Alumni | The SPU Voices Podcast

“Mentoring Urban Students and Teens,” with Rick Newell

Rick NewellAmanda Stubbert: Welcome to the SPU Voices Podcast, where we tell personal stories with universal impact. I’m your host, Amanda Stubbert. And today we sat down with Rick Newell. He started his career in tech, then worked at the Rotary Boys & Girls Club in the Central District of Seattle for seven years.

He saw the hardship that many of these young men had to overcome and came to firmly believe in the need for positive, near-peer, male role models. The MUST mentoring program was born from this belief. The rest, as they say, is history.

MUST has continued to incrementally add youth and mentors and adapt based on feedback from those who were being served. And now, there’s more change in store. Rick, thank you so much for joining us today.

Rick Newell: Thanks for having me, Amanda. I really appreciate it. I’m excited to sit down with you here.

Amanda: Well, there’s so much to talk about with your story. I just want to just dive right in to make sure we can touch on as much as possible. Can you just quickly take us through the process of starting MUST in the beginning?

Rick: No, I can’t do it quickly.

Amanda: Let me rephrase. Can you take us through it?

Rick: It’s really hard to do it quickly. But yeah, as much as I don’t want to admit it, I grew up really privileged. My dad’s a really successful doctor and both my mom and my dad are still married, still love each other. And my sister is still one of my best friends. And so, as far as a head start in life goes, I had it really good. And I went to dear old SPU. I bounced around a little bit, but graduated from there. I lived on Ashton 5, shout out to any Ashton 5 people out there.

Amanda: Fifth Ashton?

Rick: Yeah, first two years. And then slowly built a decent career in technology, not an incredible career, but a decent career in technology. And then, about 18 years ago now, I had just a really bad meltdown. My life just really fell apart, and it was a bunch of things hitting me at the same time. Any one particular thing, it wasn’t overwhelming, but all of them together just added up to some really difficult times.

“My life just really fell apart, and it was a bunch of things hitting me at the same time.”

And the center of that was definitely insomnia. I couldn’t sleep. On a global scale of the hardships in life, what I had to go through was obviously very small, but it was really nasty for me. And so, yeah, insomnia, I tell people imagine you’re sick and you miss a single night’s sleep, how nasty you feel. And then imagine three of those nights in a row. And then a week, and a month. And mine was six months. I know it sounds like a really simple thing, but I couldn’t sleep.

Amanda: Well, can I just break in and say, so we had two children, they’re two years apart, and neither one of them slept through the night until they were 2. So I went four years without sleeping well or sleeping at all. And so I truly can say I understand. I remember there were mornings where I would just melt into tears because I thought, I don’t even know how I keep going.

Rick: Yeah.

Amanda: So I just want to say as much as I completely understand you saying worse things could happen to you, I also want to say, that is not a small thing.

Rick: Yeah. You’re just the worst version of yourself all the time. It’s the way that feels.

Amanda: Yes. Yeah.

Rick: And yeah, for me, it felt like I was slowly going mad. I know that sounds dramatic, but I remember lying in bed one night thinking if they took me to the mental hospital tomorrow, I would say, “How long can I stay?” It was really nasty. And I remember I was working for a big computer company, it was a stressful job. It was their mission-critical platinum accounts, big accounts like Charles Schwab, and Fidelity, and FedEx.

So it was a stressful job and it was also the graveyard shift. So it was 8 o’clock at night, until 6:00 in the morning. And my body just couldn’t … some people can do it, but I just couldn’t. Some things started to add up, and the sleep just put me over the top, and it was sort of a snowball. It just got worse and worse.

I usually don’t share this much of the story, but I remember I took all my vacation time and all my comp days (which was three weeks), and I took three weeks and at the end of three weeks, I still couldn’t sleep. And I remember having to go back to that job and that schedule again, it was just hopeless.

I know again, in the grand scheme of things, but I was starting to think about taking my own life. It was just bad. I was on medication and getting bad side effects from that for sleep. It was just nasty. And so, around the first two weeks of December, so this time of year, I think about it every year, even though it was so long ago, I was still barely hanging on with God.

