Three years ago, Luke Ayers told me that he had a vision. He told me that he needed to quit his lucrative business and had his eye on a center in chalk level Newnan…except he didn’t have the funds to buy it…and the building was occupied. I told him he was crazy. One year ago, the city of Newnan called him in for a meeting and handed him the keys for free. My jaw went down to the floor.
The first time Luke showed me the neighborhood, where God gave him a building, we were the only white people there. We had been taking care of a widow’s property all day. We still got weird looks as we walked by. Understandable. You could tell the community had seen white people come and go, most of them just trying to feel better “helping” black kids. It never lasts. We ended at his building and Luke told me the vision. There was a daycare there and he pointed to the playground. “We need a basketball court there.” he said. “Maybe if kids have a place to go we can keep them from the gangs early.” We peered down on the four way stop the building looked down on. It is the corner where the most dead bodies were dumped last year. No streetlights. A house diagonal had cars coming up to it and a guy got on his porch and stared with his arms crossed. “Well, we didn’t expect this to be easy.” Luke said. All of a sudden there was a man approaching in a yellow cut off and a doo rag. He knew the guy on his porch and the guy immediately relaxed. Whoever this guy was, he was a king on these streets. He passed by us and we asked how he was. Ten steps later, he turned around asking, “Ya’ll Christians?” We told him yes and he said “Yeah, I figured.” Maybe it had been Christians who had come and gone before? Either way, this man hadn’t met Luke before, a crazy Christian. Luke asked him about the building, not telling him that the city had already given it to him. He told us his name was Buster. Buster said “Is that the building for the kids?” We said it was. Then Luke asked him what it would be like if they made a basketball court out there? Busters eyes went wide, “That is what these young guys need! They get to hustling in the gangs early so we need to get them while they’re young. I’m talking 12 or 13. After that, it’s too late.” It seemed like he’d seen it play out that way before. Luke told him, “Here’s the deal Buster. I’m a powerful white dude.” Buster said, “Oh, color don’t matter.” He said, “Well to those folks behind us it does.” Buster said, “Damn straight.” Luke told him, “I need to be walking around with you because you’ve been here 50 years. They will say, oh that is just Buster’s crazy White friend.” Buster said, “If you get this approved, I’ll be the first one out here laying concrete. It’ll bring hope around here.” Buster walked away, then turned around and said, “My family is Christian. I’m not, I’ve got a drinking problem. I’m gonna quit though, I promise!” Luke said, “Before you do that, have a last drink with me.”
Luke kept his promise. It only took 30 days for him to get started. Buster kept his promise, he was the first one laying brick. Since then, the center has been full almost every day. Luke is a strong man. He has proven to be not just another rich white guy that leaves at will. He will be there until the end for these kids. The neighborhoods have been marked with oppression for years. The stuff that goes on in these streets is heavy on these kids. Few have a normal home. I was shocked at the stories. But there is one place these kids know where to find Mr. Luke. The Hope Center on the Corner of Pinson St.