and just down the street from where one of his closest friends was shot and killed three years ago. From the Mission House, Tre and his wife, Khrystal, seek to love and impact their community, in particular through their work at the Urban Scholastic Center where they act as indigenous missionaries – or missionaries from the area they minister to.
“I really enjoy the freedom of it – knowing that you’re doing what God wants you do,” Khrystal said.
Following God’s will together is something Tre and Khrystal have been doing since they were in high school – though their friendship started much earlier. They met when they were four years old and eventually attended the same high school – “Number 62 in the nation!” Tre inserted proudly – but remained “just friends” for a long time. They even helped each other find boyfriends and girlfriends.
“Then I started to like her, and she started to like me,” Tre said. “I was getting more serious about Jesus at that time … [and] I tried to help her get serious about him too.”
“When he started to get serious about Jesus, I wasn’t there yet,” Khrystal said. “But eventually, I was like, ‘Hey, why not? Let’s just try it.’ And it kind of stuck.”
After they’d both become serious about their faith, they started dating and got married two years later.
Mission work has been a part of Tre and Khrystal’s lives almost from the beginning of their dating relationship. Together with a few friends, they would go to the worst neighborhoods on Saturdays to hand out water bottles and pray for people.
When Khrystal was a senior in high school, she prayed hard for God to show her what she should do with her life.
“He told me specifically not to go outside of Kansas,” she said. “And he told me, ‘In three years, you will be doing full-time ministry with Tre.”
Khrystal thought that meant she and Tre would be doing music ministry together. She and Tre were already traveling and putting on music shows. Tre rapped under the name TreCop, and Khrystal helped with the shows, though she eventually started writing poetry and rapping too.
God slowly nudged them in a different direction, however. A year after they graduated from high school, they had the opportunity to do full-time missionary work for the summer in Kansas City, Missouri through the Student Church Planting Experience.
Right after Tre found out about SCPX, one of his best friends was shot and killed while playing basketball in another friend’s driveway.
As Tre grieved, he also felt the need to do something. “Life’s too short,” he realized. “I don’t even know what I want to do [with life]. I’m just gonna do ministry then.” Specifically, he and Khrystal felt an urgency to work for young African Americans in the inner-city.
In the years that followed, Tre and Khrystal worked in a variety of ministries, including the Boys & Girls Club, Youth City Network, and Children International. They also experienced a variety of adventures, including being homeless together and moving to New York for a year before hearing God tell them to return to Kansas one week before Hurricane Sandy.
Tre and Khrystal met Chuck Allen when Chuck came to a prayer walk Tre was hosting for a neighborhood near USC. After the walk, Chuck told Tre he should come volunteer at USC.
Tre was intrigued, though he’d never heard of USC. “Come to find out, my grandmother actually went to school in the [USC] building.”
Shortly after that, Chuck showed them the house that would become their home, the Mission House. The house was then in severe disrepair, but as they were walking through the house, Tre told Khrystal, “This is going to be our house!”
“I don’t want this house!” Khrystal replied.
Then volunteers for USC began fixing the Mission House, and Chuck offered the house to Khrystal in exchange for her working part-time at the Center. She and Tre accepted the offer, and eventually Tre also accepted a full-time position at USC.
That was in 2013 – three years after God had told Khrystal she and Tre would do full-time ministry together.
Today, Tre works as program coordinator, which means he is involved with most of USC’s programs in some way, and he also helps with writing and teaching curriculum, as well as communicating with and recruiting volunteers. Khrystal is an assistant coordinator, so she also wears several hats – helping with the after-school Life Enrichment program and Wednesday night Soul Food, assisting with putting together media about USC, and basically offering support wherever else she is needed.
Tre loves the relational aspect of his job, Khrystal loves knowing she’s doing what God has told her to do, and they both love their flexible schedules which allow them to spend time with their young son.
“It’s also really hard on the hard days,” Khrystal admitted. “Thinking that you’re not getting through to [the kids] is hard – especially when you have tragedies.”
This past year, Tre and Khrystal lost two more friends to neighborhood violence. During the difficult time that followed, the friendships and support of their fellow workers at USC carried them through.
“I was at work, and I broke down crying. One of the staff…came in, gave me a hug, and he encouraged me,” Tre said.
“I understand now why Christ is so focused on relational living,” Khrystal added. “I couldn’t imagine having to do this without having people around.”
Those hard times, though, are why Tre and Khrystal believe in the necessity of what they’re doing.
“Sometimes we forget sharing the Gospel is the ultimate thing we’re supposed to do,” Khrystal said. “It’s during those dark days that you really have to push to remember, [the kids] might not get it now, but maybe later on…. If one student can get it, we’re okay.”