And I was reading the first reading in Revelation, and it’s Jesus talking to one of the churches. And he says, “I know your deeds, you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead. Wake up, strengthen what remains and is about to die for your deeds, if not found favor in the sight of my Lord.”

And those words “wake up”, it was like they were in capital letters. They just jumped off the page. And at first, I got mad because I’ve been begging God for sleep for so long, but I just kept thinking about it. For about two weeks, those words, just the word of God penetrated even to dividing soul and spirit. It went in deep and I kept thinking, “He is right. Large parts of me are just asleep.” I know your original question. I’m getting to it. It just leads you there.

Amanda: Yeah.

Rick: And so, I just started to pay attention to things that make me feel awake. I’m an artist at heart ever since I can remember. I’ve always been drawing and filling sketchbooks, but I hadn’t cracked a sketchbook in probably three years. And so there was a lot of things like that where I just started saying, “All right, I’m going to do what makes me feel awake. And I really don’t care what anybody else thinks.”

“I just started saying, ‘All right, I’m going to do what makes me feel awake. And I really don’t care what anybody else thinks.'”

And one of those things was my career. I didn’t want to do computers and IT anymore. And so I moved back to Seattle, and we moved. I moved into the Central District with some friends to do some really nontraditional home church community. If you don’t know South Seattle, it is super diverse. It has two of the top 10 most diverse ZIP codes in my county.

So it is beautiful. You go to the grocery store here and everybody shows up and that’s where we wanted to live as a community. And so I thought, “Hey, I’ll keep my life simple. Maybe I could walk to work.” And I started walking the Central District, and I walked by the Rotary Boys & Girls Club, which is sponsored by Rotary #4. I’m also a Rotarian. So I’ll shout out to any Rotarians that are listening. But it was sponsored by Rotary #4.

I walked in and Ms. Patrick, the director, gave me a tour of the place and every room she brought me into, I felt awake. It was like goosebumps almost. They have this little tiny gym, but this amazing AAU basketball program that goes out of there. Possibly the number one pick in the NBA draft next year will come out of this program that grew out of this little tiny gym.

They had a Lego room at the time, which I still love. And they had an art room, which I’m an artist, and a couple computer labs. And so on my way out the door, I said, “You don’t have any jobs, do you?” And she said, “No, I don’t.” And my heart kind of skipped a beat. And then she said, “Unless your background’s computers, and then I would have a job for you.” And then I thought, “Whoa, there’s something there.”

And so I went to work there. I was there for seven years. So I wasn’t Superman. Superman is in and out, saves the day, and leaves. I was there every day and just considering my background, it was just a real eye-opener for me to see what those kids had to deal with on an everyday basis just to survive, much less thrive.

And so, it took three months before I could sleep through the night. But about, honestly, two years before I felt like you couldn’t just push me over emotionally with your pinky finger, and Rotary was a safe place just to put my life back together.

But I started thinking about what are the main issues going on here? Because kids that I saw every day were getting into armed robbery and murder and terrible things. And I knew that for me in high school, a guy mentored me, discipled me. A guy named Greg Price, we’d meet once a week. And we would read the Bible together. He’d teach me how to read the Bible and pray.

And it seems like a simple thing, but he would do that. And then we’d go and do fun stuff on the weekends with him and some other guys. And it was just very normalizing. And I had that in my brain. And so we started thinking about that for the club, and these great guys would come and work at the Boys & Girls Club who made it through high school. And they were either on their way to college or thinking about what to do.

Most of the kids there were Black Americans. And so when these guys, these Black American guys would come and work at the club, the kids would really pay attention to what they’re saying. And they would listen to me, but not as much as they would listen to them.

Amanda: Sure.

Rick: Yeah, we had this crazy idea that we would take guys like those, find Black American guys in college, and pay them really well. They start at $30 an hour, we pay them really well to mentor the most vulnerable Black American guys in Seattle Public Schools.

And so we get them when they’re [high school] freshmen, and it’s a six-year mentoring program. We follow them all four years of high school and then give them support two years after high school. And then we also give the mentor a coach as well, the mentor gets a mentor. And so the coach is somebody of any race that comes alongside our mentors and just helps them navigate life. All the things that I thought about in college: relationships and career and all those things, it just helps them.

