The Call to Mastery with Jordan Raynor

Diane Latiker (Founder of Kids Off the Block)

Episode Summary

Between an AK-47 and a God-place

Episode Notes

Jordan Raynor sits down with Diane Latiker, Founder of Kids Off the Block, to talk about what standing in between an AK-47 and 50 kids will teach you about leadership, how the pandemic has forced leaders to reframe their missions at a higher level, and how seemingly unsolvable problems bring us to greater levels of hustle and trust in God.

Links Mentioned:

Episode Transcription

EPISODE 69


 

[INTRODUCTION]


 

[0:00:05.3] JR: Hey, everybody. Welcome to the Call to Mastery. I’m Jordan Raynor. This is a podcast for Christians who want to do their most exceptional work, for the glory of God and the good of others. Every week, I’m bringing you a conversation with a Christian who's pursuing world-class mastery of their vocation. We're talking about their path to mastery, their daily habits and routines and how the gospel influences their work.


 

Today's guest is Diane Latiker. She's the Founder of Kids Off the Block, an organization that's provided a safe place and shelter and food for more than 3,000 teenagers in Chicago’s most violent neighborhood. She's been named one of CNN's top 10 heroes of the year. She's received the BET Shine a Light award. She's an accidental entrepreneur, who by the grace of God, has developed into an incredible leader at a later age in life, leading this organization to tremendous impact.


 

Diane and I sat down and discussed what's standing in between an AK-47 and 50 kids will teach you about leadership. We talked about how the recent pandemic has forced leaders to reframe their missions at a higher level and how seemingly unsolvable problems can bring us to greater levels, of both hustle and trust in the Lord. I think you guys are going to love this conversation with my new friend, Diane Latiker.


 

[INTERVIEW]


 

[00:01:46] JR: Diane, it's a privilege to have you here today. How you doing this morning?


 

[00:01:49] DL: I’m doing great. How are you doing?


 

[00:01:51] JR: I’m wonderful. Hey, so for our listeners who don't know, tell us, what does Kids Off the Block do?


 

[00:01:58] DL: Kids Off the Block helps young people that are in gangs to get out. We help homeless kids and we help kids to get back in school. Basically, we offer them a safe place in our community.


 

[00:02:10] JR: Yeah, you're meeting the very material needs of these kids in Chicago. What part of Chicago are you guys in?


 

[00:02:16] DL: We're on the far south side called Roseland.


 

[00:02:21] JR: Okay, great. How did this all get started? I mean, I’ve read bits and pieces of the story, but I’d love to hear in your own words how Kids Off the Block got off the ground.


 

[00:02:32] DL: My husband and I have eight kids of our own. We have four boys and four girls. I had one at home, Aisha; she was 13-years-old and I just wanted to make sure that she graduated high school and went to college, because we thought we'd be free after she left, so we could go fishing. I hung out with her and her nine friends, boys and girls, 13 to 15-years-old and I took them swimming and skating and fishing, of course. My mom saw it and my mom said, “Diane, you should do something with those kids. They like you and respect you.”


 

In my mind, I’m going, “No, I’m going to be free. I don't want to do that.” I literally prayed about it for three days, because I was fighting it. I was just fighting and I didn't want to do it. On the third day, I was standing in my living room window and Aisha and her friends while in the front and they were just being teenagers, talking loud, going up and down the block. The Lord just pushed me out the door, I’d say. Out the door and I went – I didn't know what I was going to say to them, but I called them over to me. The first thing came out of my mouth was, “What do you guys want to do when you grow up?”


 

They all started jumping up and down and oh, man. It was amazing. They were like little kids. They were, “I want to be a doctor. I want to be a singer. No, I want to be a rapper. No, I want to be a nurse.” I said, “Well, would you guys be interested in coming into the living room, so we can talk?” I didn't have no idea what I was going to do, tell you the truth.


 

They came in the living room. Now I knew these kids, they were Aisha’s friends for a long time, so I thought I knew them. When they came in my living room and sat down, I actually didn't know them at all. They started telling me about the gangs trying to recruit the boys and how they were failing in school. I’m saying in my mind, “Oh, Lord. What have I done? I don't know how to help these kids.” I just listened. When I got through listening, I said, “Well, at least I could help them with homework.”


