In January 2021, The Flow Foundation begin partnering with Uprising Bronx Youth Initiative, led by Carissa. Carissa, raised in the San Francisco area, struggled with serious health issues growing up. At one point in her health struggle, Carissa promised herself that if she could survive her illness, she would dedicate her life to helping other teens overcome their struggles. While in college, Carissa met and gave her life to Jesus. Since then, she, with Jesus walking beside her, is fulfilling her life mission of helping troubled teens to find God’s will for their lives.
Carissa moved to New York City to begin sharing the love of Jesus with teens several years ago. She landed in the West Bronx and lives in an apartment building that is in the middle of a gang zone. Carissa hosts Uprising Bronx Youth Initiative in her apartment. She opens her home and her heart weekly to dozens of teens who need to know Jesus’ love.
Carissa lives a daily life in an environment that many of us cannot imagine. Here’s how she describes her mission:
“As I work so closely with gang affiliated youth, with lives consumed by trauma, abuse, violence, fatherlessness, etc., it is often difficult to trust God with their lives. It is not as simple as it sounds. These youth face life and death situations regularly. Sometimes they are homeless, sometimes they are shot at while at their school basketball court, sometimes they are just walking through an oppositional neighborhood to help a friend safely get to their aunt’s home. There are moments that are harder than others. Standing outside the building with our community as the lifeless body of one of my youths’ parents was carried out due to suicide, rushing outside to prevent a youth from getting shot by an adult neighbor, or sitting in an ambulance with a youth unconscious and covered in blood after getting stabbed are all examples of moments where I have struggled to see God’s sovereignty.
Yet, the truth is God has a plan for each of these young people that I get to disciple serve and love…In fact, I know that He loves them more than I do.”
When asked about how she sees God working in the lives of these teens, Carissa shared:
“An incredible example of a group response to scripture took place in the midst of a gang war that had actually divided our youth church. A neighboring gang was at literal war with our block and there was a lot of violence taking place. This war had divided our church as one of the members was also a member of this neighboring gang. He was not safe on our block during this time and was not attending church gatherings. The rest of the church read through the story of Stephen and this story shook the kids. They were amazed at his last words as he was being murdered- he was asking God to forgive those that were killing him. ‘If Stephen can forgive the people that killed him, then we should be able to forgive K for joining [opposing gang]!” J exclaimed. C agreed and added ‘I want this beef to stop. Carissa, if we go talk to our Big Homies and get permission to end this, can we have a peace meeting here with K?” The youth proceeded to present what they had learned in church and asked for permission for peace from the gang leaders. Within hours, a peace meeting happened in my home, K was allowed to safely walk through the neighborhood and continue to attend Uprising Bronx Youth.
Carissa has started two church groups in her apartment and plans to begin another in 2021. She has also established a number of Discovery Bible Studies, several of those studies are now being led by students. The Flow Foundation is humbled to be able to help provide support for Uprising Bronx Youth Initiative, as Carissa shares Jesus with teens in her apartment building and beyond.