And so some things really make us unique. Number one is that we care about our mentors, just as much as we care about our kids. We genuinely care about them. And so, our mentors will meet for breakfast once a week with our kids. And then twice a month, we go and do fun stuff around the city.

“We’re in our 10th year right now. And our outcomes, they’re just outstanding.”

And then quarterly, we’ll do some more sort of life-skill events like finances and relationship and health and wellness. And so, we’re in our 10th year right now. And our outcomes, they’re just outstanding. Really great.

Amanda: Wow.

Rick: Seattle Public Schools graduate … publicly, they say 73% of their kids. And we only serve the most underserved kids. And 83% of our kids are on track to graduate high school. Black American males graduate college at 34% if they’re attempting school for the first time.

And 75% of our mentors are on track to graduate college. And that is trending up. That’ll be up into the 80s eventually, I hear. And so, it’s working. It’s a long answer to your question, but it’s hard to tell succinctly. So there you go.

Amanda: Yeah, no. That’s so fantastic. And there’s many things about that I want to unpack. So let’s quickly go back to your journey and what brought you through really into the Rotary Club. There’s just a few things that come to mind: Specifically, how at least in a church community, and I suppose in the business community, as well, people tend to sugarcoat the crisis that brought them to where God wanted them to be.

Rick: Yeah.

Amanda: And I so appreciate that you did not do that because sometimes it’s like, “Yeah, I had a hard time and then God brought me here and it all worked out.” I think people need to realize the depth of crisis that brought you where you wanted to be because if we don’t see that in others, we don’t recognize it in ourselves.

Rick: Yeah. It’s definitely a misconception in following Christ that bad things don’t happen to good people.

Amanda: Right.

Rick: That is a misconception that the world thinks about it. But really, it’s just the opposite in following Jesus. The worst thing happened to the best person, Jesus. And so we shouldn’t be surprised when our life is full of difficult things. That comes with the territory. So yeah, I totally agree.

Amanda: The other thing I would just add on to that piece of this story is how the other thing I’ve seen happen over and over again, and I would say also in my own life, if you get in a crisis and you’ve been in it so long, you’re doing that, “I don’t even know how to help myself,” that the answer is usually to start helping someone else.

Rick: Yeah. Perfect.

Amanda: Right?

Rick: Yeah.

Amanda: That an answer for you starts to come when you get your eyes off your own issue and start helping someone else. And I just see that so clearly in your own story. I love that.

Rick: Yeah. So good, Amanda. I don’t think I recognized that at the time, but you’re absolutely right.

Amanda: Sure. Well, when do we, right?

Rick: Yeah.

Amanda: When do we see it at the time? OK.

Rick: Yeah. Stop navel-gazing and start looking around this … there’s other people in pain, as well. Yeah.

Amanda: Right. Which at the very least gives you some perspective. Right?

Rick: Yeah.

Amanda: And I feel like you even brought that into the MUST program. It’s not easy being a first-generation college student, but when you can do that with help, with coaching, with support, and be giving back to a younger version of yourself at the same time, there’s just so much strength there on every piece of that chain.

Rick: Yeah, our kids run out of excuses pretty quickly. They can’t say “My mom never …” or “I never had …” because all of our, not all of our mentors, but a lot of our mentors were the same. They were like, “Well, I never had that. And I’m in college. What’s your excuse?” Or some of our guys are early career. Maybe not necessarily in college, but they’re in a career and they can say, “Well, I had it tough, too, but look where I am.” There’s just something powerful about that.

“‘Well, I had it tough, too, but look where I am.’ There’s just something powerful about that.”

Amanda: Right. And what I feel like is unique to some mentoring programs, what’s unique to MUST, is that near-peer idea that you want that first mentor to the high school student to be as much like him as possible. Can you talk about why you think that’s so important?

Rick: Yeah. It’s not always the case. I’ve been discipling and mentoring most of my life and it’s not always the case, but it definitely helps. I know a lot about Black history and Black culture, but if you put me with a Black American freshman at Rainier Beach High School, which is a school here in the Rainier Valley, it would take a long time for that guy to probably trust me, just because there’s so many differences.