 

My husband had this big, old giant TV back there that he watched. Every day, he come home from work just get in this lazy boy. I looked at that TV, because the only way I could help, I had to have some computers back then to help them with homework. I said, “I can do that.” Not that I’m a scholar, or got degrees, but at least, I could do that. I begged him for two weeks, “Could I sell that big, giant TV?” He said, “No. Leave my TV alone.” Two weeks.


 

One day went to work and I sold the TV. I got $600 and I bought 10 used computers and three printers. That's how I started helping them with homework. The next thing I know, there were kids knocking at my door that I hadn't seen before and they like, “Are you Miss Diane?” I’m like, “Yeah.” They’re like, “We need help.” One little boy said, “They said you could help me.” I said, “Who said that? Me?” I mean, he wanted to – he was 13-years-old and he told me he wanted to change his life and I told him, “You haven't had any life. You're still a kid.”


 

He said, “Miss Diane. No, I’ve been robbing and I’ve been hurting people.” He came into my house. Next thing, I know there's 75 kids in our apartment day and night sleeping on the floor. I mean, we're just helping kids everywhere. At 46-years-old, I realized I have found my passion. I mean, it was just mind-blowing. I knew it had to come from God, because Diane Latiker did not want to do this. It had to be a higher power that said, “Okay, you're going to do this and you're going to do it with love, because I fell in love with all those young people.” All I wanted to do is help them. I quit my job.


 

My husband threatened to divorce me a couple of times. He’s like, “Are you crazy? We can barely take care of ourselves.” I was crazy. I was crazy in this mission to help these kids. I was so naïve, I thought everybody wanted to help them join. Everywhere I went, I was at every meeting. every time I heard of a meeting, I was there to tell them about these kids and how they needed help. A lot of people didn't want to help them, because they thought they would throw away kids. I would just cry to God and I would just pray.


 

That's when I found out about so much violence was in my community. I mean, these kids could barely go to school. I just prayed. I just kept praying and God just said, “Keep it going. Just don't stop. No matter what happens, don't stop.”


 

[00:07:27] JR: Well, and the other thing I love about your story, I think it's something that I hear a lot. You today, years later, Kids Off the Block, you guys have served more than 3,000 kids in South Chicago. You didn't start by saying, “We're going to build this massive organization that's going to serve 3,000 kids.” It was a series of very, very little steps of obedience, right? Literally, a step off your front porch and say, “Hey, kids. What do you want to be when you grow up?” Then the little step of, “Hey, come inside. Let's have a conversation.”


 

I’ve been rereading the gospels lately, just trying to really study these biographies of the life of Christ. Even there, you rarely see Jesus showing people the full path of what he's calling them to. You see him giving them little bite-sized next steps. Or he didn't tell the disciples, “Hey, come follow me. In three years, I’m going to die. A few years after that, you're going to die.” He just said, “Follow me. Drop the nets.”


 

[00:08:28] DL: Follow me. That was it.


 

[00:08:30] JR: It was one step. Can you can you talk a little bit about that as an encouragement to some of our listeners, who may be in fear of the big vision of what this thing that they have in their hearts, that God has placed in their hearts might be? Can you give them some encouragement to just follow the Lord and the little things?


 

[00:08:46] DL: Yeah, because see, that's exactly what happened to me. He guided me in little pieces. I had no idea it would turn into what it did. Each day, I would get so excited and I knew that was definitely from the Lord. I would get so excited about the next day, because what I could do to help those kids, not anything major. No big money, no big building to bring them to. I just had what I had, and that's what the Lord put on my heart. Just do it where you are with what you have and I will help you the rest of the way.


 

Every day, I would wake up excited, because I knew God was with me and I knew it was his plan. It wasn't mine. It was his. He was leading the way. Each day, another kid would come. I knew that kid, if they were coming to a house, to a lady and a man they didn't even know, to trust them with their life, you know that's not us doing that.


