Excerpt from Ministry on the Fringes by Kevin Portman

Kevin Portman, a graduate student at Duke University’s Divinity school, recently wrote a paper about homeless youth that he encountered near UT while studying as an undergrad.  Portman interviewed Terry about SYM’s role in caring for these young people.


In describing Austin’s street youth, Portman writes, “(Cole) relates with about 100 self-named ‘drag rats,’…the term ‘rat’ conjures up an image of disgust, mistrust and aversion.  Apparently the street youth have a clear understanding about how they are perceived.” He goes on to describe the youths’ struggle to survive. They take a little from a lot of people to avoid ‘over-asking’ or ‘blowing up a relationship,’ a term the youths use when they have taken too much, thus ending the relationship.


Regarding the youths’ spiritual welfare, Portman writes, “A fascinating insight into the cognitive and spiritual state of these youth can be gained through a Bible study exercise that Cole employs….asking (the youth) to go around the room and take turns sharing a story they know from the Bible….commonly 40 or so stories are shared….however the stories are ‘twisted’ in some way. They each had the framework of the story, but either the specifics or interpretation was leading them to have somehow previously heard a lie…How can someone make an informed decision to follow Christ or recognize the grace of God working in him or her while holding these untruths?”


Portman describes SYM this way: “Cole regards (street youth) as worthy in a way foreign to most people…his inclusive ministry represents the Christian ideal that affirming the divine imprint of God in each human being compels us to love as an extension of God’s love at work in us.”


Ultimately, Portman writes, “I have done a horrible thing to myself. After interviewing Terry Cole, I have put myself on the unavoidable path toward caring and praying for this ministry. Whereas these ‘drag rats’ were once off my radar, now hearing the truth of God’s powerful work in this demographic has opened my eyes to a desire of God – to transform and redeem the lives of these young people. Further, I can no longer turn away from this problem now that I finally understand it and know how redemption is being facilitated through Street Youth Ministry.”



“To know, love and serve street dependent youth.”
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