But if you put him with a guy who’s close in his age, same race, they like some of the same music, they play the same video games, it just accelerates the trust factor. It might take that guy two or three years to trust me, but our mentors, it’s just easier for them to trust.

And because our kids, not all of them, but a lot of them, they experience just some horrific things, and to have a safe person to talk about that with is just super important. Yeah.

Amanda: Yeah. It’s interesting when you talk about privilege really just as a concept, which of course plays into a lot of this work that you do, this idea of privilege or lack thereof. And lately, I just keep thinking more and more how privilege is absence of fear because the more things you have basically ready for you when you’re born, the fewer things you have to live day-to-day afraid of.

I happen to be a white-skinned woman in a fairly affluent neighborhood. I don’t worry about the police. Some people do for a good reason and some people don’t have to. I just think that absence of fear has so much to do with the choices you make in life and what you’re able to … the energy that you have to give to your own story.

Rick: Yeah. It is right where I’m at right now. What God is … fear is what he’s pushing on me personally right now. I’ve struggled with maybe anger, my temper. I’m not abusive, but anyway. But my kids, we have four sons, but God’s really softening my heart. I still have a ways to go, but that’s the new thing he’s working on with me is fear: “You live in a lot of fear, Rick.” And I’m just barely tipping my toe in that water, thinking about all the things that occupy my mind and how much fear I live in, it’s so true. Yeah.

Amanda: I found it interesting when we talked earlier that you really practice what you preach, and you always have a mentor of some sort. And when I think of that, I just think of finding a mentor that sticks with you for a long time. But you explained that you actually choose new mentors based on how you want to improve yourself. And I found that absolutely fascinating. Can you talk about that for a minute?

Rick: Yeah. I just ask a new guy to mentor me once a year. And so yeah, every year it’s different and I just think about … so my anger was one I just confessed and I knew this guy named Ray Brook, and he was just full of joy. And so I said, “Ray, I want to learn more joy. Would you meet with me for a year?”

And so Ray took it seriously. And so we just met not every week, but most weeks, and just going through life. I like a year because as much as you might idolize somebody, after three or four months of hanging out with somebody, the luster wears off and you realize, “They’ve got just as much junk as I do. And they’re human.” And I tell them, “Hey, I’ll read any book you want, and any podcast you want me to listen to. Whatever you want to do this year, I’m yours.”

Like last year’s guy didn’t really take it as seriously as I would have hoped. But this year’s guy, we’re really good friends with the Canlis family who run the Canlis Restaurant. And so this year I want to be a better son to my mom and dad. I’m not a bad son, but I want to be his other son.

And so he’s known me since I was 7 or so. And so he knows my history. He knows my parents really well. And so he is just a good person to be a sounding board to what I went through growing up. I didn’t go through bad stuff growing up. But just to process with somebody safe.

It just depends on every year. I met with an executive at ESPN, and he was very corporate and he just put me through the wringer every week and just had me really work hard. And I grew professionally during that season of life. And so, it’s the temperament. It’s what Jesus did.

He modeled discipleship, somebody pouring into your life and you pour into somebody else’s life, I think is what he modeled. That’s what he chose to change the world. He didn’t entrust himself to 100,000 people to take over the world. He invested really well in 12 guys.

I’ve heard it arrived as 12, 3, and 1. He invested in his 12 and then his three, Peter, James, and John, that he invited into his more intimate moments like the transfiguration or raising the girl from the dead. And then he had his one, which was John.

And so the kingdom of God is really subversive, the parable of the mustard seed or the parable of the treasure in the field. That mentoring is not super cool and sexy. People don’t see you doing it, but over time, it’s a little seed, but it grows.

Like Greg Price, the guy that mentored me, discipled me when I was in high school, he didn’t know it, but he turned that on in me and I’ve discipled guys my whole life. And we have a mentoring program. MUST mentoring program’s going to go national. And the most vulnerable kids in America are going to be helped over time. I don’t know if that’s hundreds or thousands of kids because that one guy chose to disciple me.