 

Each day, the Lord would drop something. It wouldn't be a big sign. I would say, “Lord, send me a sign.” He wouldn't send me a sign like that. It would just be something to keep me more motivated and going. Another thing too, my faith; he was testing my faith and making it so strong, till nothing could take me away from what I was doing. I mean, really, I literally, when I prayed, I knew that God was guiding me in my faith, because I had faith. I always believed in God. When I tell you, my faith went up 10 notches doing this work, because I knew Diane Latiker couldn't do these things in faith.


 

[00:10:41] JR: You were out of your own strength, right?


 

[00:10:44] DL: I was out of my league.


 

[00:10:47] JR: That's exactly right. Here's another thing I really like about your story. You mentioned this question that you asked these kids that really started this whole thing like, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” I hear this question a lot from young people, “What should I be when I grow up?” Something about your story, even at the age of 46, I think offers a lot of wisdom. You listened to your mother and it's not the fact that it was your mother that I think is interesting. You listened to the advice of another Christ follower saying, “Hey, there's something going on here that I think you can be gifted at to meet this need in the world.”


 

Yeah, I wrote about in one of my recent books that if we believe our work is service to others, is primarily service to the world, then we should be paying attention not to what we're really passionate and excited about, but to what others are telling us, “Hey, Jordan. Hey, Diane. I think you could be really good at this. Follow this direction.”


 

[00:11:48] DL: I believe the Lord came to my mother to give me that message. I really do.


 

[00:11:54] JR: Yeah, it's working through the spirit, right?


 

[00:11:56] DL: That's right.


 

[00:11:57] JR: Through another Christ follower. I’m really curious. Your title is Founder of this organization that's impacted thousands of lives. I’m really curious if you consider yourself an entrepreneur.


 

[00:12:08] DL: I have not. I’ve been called that before. I think, my issue is putting it with when entrepreneur, that sounds for profit. I am a servant. I tell everybody this, I am a servant. I could not do this if I were not a servant. Because when you're serving others, there's a level of respect and empathy you have to have for the people you're serving. You're there to serve them. I often think about how the Lord washed people's feet. The Lord.


 

If I can just do one-tenth of that, humble myself and realize, these are my fellow human beings and I’ve got to love them and I cannot judge. That's what I did with those young people and I still do today. They come to me as they are. They don't have to put on anything for me to help them. I’m just –


 

[00:13:13] JR: You’re just there to serve.


 

[00:13:14] DL: Yeah.


 

[00:13:15] JR: I think you're an entrepreneur. Here's why. My experience comes from the for-profit space as a founder. At the end of the day, entrepreneurship in my opinion is simply about taking risks to create something new that serves others exceptionally well. At the end of the day, the best entrepreneurs for-profit, or non-profit are those that serve best. If you're in the for-profit sector, you have to serve customers exceptionally well in order for them to come back and refer their friends. If you're in your space, more kids wouldn't keep showing up to the house if you weren't serving them and meeting their needs.


 

I think you're an incredibly talented entrepreneur, whether or not you label yourself as that or not, I think you are and I think there's a lot of wisdom. I know we have a lot of entrepreneurs, not exclusively, but a lot of entrepreneurs are listening who can glean a lot of wisdom from this serve-first mindset. I’m really curious though, when you started to see the lives of these kids being transformed early on, how practically did you guys get from the small organization with a few dozen kids to serving more than 3,000 kids in south side of Chicago? I mean, part of that is time. What were some of the systems and stuff that you had to put in place to really be able to serve at that scale?


 

[00:14:40] DL: Well, first of all, we had to listen to what they needed. It wasn't about what we wanted them to need, or what we told them they needed. We had to listen. What did they need? Well, the first thing they needed was they needed help in school. They needed help in their community, that was the second thing. Because when kids come out into their communities, there has to be some places that are safe for them, that they feel can help them, because that's community. That's what it is. The third thing was to make sure that when you did help them, that the whole family was involved. You can't help the child without the family. No matter how that family is, that child loves their family, no matter what we might think of their family.


