Home missionary to teens knows youth problems well
(April 21, 2002)
New Britain, Connecticut David Tralongo used
to be a tough guy. When he was 16 he stole cars, dealt drugs and joined
in street fights in a volatile section of Brooklyn, N.Y. Today, Tralongo
still spends much of his time on the streets, but instead of looking
for cars to steal or people to sell drugs to, he is bent on sharing
Christs message of love and hope as the first Assemblies of God
home missionary to teenagers in the United States.
|Changed heart: Once
a delinquent, David Tralongo now shares Christ with as many youth
Tralongos transformation began when he was
still a teen. His parents moved from Brooklyn to Long Islands
suburbs in the hope of getting him away from his old neighborhood and
negative influences. In the suburbs, Tralongo, then 17, met a pastor
who led him to Christ and discipled him.
"That is where my passion to reach teens comes
from," says the 36-year-old Tralongo, whose Young Hope Ministries
is based in New Britain, Conn. "People reached out to me and that
is what gives me hope for these kids."
New Britain, a city of 75,000 located just south
of Hartford, has many of the same problems any urban area does. In the
citys housing projects, where Tralongo ministers, there are high
pregnancy rates, drug abuse and violence.
Each week Tralongo drives his Speed the Light vehicle
into the projects and gathers teens for rides to Calvary Christian Center
Assembly of God, pastored by Robert Santeusanio.
"It took us five years to get kids to come
to church consistently," says Tralongo, who has worked with the
teens since 1995. "We reach out to kids whose parents dont
come to church and those from difficult and dangerous homes."
Paul Drost, director of church planting for the
Assemblies of God, realizes the importance of longevity in inner-city
ministry. "David has a real heart and is effective in getting kids
off the streets and incorporating them into a church," Drost says.
"He has dealt with the struggles of the inner city."
One teen who has benefited from Tralongos
ministry is Debonair Partin, 14.
"Pastor Dave and the kids made me feel so welcome,"
she says. Tralongo invited her to join the teen choir and has seen her
grow spiritually in the past year. Debonair took an A/G AIM trip to
Mexico in February.
"I loved traveling outside the United States
for the first time so I could tell others what God has done for me."
Besides the teen choir, directed by Tralongos
wife, Kristi, the ministry offers youth activities on Friday nights.
"We take teens to Christian concerts, hold basketball tournaments
or fellowship with them at a pizza party," Tralongo says. "We
want to give them a positive influence."
On Wednesday nights, the 30 or so attendees of the
youth group, combine with a Baptist youth group for praise and worship
and Bible study. The biggest stumbling block in teens lives, Tralongo
says, is an inability to see how important current decisions are to
future living. "They dont build healthy relationships or
continue their education," he says. "But when we are able
to hang around them long enough and spend time with them, they begin
to value our relationship. At that point, they respond."