Have you heard of Urban K-Life? They are doing a world of good in a world of suffering. Urban K-Life (UKL) is a non-profit organization that works one-on-one with urban teens through outreach, fellowship, mentoring, and discipleship.

Last year, I attended UKL’s annual fund-raiser. There were many prominent St. Louisans who generously donated to their cause. Many teens and young adults spoke about how UKL has changed their life positively. One young man said, “they poured love into me every day when no one else cared, not even my family.” Building long-term, positive and loving one-on-one relationships with teens is the key to their success. After hearing Jason Julian, the founder and director, give his talk, I was moved to tears.

The gentleman I was sitting next to, who had known Jason for a long time, leaned over and said, “you know, only a broken man could do what he is doing.”  Because of the applause I wasn’t quite sure I heard him correctly, so I said, “can you repeat that?”  He smiled and said, “I am a broken man and so is Jason. It’s why he can do what he does.”

That night, I listened to many young people from our poorest neighborhoods growing up in broken homes and communities and I came away with a different perspective: being broken doesn’t mean your down and out, and it doesn’t mean you need to be fixed, either.

Being broken in today’s “achievement” culture is alienating and debilitating, but seeing and understanding your own “brokenness” is a form of transcendence. Seeing and understanding one another’s “brokenness” is a pathway to healing and overcoming. As I see it, Urban K-Life understands the hidden power that lies within our brokenness. They seek to transform it and unleash its full potential within each person.


“Brokenness truly forces and enables us to experience the more important things in reality, the care and love of other people in understanding how much they long for the same love.  If trained by it, brokenness has a way of humbling us, removing us from our own narcissistic pride, and leading us to see the deeper value in existence. When we use our own brokenness to extend healing to others in their pain, we find true joy and great value in our humanity.

I spend 95% of my life “in the hood” hanging in inner-city schools, with inner-city teens, and in all aspects of inner-city life.  But in the midst of that, I have found great peace and joy.  By being with “regular people” who are living life just trying to make it, I have rediscovered life by loving and caring for them.  When we “love your neighbor as yourself”, then we find joy, peace, and fulfillment in ways that no materials or possessions or prestige can ever give.”

— Jason Julian, Founder and Director

It is counter-intuitive to think of brokenness not as a liability, but as a deep strength. I hope you’ll consider Jason’s words, and if not his words, his actions–because UKL is making a big difference in the lives of many supposedly “broken” kids in St. Louis..

One-on-one, pouring love into these young people, is the Urban K-Life way. It is not easy and there are many people who drop out into despair, but I can’t help but be astonished by the work of these tremendously “broken” men and women.

JEMA is honored to work with Urban K-Life on transforming their existing facility into a new home and campus that supports their mission of transforming the lives of our most vulnerable youth.