 

I wanted to make sure they knew that we were a support system for that family, trying to help their child. We had to learn that though, because like I said, I was naïve. I had no idea about 501c3. EIN number, all that stuff. Probably, if I knew all this stuff that I had to do, I probably didn’t do it. I’m glad the Lord took me in backwards. He took me in with a heart and a will just to help. We had to change. We had to start realizing what their needs were and how we could help them accomplish that. Say a kid had dropped out of school. Well, we had to get involved with their family, we had to get involved with the school, we had to make sure when they came to our program that they were encouraged by school, that they got help with tutors, that they got mentored, that maybe they had a hole in their shoe and this stuff really happened; a kid had a hole in the shoe, so he wouldn't go to school, because he was embarrassed.


 

We pooled together our funds and went and bought him some decent shoes. Then we took him back and forth to school. Then we had some kids who couldn't get to school, because of the gang lines. We had to take them back and forth to school. It was those things that helped them to be, or to realize that they could be successful, if they could overcome those things. We just wanted to be a help mate in helping them to accomplish that.


 

[00:17:03] JR: You bring up an interesting point though, with wanting to be seen as an ally of the family unit, not as trying to replace them. I think that's often true in business. Sometimes your customer, in your case, the kid, not a customer, but the person you're ultimately serving is the “decision-maker,” but there are other people that factor into that decision. I think a lot about this in terms of hiring.


 

If I’m recruiting an employee to my team, I run fast-growing companies, so that person is usually has a pretty big appetite for risk. I’m very cognizant of the fact that I’m also recruiting the spouse of that person, who's usually far more risk-averse. I think a lot about recruiting that secondary person in order to engage that primary person that I want in my organization.


 

For you, that was the family unit. Making sure that they felt like you weren't trying to replace, or circumvent them. How did you guys do that? How do you guys do that? The kids come to you wanting help, how do you keep that family, that secondary customer, if you will, engaged?


 

[00:18:12] DL: Well, I learned the hard way. We're 80% male. The boys would come and the next thing I know, their mothers are taking them out of the program and this was in the beginning and I didn't understand why. What was I doing wrong? I’m thinking. Come to find out, they were going home saying, “Miss Diane said, and Miss Diane told us.” I’m like, “No, no, no, no, no. Don't do that. I’m just here for support, so I had to –” When I found out that was going on, I started calling their families and saying, “I’m here to support you. When I tell the boys something, it's for their betterment, but the ultimate decision-maker is you. Not me.” They let them come back.


 

I had to learn that the hard way and I had to figure out how to make sure that I’m a side ally and that I coincide that with making sure I involve the family in whatever I’m telling them or helping them with.


 

[00:19:18] JR: Yeah, but this goes back to your point about being a good listener, right? Great entrepreneurs are great servers. In order to be a great server, you must first and foremost, be a great listener and really understand, going back to your story, you asked these guys, “Hey, what do you want to be when you grow up?” You wanted to help them get on the right path of their lives. At the end of the day, what they really needed was help with homework. You wouldn't have seen that had you not asked the question and been – Yeah, it would have been very easy for you to just create a career counseling program, but you helped them with their homework first. I love it.


 

Diane, over the past few months, the news has been dominated by really only two stories. This COVID-19 pandemic and the Black Lives Matter Movement, which has gained considerable momentum in the wake of the death of George Floyd. As the leader of this organization of Kids Off the Block, I’m curious, how if at all you've pivoted the organization in wake of these massive cultural events? What has changed in the organization over the last three or four months?


 

[00:20:24] DL: Well, because of COVID, we couldn't physically see the kids anymore. My husband and I, we're at risk anyway. We're scared anyway. We're sitting here and I’m like, “Lord, okay. What can we do to help?” Because by now, this is in us. My faith is like, you can't just sit here. If you believe God, you're going to be scared anyway. Just get out there. We decided to feast our feeding kids who were out of school, because the state shut down. The schools were closed, so we started – we put a little tent across the street on a vacant lot and we started cooking hamburgers and hotdogs and stuff for the kids who couldn't make it to the school and they wanted to eat.


