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Monday, December 1, 2008

To our dear Family, Friends, and Partners of Greater Life,

This is one of our most difficult notes to write in 22 years of outreach ministry here in the city of Newark, New Jersey...(after having buried our "Spiritual Daughter", Wytonya Thompson, in the 80's who was brutally murdered)......................

...As most of you know, we have the privilege of serving 60 youth & Mentors at the Essex County Youth Detention Facility (Youth House) with Lisa Weathers, Thursday before Thanksgiving...

...and we fed almost 100 children, teenagers, and family members on the eve of Thanksgiving at our Greater Life Community Outreach was an awesome and exciting time this year to see them enjoy the service and delicious food by our Board of Directors and friends!!! There was truly a lot of love and thanks "in the air"...and it ended with a delightful time of prayer by children and teens giving, "thanks to God for a safe place to come to, to enjoy myself and feel loved - to be myself", as one young teenager stated.

...this year, we had almost a dozen Alumni Young Adults who couldn't make it due to working late evening to early morning, so we decided to open our Center on Thanksgiving Day to offer them a chance to come out and enjoy a meal together...8 showed up to our surprise and delight!

We started off with a time of prayer reflection (as they prayed for our country, Board of Directors, supporters, friends, family, and Greater Life family), allowing them the opportunity to express what they were thankful for...followed by a delicious meal that Michael and I served up for them...
...there was laughter in the air, followed by hours of wonderful stories, and catching up with them...much of their conversation was with them asking how the younger children and teens were doing....they were very interested in each person's situation, so that they could know how to best serve them when they each volunteered at the Center after school, along with street outreach......amongst them was Duquan Wimberly, whom we lovingly call "Duke", one of our awesome "Spiritual Sons"...

HE SEEMED TO HAVE THE HAPPIEST DAY THAT WE'VE EVER WITNESSED...he laughed and ate until he couldn't eat anymore, remarking how delicious everything was...he even made up a huge plate of food to take home to eat later...
...well, sadly, later never came...after many hours of delightful time at the Center, he made his way home to his own apartment (that we helped him to get in April 2007)...he commented just last week about how much he enjoyed being a bachelor and working hard for his money at the age of 25, only 1 month away from his 26th birthday...

...this is hard to Michael and my heart are grieving deeply, and my stomach hurts..............because DUKE WAS SHOT IN HIS STOMACH and DIED!... right in front of his apartment building entrance that very night...for NO APPARENT REASON!


...Duke had the best day of his life, and is now with God, as he made the best decision when he was a follow God, and not give in to the negative lure of the streets...

Duke is one of the graduates from our very 1st Leadership Institute in the late 90's, with a final assignment of interviewing a professional -- and he, along with Jamaal, Shawkat, and Masharah, together interviewed the candidate of their choosing -- Andrew Manns, an Attorney who cares about youth!!! (now our Board Chairman)
Duke was the 1st one who came through our doors every day when we were privileged to buy our current building on Chancellor Avenue, in 1997, at the critical age of 13. And after graduating Weequahic High School, became a volunteer!

Duke was the 1st one to take the challenge of becoming an entrepreneur by opening "Dukes Snack Shack" (we helped him to start it so that he could earn a stipend to purchase his own food, for he was always hungry).

Duke worked hard at everything he did! And had a generous and joyous disposition... a giggle and smile that could warm your heart... He didn't let his cleft lip stop him, although because of it, he had a slight shyness as a kid. But as he got older and started growing a mustache, he liked the way it covered it, which gave him more comfort; affording more noticeable confidence.

Duke was the 1st one who accepted our challenge to cut off his dreads last year, in order to appear more professional and gain more respect, and he was promoted to his current job!
....for all of you who remember Duke, we know you will agree that this bold "soldier" will be forever missed! He helped with gang truces at the center, and challenged drug dealers as he himself showed them the "wad" of money that HE EARNED FROM HARD WORK at a LEGITIMATE JOB...that was all his -- as he challenged them that the "wad" of money that they had in their pocket belonged to someone else, while having to work harder than he did!!!

...Duke helped to get a lot of kids off the street and into our Greater Life Community Outreach Center "Safe Haven"...challenging them to Greater Life!
...THAT'S WHY WE ARE GOING TO GO ON and have our Annual FUND RAISING & CELEBRATION DINNER this Saturday, December 6th @ 5pm @ Snuffys Pantagis!

Duke was looking forward to this, as he made it to just about every year's dinner...and would want us to raise funds necessary to KEEP OUR DOORS OPEN to help more kids than ever off the streets and out of crime!

This dinner must go on...
to honor our dear "Kidstitute" child who was shot this summer at the age of 10 & is still recovering from paralysis...
to honor Duquan "Duke" who was murdered Thursday night...
to help SAVE MORE LIVES --

Duke's life was not in vain...he took hold of GREATER LIFE! He didn't waste a moment enjoying Greater Life! He was proud of the rich legacy of Jesus Christ, and feasted upon how he could better his life more day-by-day. Sometimes shy, yet with a quiet strength, Duke wasn't shy about telling others how he was afforded the opportunity to have a safe place to go every day, to stay off the streets and out of trouble.

PLEASE HELP US TO GET AS MANY PEOPLE TO THE TABLES AS POSSIBLE, and for those who can't attend TO SEND THEIR SUPPORT!!! Let's honor this fallen "soldier"; this awesome "warrior"!

Details of his Homegoing service will be forthcoming, as we are working with Pastor Beckham/Clear View Baptist Church (Duke's mother's Pastor & great supporter of Greater Life). Please keep posted via email and tel # 973-923-2264.

Our hearts are heavy, but thanks to many of your calls, cards, notes, meals, and financial blessings in honor of Duke, we are TOO BLESSED TO BE STRESSED!

May you stand encouraged in light of your losses, concerns, and troubles...may you take hold of Greater Life, more day-by-day...may you experience peace, love, and joy as you allow God to work everything out for you...taking hold of Greater Life! That's what we are attempting to do.

We love and appreciate you reading this, and holding us and our Greater Life "Family", along with Duke's family, up in prayer...

Michael & Maria Westbrook
President & Vice President
Preferred Mailing Address:
P.O. Box 8447
Newark, NJ 07108
Greater Life Community Outreach Center
272 Chancellor Avenue
Newark, N.J.
(973) 923-2264 (Office)
(973) 923-6102(Fax)

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