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BookMark - Kids Off the Block
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A presentation of latest Christian books to hit the stores

Title: Kids Off the Block

Author: Diane Latiker

Genre: Christian Living - Inspirational - Social Issues

Publishing Date: September 1, 2020

Availability in London: Creation Bookstore.

Available in: Paperback

Review by: Tony Kulpa

“You should do something with those kids.”

Diane Latiker heard these words from her mother, referring to the young teens in her Chicago neighborhood of Roseland as they faced being consumed by the world of gangs and violence. Her response, often repeated by men and women throughout history, was, “What can I do?”

The first step Diane took seemed small. She invited nine kids, friends of her daughter, into her own home. She gave them a place “off the block” where they could be safe and accepted. She asked them about their dreams, asked them to tell her “what’s going on with y’all.” And to her surprise, they poured out their fears, their trials, their pain. And the next day, they showed up again. And again.

Diane never planned to grow Kids Off the Block into a major teens program with homework support, sports and music activities, job training, and community outreach. But God did it anyway. Kids Off the Block, and Diane herself, have faced dangers and difficulties most of us couldn’t imagine, but they – and she – persevered. KOB is now a nationally recognized program that works with thousands of Chicago’s teens, and Diane is an award-winning heroine who inspires more than one generation.

This book, Kids Off the Block, is Diane’s story, told in her own voice, carrying the reader through her life, her doubts, and her struggles, but also through the great works that God has done in her community through her efforts. It is a gripping story, so very real, humble and majestic at once. You cannot help but be moved by Diane’s life and the way the Lord has used her to do His will despite opposition from family, community leaders, violent gangs, and even the youths with whom she worked so hard. It is an incredibly genuine story of everyday, practical heroism in the middle of one of North America’s most difficult and dangerous areas.

People love a good hero story, especially the triumph of a regular person over insurmountable dangers through determination and the grace of God. Throughout history, people have drawn tremendous strength from these stories. They spur us on, fill us with a desire to be heroes and heroines ourselves.

Diane’s story is just such a story, but it is – pardon me for saying so – a more dangerous one than most. The legends of most heroes are safe for us. “I wish I could slay a dragon; but they don’t exist. I wish I could rescue hundreds from certain death; but I didn’t live at the right time, in the right place. I wish I could create an organization that would save thousands from hunger and poverty; but I don’t have that kind of money or influence. I wish I could invite people into my home, listen to their needs, and accept them unconditionally; but I don’t...oh, wait.”

Diane’s story is one with tremendous power of conviction, because her situation is so much closer to our own. Do not let the trappings fool you into seeing her life as you would the hero of some fantasy. The core of her story is listening to what people really need, accepting them for who they are, and doing something for them. The situations around most of us may not be so dire as the streets of Chicago, but there are still people who need each of us to hear them and invite them in.

Kids Off the Block should inspire us, it should fill us with awe at how God works in our world, but it should also spur us on to “do something” with the people He has placed in our lives. And it should haunt us, filling us with the same inescapable, terrifying urgency as did Diane’s mother’s words. “You should do something...”