This is 2 of 4 in a series of posts about Freedom Fire, a ministry to youth and families living in urban contexts. You can read about the founder of Freedom Fire, Bruce McGregor, here.
Kevin Cacy and Bruce McGregor, founder of Freedom Fire, had met to talk about the future of Freedom Fire’s ministry. Bruce was excited to share what God was doing through the new ministry, and Kevin was excited to hear about it, but he grew cautious when he realized Bruce intended to ask him to join Freedom Fire’s staff.
Years before, as a young college student, Kevin had experienced the broken beauty of working in the inner-city, but then God’s path for him had led away from the city. Many times, he had prayed – begged, even – for God to allow him to go back, but every time, God had said “no.”
“The Lord, like he often does, asks you to put something on the altar. He would never say yes to working in the inner-city. It was just a real wrestling match between me and the Lord,” Kevin explained.
So when Kevin realized Bruce was going to ask him to join Freedom Fire, he was cautious, certain God was only going to say no to the inner-city again.
“Bruce, you need to be really careful here,” he said. “This is something so precious to me. I don’t want you to offer something lightly.”
But Bruce felt like God was pushing him to keep talking. “Kevin, why don’t you follow your passion and come join me?” he asked.
And for the first time, God didn’t say no.
“That was sixteen years ago,” Kevin said, pausing in the telling of his story. “And it’s still…so tender. I couldn’t believe God was really going to let me do this.”
Kevin had grown up in the suburbs and accepted the Lord at age fifteen. In the youth group he was attending, they went through a study that detailed all the reasons they should become missionaries. By the end, Kevin’s mind was settled.
All right, he thought. I’ll be a missionary.
In college, he began studying architecture because some part of him had always known that was what he was supposed to do. His original plan was to complete that degree and go to Latin America, but then during his third year, a buddy of his introduced him to an inner-city ministry in Kansas City.
“I don’t even know what happened, but I remember having a conversation with the guy leading the ministry,” Kevin said. “He started talking about the need to be willing to lay down everything to follow the Lord. And I just kept thinking, ‘I need to lay down my education.’”
About a month later, Kevin dropped out of college to join that inner-city ministry—an extremely difficult decision because of the high value his suburban parents placed on education.
“But I absolutely fell in love with the inner-city,” he said. “I was so foreign and felt very much out of my element, and yet it was like a big mystery, a big puzzle, that I was excited to figure out.”
Eventually, Kevin did go back to school to finish his degree after he felt God leading him to do so, but he continued to work in the inner-city throughout, and he married a woman who felt as passionately about the city as he did. Within three months of their marriage, they had two foster daughters living with them, and they have continued to have various kids and teens live with them throughout their life together.
But then God led them away from the city, and Kevin worked for many years as an architect. It wasn’t until he was thirty-five that he met Bruce and felt God give him permission to return.
When Kevin joined Freedom Fire, this experience came in handy, as he started working with kids right away, leading Friday night outreaches and Bible clubs. Though both Bruce and Kevin planned to move their families into the city, their plans never worked out. Now, Kevin can see the beauty in that, as his family’s suburban home has served as a refuge for many city teens.
Over the years, he has become a stand-in dad for many of the youth who have passed through Freedom Fire’s various programs.
“I know it’s the Lord who has put in me a desire to be a father to the fatherless in our urban core,” Kevin explained. “It is His passion, and He gave me a slice of it. It was unsought, unlooked for, and unmistakable.”
A few young men in particular stand out in his mind.
The pair of cousins – one clean cut and a bit of a loner, the other with dreadlocks and a loud, comedic personality. The first went to William Jewel on a basketball scholarship and eventually joined the Navy. The second strayed for a time after high school but then called Kevin to say, “I’m ready. I gotta get out of here.” He has lived with Kevin and his family for the past nine years and came back to the Lord in a powerful way, lying flat on his face during a church service and weeping.
The close friend of Kevin’s own son who received a scholarship to a private school, only to have his grandmother refuse to let him go. For a long time, he wasn’t allowed to see Kevin’s family, but when his grandmother died, he came to live with them, and he may soon begin helping Kevin lead a Friday night outreach.
The boy who moved to California but got his girlfriend pregnant. After she graduated from college, they both moved into Kevin’s home and stayed on opposite ends of the house, weathering the difficult times together. Today, they are married and doing great.
The many youth who don’t make it, who end up flunking out of college, getting records, or going to jail, weigh heavy on Kevin’s heart.
“You see young men make such foolish decisions, and you’re powerless to stop it.” He sighed. “You just pray over it, just cry out to the Lord over their lives, and they still make foolish decisions. And it just costs them so much.”
Yet, despite the difficulties, he has witnessed how powerful mentoring can be over an extended period of time.
“Seeing kids kind of get through the white water, the teen and early adult years until they stabilize – if you’re still there for them, you get to see the great fruit. But we don’t stick around,” he said. “What we’ve learned is that they will come back. If you’re still here, they will come back.”
Have a question, comment, or encouragement for Bruce? Click here. To see the needs he has listed as prayer requests, click here. To give to Freedom Fire, click the “Donate now with PayPal” link on Freedom Fire’s home page.