 

Then the governor came back again and said, “Everybody stay home.” The mayor said it too, so we had to close that down. We're back in the house again and my husband and I are talking and I just started praying. I’m like, “Lord, we can't do anything here.” I saw that van that we got this – I call it a raggedy van, because it is. Normally, it transports kids and we can't do that, so we decided – I’m like, “Let’s take the van and go help people.” Just ride the city, because everybody wasn't inside. Homeless people had nowhere to go. People in shelters needed help.


 

We put a 100 masks in the van, we put some food that we have fixed in the van and we had these little bottles of sanitizer. We just started riding the city, passing it out to people who we thought needed it. The next thing I know, we're passing out 600 meals, thousands of masks, people are donating the stuff. I mean, we're all over Chicago. North side, south side, east side, we were just passing out stuff.


 

When I tell you how grateful those people were, that we were there, when they saw that van, that they would rush that van to get those much-needed PPE's, it was amazing. I knew that was God. I knew that was his idea. Because you could tell. You could tell.


 

[00:22:42] JR: I think the pandemic has forced a lot of entrepreneurs and leaders to rethink their mission at a higher level. Pre-pandemic, you would have said, “Oh, yeah. We serve youth in south side Chicago.” Then in the wake of the pandemic, when you're unable to do that, I think it forces you to really think about, “Okay. What are we really all about at the highest level?” It's about serving material needs. You were like, “Okay, it’s not about youth. It's not about south side Chicago. We just got to go all over the city and help people.”


 

[00:23:15] DL: That's right. It's about serving, period. No matter where it takes you. It's about serving. It's about serving others, especially in their time of need. Inquiries as kept, it's in your time of need too, because you need to do something. You need to serve. You need to help, because it helps you.


 

[00:23:37] JR: Okay. Talk about that a little bit more. How old are you, if you don't mind me asking, Diane?


 

[00:23:40] DL: I’m 63-years-old.


 

[00:23:41] JR: You're at risk and you mentioned this a few minutes ago. You and your husband are high-risk.


 

[00:23:45] DL: Yes, we are.


 

[00:23:47] JR: You're going out in the community and meeting people, touching people and lots of it, and putting yourself in harm's way. Talk about how the Lord has used that to serve you and your needs.


 

[00:24:06] DL: We were like that with the violence. We were putting ourselves at risk. I’ve been in between 245's literally between two gangs standing in the middle of the guns. AK-47 was pulled on me with 40 some – 50 some kids behind me. It's the same thing with violence. You put your life on the line and that's how strong is your faith. How much do you believe God? Serving when we went out there on the streets, I knew we were at risk and I knew we were scared. I knew we were scared.


 

When we were out there, it didn't matter. When you saw the people who needed, they didn't know us from John. What they did know was that we were trying to help them. The look on their faces and bless you all, thank you so much, thank you so much for coming. Oh, and I knew that God had directed this, because he put it on so many other people's heart to donate supplies, so we could help all these people.


 

I knew he had did it. Me, I woke up, I started feeling excited again and not depressed in the pandemic. I was actually excited in this pandemic, because I knew the next, I would stay up late at night making cup sanitizers to make sure we had hundreds to pass out the next day, because it was just coming from God. It was coming from him.


 

[00:25:36] DL: It's a good example of this tension between grit and grace. These supplies showed up at your door, by the grace of God, by the grace of God and the grace of your neighbors. It's also a result of the grit that the Lord has given you and the discipline to be – You have earned a reputation in the community as people who just get stuff done. I mean, that had to play a fact in this for sure.


 

I got to go back to the standing in between a gun and 50 kids for a minute. I’m still flabbergasted by this. In those moments, you know what's right to do. You know it's right to be in the middle of this. It's necessary in some instances, to stop violence. You don't know that you're not going to get blown to pieces. How in that moment do you say, “You know what? Regardless of what happens, blessed be the name of the Lord.” Whether it's a literal gun, or a metaphorical one, facing the organization being shut down, or whatever, how does the gospel give you the resources to say, “Blessed be the name of the Lord”?


 

[00:26:46] DL: I think the gospel gives me more of the word. I think my faith rests on the word, knowing that the words that I read where the Lord says things like, “I’m with you.” I’m human. I’m flesh, but that spirit that rides with you. After it was over, I was like, “Diane, are you crazy? What can you do?” At that moment, I did not think about that. I thought about I have 50 kids behind me and one of those kids is hurt. I couldn’t live with myself. There was no time to go, “Should I? Should I not?” No.


