People cry a lot when I’m around. It comes with the job. I have the distinct pleasure of stepping into their lives in the intimate moments where vulnerability and gratitude collide. Tears tend to flow from that intersection with a sort of solemn-but-exuberant beauty. You do what you can to brace for it, but it gets you. Every time, it gets you. I’ve wept with men and women all over Tarrant County, but none of them caught me as unprepared as LeKendrick “Lee” Robinson did during the last Community Powered Revitalization (CPR) Blitz. I had been crying with homeowners for two days, and I was shifting into volunteer interviews. Lee was a jovial site captain, overseeing work on a home near the edge of Bedford, TX. This was meant to be a safe interview: if anyone could lift my spirits, it would be him.
He had me bawling within a minute.
This energetic, vibrant man with a sonorous voice and a laugh that carried for miles, it turned out, had not always been so charismatic. His heart of gold had been forged over years in the crucible of the criminal justice system, stoked by the twin fires of curiosity and faith. The Lee I had met — the one who was crying on camera, unable to express the significance of volunteering with 6 Stones, within moments of introducing himself — was much younger than the body that stood before me. He was a new creation, and his passion could not be quelled.
The Letters and The Law
Lee grew up in church. His father and several other relatives were (and still are) pastors, so he was more than familiar with the ideas in the Bible. Despite being saturated in religion, however, he found himself uncommitted to his faith. His knowledge and his actions were held apart from each other, and he spent his days “just doing whatever.” As a young man, Lee was caught shoplifting and ran directly through an employee who tried to stop him on his way out of the store. The aggressive nature of his escape attempt led to joint assault and shoplifting charges. He was convicted of robbery and sent to prison.
“At one point in time, I was ashamed of the things I’ve done,” Lee said in a preliminary interview with 6 Stones. “But I went through it and God has transformed me from that. I spent four and a half years in prison. That whole time I was there, I just was hating being there… I did everything I could to better myself.”
Thinking back to his youth and searching for significance beyond himself, Lee began to explore the Bible in an honest attempt to know and understand God. While incarcerated, he pursued a degree through correspondence at Louisiana Baptist University. He now holds a Bachelor of Arts in Bible and Theology. One letter at a time, the inmate had become a minister.
“I was in deep, intense Bible study. It’s not like I was going after the degree. I was really going after God. I wanted to know Him more. I wanted to have an intellectual and a faith understanding of His word. Getting a degree was really just a by-product of just searching and seeking for God,” Lee said. “With everything in my life now, I’m not looking for accolades. I’m just looking to give God glory and wanting to be where He wants me to be. Then I know my life is worth something.”
In his quest for purpose — for something beyond himself — Lee found Truth in the teachings he had ignored in his youth. No passage was more impactful for him than Ephesians 4:28, which stood out the moment he came across it. It reads: Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need.
“That was me,” Lee said of the first time he stumbled on the verse. “Then, when I came across CPR, it was like I could put that full scripture into fruition. It’s living in my life right now. That’s what CPR does for me. It allows me to live out the word in my life. That’s an awesome thing, because I’ve taken things. And now I have the opportunity to give back.
“After everything I’ve been through, after all the wrong I’ve done, I finally can do something right with my life. That’s why I love CPR so much. Because I can do something good for somebody else. It gives me an opportunity to do that. That’s what I enjoy about it the most: it allows me to do something better and be a better person than what I been.”
Now employed as a truck driver, Lee spends most of his free time volunteering and growing closer to God. He’s been a part of the CPR for two years now, and will be serving in his fourth blitz this fall. A resident of Grand Prairie, he has almost no connection to the area served by the program. But he knew as soon as he saw it in the newspaper that he had to be part of the work.
“I saw an article about CPR and about 6 Stones. It was like a ton of bricks fell on me. This was what I needed to be doing. I looked into it and it had a pull on my heart,” he said. “I’ve been going after it ever since.”
The first time he volunteered, Lee knew almost no one. The only familiar faces were members of the 6 Stones staff, who he’d met only recently on his first visit to the office. He didn’t care. CPR was something he needed to do; something that would help him to heal and move forward after the years he spent in jail. After that first blitz, it became something he didn’t dare keep to himself.
