Soul for the Streets

Julia Oliver cradles “Hannah”, an infant who was abandoned at the front gate of one of India's HIV/AIDS orphanages
Stephen Tavani (center), president of WOW International shares a copy of Elementz of Life™ with a couple of WOW Jam attendees. Photo by Tonya Wilder-Butts.

Growing up on unfriendly city streets full of gangs and drug dealers, 15-year-old Carlos has never felt truly loved or understood. He has looked for glimmers of hope, but they’re hard to find. What he has heard about church or God from the occasional sidewalk preacher scares and turns him off. Carlos has picked up a Bible before, but he found it overwhelming and difficult to understand—the language wasn't his own.

Stories like Carlos' are all too common among youth who live in our cities and metropolitan areas. Many are neglected and disrespected, facing gang violence, drug abuse and negligent parenting.

American Bible Society (ABS) has been engaged with urban outreaches in the past, but in 2004, ABS decided to reach out and meet city youth right where they are, as they are. The desire to help these teens find success, hope and God's love is what led to the creation of Elementz of Life™ .

Elementz of Life is a raw, real look at the everyday lives and struggles of urban youth. Through a combination of powerful testimonies, poetry and vivid imagery, the publication brings God's hope and love out of the churches and into the streets—in a way and language that is relatable and relevant to today's urban young people.

“Sometimes they feel the Bible is ancient or that it doesn't speak to them,” says Tonya Wilder-Butts, the publication's editor-in-chief. “We needed something we could use to…spoon-feed the gospel in a relevant way.”

Elementz of Life seeks innovative ways to minister to these youth wherever they are in their lives. Each volume tackles hard-hitting issues, such as life in gangs, drug addiction, suicidal thoughts and dating violence. Stories and pages are peppered with spiritual truths and Scriptures. Elementz of Life also contains practical suggestions and directions from a biblical perspective to help readers overcome emotional and relational problems. At the back of each issue is “Support from the Bible”—a list of Scriptures that speak directly to the struggles teens may be facing.

The magazine also prominently features interviews with Christian athletes and recording artists, as well as other people who have changed their lives. Each one of them explains the significance the Bible has had in helping shape them into the people they are today.

Julia Oliver cradles “Hannah”, an infant who was abandoned at the front gate of one of India's HIV/AIDS orphanages
Previous issues of Elementz of Life.

Wilder-Butts receives mail from her readers regularly who describe how important the magazine has been to their initial spiritual development. A youth leader at Avenue of Hope Fellowship in New York City shares her excitement about the magazine. “There's nothing out there like Elementz of Life. Every issue hits right at the heart of what my youth are facing on a daily basis. And so many times, this is what helps open the door for us.”

Working in partnership with Youth for Christ and Spanish youth ministry Otra Onda, Elementz of Life is distributed in summer camps, high schools, after-school programs and Christian clubs nationwide.

Volume 6 of Elementz of Life will be debuting in September.

Thanks to the support of our faithful financial partners, American Bible Society has been engaging people with the life-changing message of God’s Word for more than 200 years.

Help us share God's Word where needed most.

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