 

I was riding on faith. Everything that I did, those guns I saw them, but I had my hands up as I’m walking towards these three young men and I saw that big gun, but I also knew that I was on faith.


 

[00:27:47] JR: Romans 8:28. God works for the good of those who love him, or are called according to his purpose. Might not have been your life being saved. I think, sometimes we take that verse out of context and say, “Well, he's working everything for my good, so I’m not going to get shot.” It's like, no. There's real danger. There's a gun.


 

[00:28:02] DL: There’s real danger yes.


 

[00:28:03] JR: Even if I get shot, he's going to work that for his glory and the good of his purposes in the world. I talk about this a lot with entrepreneurs as Christ-following, redemptive entrepreneurs, we should be the boldest risk takers in the world. At the end of the day, even if we lose our life, the Lord's purpose will prevail. That gives peace.


 

[00:28:29] DL: Because it has. It has. In the bible, there's so many examples of what God did, what he did for the glory, and what came out of it. What's that quote in the bible? You meant it for evil, but God meant it for good.


 

[00:28:49] DL: I go to that a lot, because I have to. I have to. I have to know in my heart that it's not Diane Latiker. I tell a lot of people this that interview me, it's not Diane Latiker. It's a spirit. It's a higher power. It's God that pushes me and makes me believe that it's all for the good and it's not for Diane Latiker's good per se. It’s for his good.


 

[00:29:20] JR: Yeah. Amen. Amen. Well said. Diane, I can hear our listeners mulling this conversation over in their heads. You've already convinced them that you're a world-class leader. One thing that we love to pick the brains of world-class leaders on is just daily habits and routines, things that make them tick what their day looks like. I’m really curious, a typical day for you, maybe pre-pandemic since the pandemic's changed everything.


 

[00:29:48] DL: It changed everything.


 

[00:29:49] JR: What does a typical day look like, from the moment you wake up to the moment you go to bed?


 

[00:29:54] DL: When I wake up, aside from prayer, that's the first thing out of my mouth is prayer and thanks for another day. Then I get up, I get on my computer and finish whatever I left the night before, because I was tired. Once I do that, then I make my daily calls to make sure that the people that I’m supposed to be working with are meeting with that day, all that's taken care of.


 

Normally with during school time, I have up until 3 p.m. to take care of all the business of KOB, fill out paperwork, answer e-mails, make phone calls. After 3:00, the kids start coming. Some get out of school at 3:30, some get out 3:45, so they're coming. Make sure that I have people in place, volunteers, tutors, mentors. The kids get what they need. I have group sessions on some days where all the kids can sit together and talk about the issues. No judgment. Just sit and we listen because that's huge for us. What's going on with them? What do they need? Once that done, maybe on another day, we do arts, on another day, we'll do music. During the summer, it's all sports. It's all sports. We do a back to school giveaway during the summer. We do summer in the streets, where I partnered with eight other organizations to make sure, because they all suffer with youth violence as well in their communities. We partnered to do events on the same day at the same time, so I’ll be working on that.


 

I’m working on stuff all year. Thanksgiving we feed hundreds of young people and their families. The most we've had is 800 in a tent on the lot across the street. For Christmas, we do a Christmas toy giveaway, so I’m working on that with other people all year for 250 families. It's always something going on with Kids Off the Block. Either one person is graduating from high school, or elementary school and we're working on that for them, or we're working with their family, because the family has gotten in trouble. The lights are going to be cut off. The boy needs a coat, because he's wearing two or three hoodies. It’s always something.


 

[00:32:16] JR: These kids start showing up at 3:00. How late do they stay? I mean, some of them spend the night, right?


 

[00:32:23] DL: Yeah. If they have to, homeless kids, yes. They have to. They have nowhere to go. We have to find them somewhere to go, or either get them back home. If they've ran away from home, then definitely, we partner with other organizations who have counselors, who can help out in that area, because we can't do everything.


 

[00:32:43] JR: You as the leader can't do everything either. I’m curious, how many volunteers, mentors do you have engaged on Kids Off the Block at any given time?