“It’s a simple and powerful thing to invest in somebody else.”

It’s a small thing but over time, it is so powerful. I’m no special guy. I’m just a normal guy. I’m not saying that to toot my horn, I’m just saying that it’s a simple and powerful thing to invest in somebody else, someone investing in me and me investing in someone else.

Amanda: Right. But it’s exponential if you continue to give back what you’ve been given.

Rick: Yeah.

Amanda: Go ahead.

Rick: Yeah. Real quick. Legend has it that the maker of the game of chess brought the game to the ruler of India. And the ruler said he loved the game so much. He said, “Ask whatever you wish and it’s yours.” And he said, “I’ll have one grain of rice for the first square, two for the second, four for the third, eight for the fourth, all the way through the board.” And the ruler said, “It’s yours.” And as you can probably guess, he had just signed away his kingdom.

And if you did that, if you multiplied all the squares through the chessboard and you lined up all those grains of rice from here, it would go from here. Can you imagine how far it’ll go? It’ll go from here to the nearest star, Alpha Centauri, and back.

That’s the idea: those grains of rice representing I’m going to invest in somebody, and somebody else is going to invest in somebody else. And somebody else is, that power of multiplication is what changed the world. Christianity is the most populous religion on the planet because that idea that you’re investing your life into one person is really powerful.

Amanda: And who makes the best mentors? I’m sure somebody out there is thinking, “I’m going to make a call tomorrow and get myself a mentor or be a mentor.” But there’s other people listening, thinking, “Well, that’s great for him. I don’t think that would work for me.” Having seen it from both sides, who makes the best mentors?

Rick: Yeah. You just need two things to be a good mentor. Anybody can do these two things. And number one is show up and number two is listen. You just got to do those two things. If you’re a jabberjaw, which is some people, I’m more quiet, I’m talking a lot here, but I’m more quiet by nature. But if you talk a lot, that’s fine. That’s the way God designed you. You’re going to have to learn to be quiet and just ask questions and listen for a long time.

We tell our mentors, “Hey, for about three months, we really don’t want you to give any advice. You’re going to be really tempted to because freshmen do things that aren’t wise, but we just want you to ask questions and listen for three months.”

If you can show up with somebody and ask questions and listen, that is mentoring, that is discipleship. You could include Jesus into that equation, but you don’t need to be special. It’s just the consistency. If you’re meeting on Mondays at noon, just keep showing up at Mondays at noon and do that. It’s not a special recipe. Yeah.

“If you can show up with somebody and ask questions and listen, that is mentoring, that is discipleship.”

Amanda: I think that’s maybe not such a bad idea with any new relationship. Like you meet new people, even like, “Oh, is someone I want to be friends with.” We tend to sometimes want to talk about ourselves when just really listening and absorbing is what most people want. So, yeah. I think that’s a pretty good idea for all of us.

And speaking of thriving, now that MUST is doing so well and like you said, is on a trajectory of national involvement, and yet you and your wife, Rebecca, are stepping away from leadership. Can you talk about that decision?

Rick: Yeah, sure. We never felt called to lead MUST for the long term; we felt called to start it, but not lead it. And we had three goals for MUST. And that was to serve the most number of the most vulnerable youth for the longest period of time. Again, the most number of the most vulnerable youth for the longest period of time. And we didn’t really care how that happened.

And so to answer your question, three things definitely have led to it. Number one, by a long shot, is Kelvin Washington Jr. He is our executive director. He started working for us three years ago, and he’s just an incredible leader. He’s amazing. He leads with fun. He can lead seriously. He can discipline well. He’s got two master’s degrees. He’s got an amazing life story. He raises money. He’s just an incredible guy.

And really, it sounds dramatic, but the hiring of him was a miracle. We should not have gotten him. The story was a miracle. He took a massive pay cut to come work for this little tiny organization. And the process was incredible. And so if it wasn’t him, there were not neon signs pointing to him saying, “He’s your guy,” but it’s about as close to that as you can. If you met him, you’d say, “OK. Yeah, I get it. That’s a pretty easy decision.” So we shouldn’t get a lot of credit for what we’re doing.

