Near the Heart of Urban Youth

Publishing the Stories and Hope of God's Word for Teens Across America's Cities

Detail of an illustration by Ronald Pichardo from Elementz of Life™, issue No. 6. Photo of Heath Evans courtesy of Heath Evans.

Tonya Wilder-Butts is a woman with vision. As editor-in-chief of Elementz of Life™ magazine, she goes after stories that will minister deeply to her audience — the young and urban. The magazine, published by American Bible Society, is geared to youth and young adults of the Hip-Hop culture. It includes compelling street-side stories and art designed to encourage young people and help them resolve some of life's most challenging issues through a biblical lens.

Honoring New Orleans

For the latest issue, she was determined to do something special to honor the city of New Orleans, five years after Hurricane Katrina. As a sports lover, she knew just where to start — the 2010 Superbowl winners, New Orleans Saints. And looking to share a love for both New Orleans and Jesus Christ, she focused on the team's chaplain, Heath Evans.

“Heath was so amazing,” reports Tonya. “Our interview turned out to be 16 pages long — you can't imagine how hard it was to edit it.”

As parents, Heath Evans and his wife, BethAnn, are devoted to their two young daughters. They also founded the Heath Evans Foundation, a ministry dedicated to fostering hope and healing through Christian counseling and intervention in the lives of children and families affected by sexual abuse.

Heath says, “My purpose is to live in such a way that I challenge Christians to be better, and I challenge the unbeliever to go find a source of peace and fulfillment that I have in my life. I'm in the pursuit of that which all Christians are . . . to try to stay planted in God's Word, understand it, digest it and put it into action.”

The Tough Issues

For the rest of issue No. 6, Tonya tackled some tough subjects: from music to sexuality, self-destruction and ultimately finding worth in God's eyes. These are stories, poems and illustrations that speak from a very personal place. And they all point to God's Word and a vision for the future that includes healthy community in relation to Jesus Christ.

Feedback on prior issues is overwhelmingly enthusiastic from readers and supporters alike. A woman named Barbara Ann who is incarcerated at Plane State Jail in Dayton, Texas, wrote, “I read your magazine from cover to cover. I believe if it affected me as it did, it will help many others of all different races and ages . . . I know I can do anything through God who strengthens me. It starts with being free on the inside!”

ABS donors and Elementz of Life supporters Aileen and Bob Adams, who live in Charlotte, N.C., visited four prisons in April. The most common question they heard was,“ ‘Did you bring us any Elementz of Life magazines? When will issue six be out?' So many are hungry for this magazine,” they said.

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