 

[00:32:53] DL: We had a ready-dial. I can just pick up the phone, 50. We have hundreds. We have hundreds that we call in different areas.


 

[00:33:03] JR: That's unbelievable. All right, so you've recruited a lot of people to this cause to volunteer their time. I’m curious, what's the biggest lesson you've learned about selling the vision to people to where they're willing to give up their time like that?


 

[00:33:19] DL: The biggest lesson I’ve learned is it's not about me, it's about we. It's about we. The volunteers have to feel like they're invested. The donors have to feel like they're invested. It's about us helping these kids and their families. It's not about Diane Latiker, although I’m the face. What is that? No man is an island. We have to involve each other at the human level. I want the donors and the volunteers to see the kids in the same way that I do.


 

When we actually interview a volunteer, the first thing, they have to love kids. Bottom line. Bottom line. No matter what degrees they have, it doesn't matter. You have to love the children to help them.


 

[00:34:08] JR: Yeah. You mentioned your faith a few times. Obviously, we only interview Christ-following masters of their craft. I’m really curious, for you to talk about – I think this is a pretty obvious, but I’d love to hear it in your own words. How does your faith influence your ambition for the organization? I mean, you're 63. Be very easy for you to say, “You know what? I’ve been at this for 15 years. I’m going to call it a day.” What keeps you going? Outside the kids, what in scripture do you see pushing you to keep going every day?


 

[00:34:44] DL: I believe God. Bottom line. There's no big to do about it. There's no big signs. I just believe God, and I believe that is his plan. Wherever it takes me, I’m willing to go because so far, he's blessed me to be able to help countless young people. There's nothing more than that. I mean, to help somebody else and to see that come to fruition, I believe him. He's made me a believer as far as what he'll give someone.


 

Like me, I’m not perfect. I got all kind of issues and I fought it and he made me a believer that I can make a difference and it keeps me motivated and inspired and the young people oh, all the young people, they inspire me so much they have so much power. They just don't realize it.


 

[00:35:42] JR: Diane, I love that you guys are focused on meeting these very material needs of these kids, right? Providing shelter and safety. Those things in and of themselves are good and god honoring. I am curious. As your work opened up doors to have spiritual conversations with these kids. If so, can you share one of those stories with us?


 

[00:36:03] DL: Yes. My mom is a minister. The kids, because of the violence, let me make sure I make that clear. A lot of the kids was asking her to pray for them. Definitely, when a kid would come to me and my mom would know about it in private and tell me about what's happening, like his house got shot up, or a kid at school pulled a gun on him or something and he needed prayer. He needed to know that the Lord was protecting him, or he needed sanctuary. My mom and I would get together and we would pray for him and we would talk to him about the goodness of the Lord and how he has to remember that God loves him and that the only way he can handle this is not to retaliate.


 

I think the spiritual aspect came in because we did not want those kids to go retaliate. We wanted them to feel like they were protected by the love of God. More so that my mom put all on their foreheads and prayed for them. When she did that, they felt like they were protected. We were able to have quite a few conversations with these kids and not pressure them. I want to make that clear too. To let them know that we believe that God is protecting them.


 

[00:37:23] JR: Yeah. Whether or not you have those opportunities, I think it's great. If we have opportunities to share the gospel, wonderful. Even if we don't, loving and serving these kids is good and God honor. Following the way of Jesus and modeling Christ-like behavior to those in our community.


 

I mentioned George Floyd before. I think a lot of Christians, whether they're at the top of their organizations as entrepreneurs, or at the very bottom, just working as a marketing manager at a Fortune 500 company, I think we're all asking ourselves, especially white Christians, how we can be using our positions within our workplaces to help solve some of these problems at work. I know that's a very broad question, but I’m curious if you have any thoughts to share on that topic.


 

[00:38:12] DL: People have to first believe that there is a problem, and there is. There's a huge problem.


 

[00:38:19] JR: Undoubtedly. Yes.