And then the other one is, number two would be, in a cool twist of irony as a white male, there’s just a lot of doors that are closed to me in the Black community and 90% of those doors shouldn’t be closed to me. And so in Seattle, it doesn’t hurt me as much. Like I said, I worked at the Boys & Girls Club for seven years.

And at the end of that time, I could go into any elementary, middle school, high school gym in the Rainier Valley, and Black kids and families would run up to me, “Rick, Rick, Rick,” just because I showed up every day. I was there every day after school. I spent every day during the summer with them. And that works here in Seattle. Nobody knows me now just because I’m so many years removed from that.

But if we go to Atlanta, then I don’t have any equity there and it really hurts us nationally to grow. So that’s that. And then the third one is, I’m just a starter by nature. I’m not good at maintaining and growing. I have a lot of skill sets, but they’re all two inches deep, if you get what I mean.

To give you an idea, MUST is paying seven different people to do all the jobs that I used to do. Three of those are full-time people. So I have a lot of skills. I know accounting and HR, but I don’t know a lot of those things. And so now we’re hiring a lot of full-time people and my lack of knowledge and HR hurts us, not helps us. And same is true for accounting and websites and graphic design and all of those things.

When we’re small, it doesn’t hurt us, but now I’m more of a hindrance than a help. And so, what makes me feel awake is doing startup. Seeing chaos, bringing order to chaos. And that’s what makes me feel awake. And I still feel awake with MUST, but not the way I used to.

And I just know that more kids, in order to serve the most number of the most vulnerable youth for the longest period of time, that new leadership, especially leadership that accurately reflects the population that we’re serving, is needed. And God just has really orchestrated that.

“Leadership that accurately reflects the population that we’re serving is needed. And God just has really orchestrated that.”

Amanda: So you said you’re a starter and you’re about starting new things. So you want to tell us about, you and Rebecca both, your new project?

Rick: Yes. You bet. It’s really exciting. I haven’t started yet, but I just am chomping at the bit to get into it. We’re in fundraising mode right now, but in January we’ll be able to actually start on it. Yeah. If you think about, I’m not making a political statement in this … I respect people if you’re a vaxxer or non-vaxxer. I’m not making any statement.

But the idea of a vaccine … the MUST mentoring model is really unique. There’s nothing like it in the country. It is just so unique. And it’s like a vaccine for high school dropouts, if you follow my meaning. And so we’re wondering if that same idea would work for the foster care system. So what we would do is find young adults who grew up in foster care and pay them and support them really well to mentor kids currently in foster care.

And with MUST, it’s same race, same age, that’s the tie that binds. But for this new one, it would be that they’re both in foster care. It’s not a club you want to be part of, but it’s a very exclusive club. And the idea, obviously, would be that if the youth knew that his mentor or her mentor (we would do both guys and girls in this new thing), if they knew that their mentor was in foster care, again, it would accelerate the trust process faster and be able to foster more healing.

And then instead of the mentors getting just a coach … Jesus is not involved in MUST. He is not on the face of it. There’s no curriculum, you don’t see anything. But in this new thing, we just feel like God and Jesus should be more a part of it. And so the mentor would get not a coach, but a Christian family from a “healthy Christian family.” And they would go watch what a healthy family is like.

And then if you don’t know the foster care system, oh, it is so brutal. To give you just a couple ideas, I know stats can make you numb, but just your listeners, if you can just wake up for a second, but Black Americans graduate at about 80% across the country. Foster care kids graduate at about 55% across the country.

Once they age out of foster care, meaning the state doesn’t support them, after four years, half of them don’t even have income. So they don’t just drop out, they drop off. And it’s just what they have to overcome. If I took you, Amanda, and I put you in a new city and you couldn’t talk to your husband or any of your friends or your family, and you had to re-acclimate yourself even as an adult, that would be hard for you not to have any support structure around you.

And then, so you’re red, going to yellow and to green. How long would it take you to get from yellow and then finally to green, to a healthy place?

Amanda: Right.

Rick: And then, I would take you out of that environment again and put you in a new environment with no relations before and a whole new rules in that house and new friends, new school. Again, how long would it take you to get from red to yellow, to green, much longer? And then if I did it to you again, I pulled you out and put you somewhere else. And so foster care kids move at least, on average, four times in the system.

