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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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Sixteen candles

Congregation's prayers 'burn' for its young people

Every Sunday without fail 16 candles burn at St. Peter Lutheran Church in Springfield Gardens (Queens), N.Y., for young people both lost and found.

The first candle was lit 10 years ago for a pregnant teenager, said Joy Clarke, pastor. The mother is now back in school and getting straight As. Before she was pregnant, she was one of those whom Clarke called her “stars.”

The downward spiral of this teenager and others like her started suddenly, within a span of months, Clarke recalled. These teenagers had once been “6-year-olds with bows in their hair and frilly dresses—my darlings,” she said. They were involved in all the church youth activities and were leaders in its music program.

In high school, the girls started to find that boys wouldn’t date girls who got better grades. “It wasn’t acceptable, it wasn’t macho,” Clarke said. So one by one the girls started slipping. “First they just started to be late, then they weren’t doing their chores, then not listening, and pretty soon drugs and police were involved,” she said.


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