“When you see someone else that has a greater need than you, and you are able to actually help that person, it does something to you on the inside. It really does. That joy is like medicine to your body,” Lee said. “There’s a reason God designed us like that. He didn’t design us for sadness. We understand mourning, we understand loss, we understand things like that. We have people come in and out of our lives. But He didn’t design us and create us for evil and to hate other people. That’s not what God called us for. That’s the reason why we have to overcome the hate in the world. CPR is one of those ways to do that.”
Lee’s church, Ambassadors Today in Forest Hill, TX, has adopted a house in every blitz since the Spring of 2015, with Lee himself taking the lead at his pastor’s request. He now serves as a Site Captain, overseeing work on a specific property every Spring and Fall, and has hopes of replicating the program in his own community before bringing it into more urban areas. Ambassadors Today has given him free reign to study the program and share what he learns in the hopes that they can replicate the program someday. Not that he needed an excuse to get more involved.
Free time is a complex idea for Lee, with his chaotic trucking schedule making it difficult to make firm commitments. And yet, he never seems to lack for opportunities to serve. Often, the weekends and weird hours off find him out in the community wielding a paintbrush or a hammer. He’s eager to pick up chores that went unfinished during major blitzes, and loves to stop in on homeowners from previous projects.
“I went about two or three times to the same house. And every time I’d go out there, the owner just wanted someone to talk to,” he said. “They don’t get that all the time. When you can talk to them; give them love, give them encouragement, give them hope, the things that God will give you — it heals both of you. That’s an awesome thing. That’s what’s going to heal the community. It’s individual healing between us doing other things, and then it will grow.”
Lee believes in “Kingdom Work:” laboring to make the world a better place in humble obedience to the teachings of Jesus Christ. So that’s what he’s doing. One fence, one gutter, one yard at a time.
Healing the Community
CPR has always been about more than houses for Lee. From the moment he found it, this program was about putting his hands — hands that had sinned and stolen — to work for the benefit of others. It was personally meaningful. But it was also important for the broader community.
“We have this longing, this void in our hearts for something bigger than ourselves. The first place we need to go to fill that place is God,” said the inmate-turned-minister-turned-trucker. “Once we get our connection, our relationship with Him, he’ll begin to direct our hearts and begin to pull on our minds and show us the right path to not only bring Him glory, but to show love to others so that people can know that God is God. He is real, He is amazing, and He is awesome!
“Every day, God has something awesome that He can show you about Himself, that He can show you about people, and the more you get that connection with Him — have that relationship with Him — you begin to have that joy. Then, you begin to want to do more for Him.”
It’s this union of hearts that makes CPR so attractive to a man who has committed himself to Kingdom Work. The idea that he can live out his faith and learn more about God while doing, that other people can see the goodness of Jesus Christ in these simple acts of love, has captured him. And he doesn’t think that he’s alone.
According to this zealous volunteer, community events like CPR are vital to the health of the community itself. They allow us to heal ourselves and each other through service, and they provide common ground onto which anyone and everyone can march with pride. We understand ourselves and each other better when we partner to transform our communities. There is no place for division in a community where neighbors care for neighbors regardless of race, religion, or ideology. We all want a better life, and we can work together to find it. We have to.
“In this day and time, especially recent events… something like CPR is really needed to bring races together,” Lee said. “People keep talking about ‘we need to do something in our community, we need to help in our community, we need to do our part in our community to bring about better race relations.’ 6 Stones is a place like that, for that. It’s something that can be used for that.
“With something like CPR — even just with 6 Stones in general, with their mission and their outreach — this is what we need in a day like this. We need something like this. We have to have it, and we have to keep pushing it. It’s steadily growing. That means God is doing something awesome here. I want to be a part of that.”
God’s Kingdom is all-inclusive. Christ gave an open invitation to it at the cross. And, after rising from the grave, His first order of business was to invite us to build it here on Earth. All of us. Each of us. Together.
Let’s get to work.