It’s whole different issues. With MUST, we teach something called eight things that make a man and we’re teaching them how to be a man. So year number one is we want you to own your mistakes and we want you to be a man of your word. That’s all we want you to think about.

But in foster care, I don’t even know what … I would assume it would be more identity or value. We’re just not really sure. Like I said, I know a lot about Black history and Black culture, but I don’t know a lot about foster care. So in January, we’re going to start learning. We’re going to talk to people in the community.

If you’re listening and you know a lot about foster care or a little, you can email us, check us out. We would love to learn from you. Read books, do training, podcasts, and just immerse ourselves in the culture to see if this new idea, if it could work. It seems like a good idea in our brains, but we just want to go into it with eyes wide open. And so that’s where we’re headed next. And we’re excited to get going on something new.

“If you’re listening and you know a lot about foster care or a little, you can email us, check us out. We would love to learn from you.”

Amanda: That’s amazing. It does seem to be one of those populations right now that are so underserved. And like you said, the analogy of being dropped in a new city with no support, I could put myself there emotionally and think how hard would that be? And yet, I know that there are things I could do because I’ve done it before. And these kids have never had any success. They have never been given the tools to thrive.

Rick: Yeah.

Amanda: So, yeah, it’s just really heartbreaking to think about that.

Rick: Yeah. As I’ve described it, it’s separate from the state-sponsored foster care system. So when kids move, they don’t have any consistency. And like with MUST, when kids move, we’re still in their lives. As long as they don’t move out of state or the other side of the mountains, we’re still in their lives. And the same would be with foster with this new thing that we’re with you.

For the next six or seven years, we’re with you, no matter where you go. And we even think, maybe we’ll say, “Wherever in the state they move you, if they move you to Spokane, we’re still going to go see you.” Maybe we fly out there twice a month to go see the youth there, or just to promise them, “We will be here for the remainder, for the next six or seven years, we’re going to be here for you.”

And that consistency, I would imagine … Our very first cohort of MUST kids had one kid named Michael, and he was in foster care and he lived right by the Boys & Girls Club. We put him in MUST and then they moved him north of Everett for a time. And then they moved him south of Tacoma for a time. And we just realized you can’t ask a college student to go drive all around and follow this guy.

And so we said, “Hey, we’ll figure this out later.” And originally we thought it would go under the MUST umbrella, but just as we have thought about and prayed about it, we feel like, especially because of the faith aspect, it should be its own thing. That will keep us from some funding that won’t support us because of that. But it also opens up other funding, too … so yeah, I can’t wait, man. I can’t wait to get going.

Amanda: That’s fantastic. Even just the concept of providing stability for these kids who have very little stability, and it’s such a huge ask. Even just to be able to take it on, just seems absolutely phenomenal. Good for you. We’re going to be praying for you, for sure.

Rick: Yeah. Thanks. We need it. It’s spiritual darkness, man. There’s amazing people in the foster care world with huge hearts and just doing great stuff spiritually, but it’s also a spiritual battleground. There’s just some darkness there that you just … just getting on your knees is going to be, I think, a large part of the battle. Yeah.

Amanda: Yeah, absolutely. Well, Rick, this is been such a great time. I would love … I can’t wait to hear your answer to this one. We ask all of our guests the same last question: If you could have everyone in Seattle do one thing tomorrow that would make the world a better place, what would you have all of us do?

Rick: Yeah. I have two for you. One, for certain, is that if all of Seattle placed their faith in Jesus Christ, not just Seattle would change, but the whole world would change. I’m sure that your listeners are a spectrum of faith journeys, but I don’t mean the Jesus that you might have learned in church or through the TV or YouTube or wherever, but the genuine Jesus in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, the four gospels. What Jesus teaches is world-changing. Not just Seattle would change, the world would change.

Amanda: Yeah.

Rick: If 700,000 people gave their lives to Jesus, love your enemy. That idea alone, it is earth-shaking. It really is.

Amanda: Yeah.

