Rooftop Revelations: Pastor Brooks on growing up without a father and what saved him

ROOFTOP REVELATIONS: Day 60 with Pastor Corey Brooks

CHICAGO – Perhaps the worst thing about growing up in a fatherless home for a child is the feeling of abandonment. In these children’s lives, there will be a defining moment when they realize they do not have a father in their home or in their lives. Coping skills vary among children, but most will wonder why their father is not present. Why does he not love them? Was it something they did? If they are fortunate, they will have someone strong in their lives; a strong mother and/or a substitute father figure, who is willing to invest in them, hold them accountable and teach them to be responsible citizens.

But many children are not lucky. This issue of abandonment has far-reaching consequences, not only for the child but society-at-large. 

Pastor Corey Brooks was a fatherless child. When he found his calling to set up his ministry on the South Side of Chicago where 80% of the homes do not have a father, he made it his mission to ease the feeling of abandonment among the children. He tells them that he loves them. He sets academic, employment and behavior expectations for them. Most importantly, he makes sure they understand that he is always around and available. 

The pastor knows that this abandonment issue is rarely discussed in media, think tanks and other American institutions. That is why on the 60th day of his 100-day rooftop vigil to raise funds to build a community center to combat fatherlessness, he invited George O’Neil, a Florida businessman, to the roof for the second time. This time, they were joined by George’s wife, Erica.

“I was that kid. An absent father, never there, never present,” the pastor began. “I can remember how I always felt a sense of abandonment and a sense of rejection.”

“Most people don’t understand what a terrible burden it is, but it does weigh heavy on many children who don’t know where their father is or why he doesn’t come to see them,” George said. “Many children like that end up in trouble and with drug problems … and it causes all sorts of terrible pathologies that are destructive to the people.”

“Absolutely,” the pastor agreed.

Fatherlessness has been on the rise in America for many decades and across all racial and class lines. According to Department of Justice data released in 1998, children from fatherless homes accounted for 63% of youth suicides, 90% of all homeless and runaway youths, 85% of all children that exhibit behavioral disorders, 71% of all high school dropouts, 70% of juveniles in state-operated institutions, 75% of adolescent patients in substance abuse centers and 75% of rapists motivated by displaced anger. These statistics are likely worse today.

Before she married George, Erica had a son in a previous relationship and was a single mom from the time her son was 6 years old. However, her son avoided the fate of abandonment.

Here son’s father “was no longer in the home, but he spent regular time with our son and my son adored spending time with him,” Erica said. “He was a present father.”

The pastor nodded, knowing that something as simple as that made all the difference. 

“I really do believe one of the things that saved me in the midst of feeling abandonment and rejection from my father is the fact that I had a community center where I had the most wonderful mentors,” the pastor said. “I had an awesome elementary teacher, father-figure and mentor in my life. His name is Joe Stokes … Having him there meant so much.”

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“You always have to have people to help guide you,” George said, acknowledging his good fortune to have a strong father as well as other men around. “But if your father is not present, we do need to help provide for people to help these children grow up.” 

That is why he has been so passionate about supporting the pastor’s efforts to build a community center. Fatherlessness as a crisis in America is only increasing, especially on the South Side of Chicago, and our society is already paying greatly for it.

Children “can’t do it without some example and some guidance,” George said. “If they have nothing, they end up in a gang and the gang is dreadful. I mean, we had a shooting here this afternoon.”

“A really bad shooting,” the pastor said. 

“Forty shots fired a block from here, and that’s because there are children running around in gangs because their fathers weren’t present,” George said.

“We all have this innate desire to belong and want to be a part of something,” Erica said. “If you don’t stand for something, you fall for anything.”

George and Erica do not speak empty words. They have been heavily involved with Warner University to develop individuals committed to helping fatherless children break the generational curses that come with fatherlessness. 

“If you can find that greater community willing to invest and pass that passion onto the young people, it’s transformational,” Erica said. “It is life changing for them.” 

Look no further than the pastor, who was fortunate enough to have a father-figure come into his life when he was a child. Then the pastor went out into the world where he has served as a father-figure to countless youths. The hope is that these children will carry on the good work when their time comes.

Follow along as Fox News checks in Pastor Corey Brooks each day with a new Rooftop Revelation.

For more information, please visit Project H.O.O.D.

Eli Steele is a documentary filmmaker and writer. His latest film is “What Killed Michael Brown?” Twitter: @Hebro_Steele.

Camera by Terrell Allen.

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