 

[00:38:22] DL: Yes. As Christians, we also have to believe that God will help us, not to solve it, but to be a part of solving it. In order for your faith to come in on something like that. You have to believe that God would do what? There's examples in the bible, but you have to believe that God would present this to you in a way where you say, “Okay, Lord. What can I do?” Then be able to follow that, whatever he gives you to help.


 

In the George Floyd thing, what happened to him and the outrage afterwards, what do you say to yourself as a Christian? You say, “What can I do?” Even me and I’m a black woman. I said, “What can I do?” I think as Christians, we need to do more of that. We need to seek God in situations where we feel is overwhelming, out of control, or I don't understand.


 

[00:39:25] JR: Yeah. I think too, I’ve been thinking a lot about this. Scripture tells us that ultimately, Christ is going to finish the work. In revelation we see this, of bringing heaven to earth. In the meantime, he works through us. There's this tension between grit and grace, trusting and hustling. Yes, right now, God is working through his people to redeem every square inch of creation. Ultimately, we're not going to finish the work. Ultimately, he's going to get the glory, because only he can finish it, but that doesn't let us off the hook. We got to do the work today.


 

[00:39:59] DL: No, we got to do the work. He did the work. He was here for 33 years. What did he do? He worked.


 

[00:40:06] JR: Yeah. Amen. Amen. Well said. Very well said. Diane, three questions I’d love to end every conversation with. First, I’m curious which books you recommend, or give away the most to others. Maybe some of your kids. Are there particular books that you're always recommending, or giving away?


 

[00:40:23] DL: There's only one book I give away. I buy little small bibles.


 

[00:40:26] JR: I love it. I love it. That's wonderful.


 

[00:40:29] DL: They get it in their pockets.


 

[00:40:30] JR: That's good. Yeah, pocket-sized bibles is wonderful. I’m curious, who you would most like to hear maybe on this podcast, talk about how the Christian faith influences the work they do Monday through Friday?


 

[00:40:43] DL: Oprah.


 

[00:40:44] JR: That's a great answer.


 

[00:40:46] DL: I really would. I’ve watched a lot of her old classes. I’d love to hear that spiritual thing that propels her.


 

[00:40:58] JR: That's one of my favorite answers so far to that question. That's a great answer. All right, last question, Diane. You're talking to a lot of people who are leaders and entrepreneurs like yourself, what one piece of advice would you give these people who are trying to build organizations that do the Lord's will in the world?


 

[00:41:17] DL: Step out of your own way. Let him lead. Seriously, let him lead. He's there, if it's right, if he gave it to you, believe me, he's going to open those doors, so you can walk through. It might not be easy. It might not be easy and you probably will run into everything. God didn't say we weren't going to suffer trying to serve.


 

[00:41:40] JR: Amen. The Christian life wasn't meant to be easy.


 

[00:41:46] DL: It’s not. It's harder, right?


 

[00:41:48] JR: That's right. In the words of John F. Kennedy, “We do not do these things because they are easy. We do them precisely because they are hard, because there's work that needs to be done in this world.” Hey, Diane. I just want to commend you for the incredible, redemptive work you do every single day. Thank you for being the hands and feet of Christ, loving your neighbors in Chicago as yourself, even when you're putting your own self in harm's way and thank you for your commitment to operating your ministry with excellence.


 

Hey, guys. If you want to read more about Diane's incredible story, her book Kids Off the Block will be out by the time this podcast episode airs, so go pick up a copy. It's published by Baker Books, who published my first book Called to Create. We were just talking about how much we love Baker. Go pick up a copy right now. Hey, Diane. Thank you again so much for being with us today.


 

[00:42:39] DL: Jordan, thank you so much for inviting me on.


 

[END OF INTERVIEW]


 

[00:42:44] JR: I love Diane. I can't wait to meet her in person someday. I hope you guys enjoyed that conversation as much as I did. Hey, if you are enjoying the Call to Mastery, make sure you subscribe, so you never miss an episode in the future. If you're already subscribed, you know exactly what I’m going to ask you to do; take 30 seconds and please go leave a review of the podcast, so that this podcast can wind up in the ears of more listeners, like you and encourage more people like yourself.


 

Hey, thank you so much for listening. I’ll see you guys next week.


 

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