Rick: To genuinely love the people that are considered your enemy, he says to rejoice with those who rejoice, and mourn with those who mourn. And even my friends, even if my friends have something a little bad happen to them, some part of my heart is glad that they’re not going forward. There’s something sick about that, but even more so with your enemies. That my enemy is rejoicing then my natural inclination is to be sad.

But Jesus says, “No. Even your enemy, you should be at such a place with me and how much I love you and how awesome you are that if your enemy is thriving, it shouldn’t bother you. You should be rejoicing with them. If they’re doing poorly, you should be sad with them.” So that’d be definitely number one.

But number two, I would say definitely for me is to go and do what makes you feel awake. And I know that’s a cheesy thing, but I totally believe it. And I understand that it comes from maybe a place of privilege. If I had a microphone and I could talk to the whole world, and I told them that we have a family of six and three times a day, we sit down and eat until we’re full. We snack in between breakfast and lunch. And we snack in between lunch and dinner and we snack after dinner. We really eat six times a day.

And we have two refrigerators, one in the kitchen, one in the garage to hold all of our food. And I have a machine that washes my clothes and another machine that all it does is dry my clothes and another machine that just washes and dries all my dishes. On a world scale, the opulence that I live in it’s… I run small nonprofits. I don’t make a lot of money, but globally, I am super wealthy.

I have two cars and I’m certain they’ll start. And I’m certain they’ll get me to where I go and come back. And I can go into the kitchen and get clean, cold, drinkable tap water whenever I want. If you live in that reality, it’s just amazing.

But even in that, I think no matter where you are economically, to do what makes you feel awake is just super important. And I understand giving your life to Jesus is a lot of dying to yourself. Repeatedly, he says, “Take up your cross and follow me. I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.” I get that. But he also says parables like the talents where the parable is the master gives one guy five talents, another guy two, and another person one, guy or girl.

The master goes away on a journey, comes back, and the one with five turns it into 10. And the ones with two turns it into four, but the one with one buries his talent or her talent, and when the master comes back, he’s really mad. And he throws him out with weeping and gnashing of teeth. If you don’t do something with what’s been given you, I think the consequences are really high spiritually.

And so to answer your question, what makes you feel awake? And I just speak directly to your listeners, you driving in your car or wherever you’re listening to this, you are a unique person. There’s no one like you on the planet with your abilities and your history, who you are, your life experiences. And you can do things that no other person on the planet can do. And you can do things with joy that no other person on the planet can do.

“I think no matter where you are economically, to do what makes you feel awake is just super important.”

And I think if Seattle went and did that, the world would be an amazing place. And if you’re a follower of Jesus, go do what makes you feel awake and advances the kingdom of God. Those two together, I think, are world-changers in my point of view.

And then, I would also say as my final thing, just, I’ve been through nasty times, especially this time of year, man. It really brings it out in me. So I just speak to whoever is out there right now. I don’t know how big your audience is, but if there is somebody I out there that’s really hurting and just barely hanging on, that you would just hang on a little longer, that you would call out to Jesus, and wait a little longer.

Wait on the Lord and he will come for you, please. And tell somebody, tell somebody new that you’re in pain. Somebody you don’t know, or doesn’t know your story. Tell them that you’re hurting and reach out because something bright and beautiful, maybe, is on the other side of what you’re experiencing.

Amanda: And someday they might be getting a hold of you, Rick, and saying, “I heard that podcast, and I gave it one more day.”

Rick: Yeah.

Amanda: If you want more information about MUST or the new foster kids project, go to or for more information.

Rick: Yeah. Hope Herd, like an elephant herd.

Amanda: Yes. H-E-R-D.

Rick: It’s our temporary name.

Amanda: Yeah.

Rick: Yeah. It’s our temporary name until we get to know the industry a little bit. I don’t want to name us until we know about foster care. So that name’s a placeholder, but we would love to get in touch with you. My email is Yep.

Amanda: Wonderful. Rick, let me pray over you.

Rick: Yeah, please.

Amanda: May the Lord bless you and all you put your hands to. May the Lord be gracious to you and all who hear your story. May God bring unity to our community and peace to us all. Thank you so much for being with us today.


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