ANDREWS — Greg Griffin was shocked when he learned what teenagers in his hometown were going through. With high rates of teen pregnancies, drug use and teen suicide, the small West Texas town of Andrews was not the same community where he grew up.
“I was raised here, but there weren’t kids sleeping in the park like there are today, and it really broke my heart,” said Griffin, who owns Andrews-based service company GTG Automation.
At an April 2012 Christian concert in Odessa, Griffin found a way to make a difference in his community.
“I went to a Casting Crowns concert in Odessa and God laid it on my heart that that’s what I need to do here is bring concerts to Andrews to give to kids,” he said.
Despite a lack of knowledge or experience in planning and promoting concerts, Griffin brought Christian rock band Seventh Day Slumber to Andrews that fall.
A few months later he booked chart-topping band The Newsboys to play Andrews Expo Center. Since then, Switchfoot and Mercy Me have performed at the venue.
Promoting Christian concerts and finding ways to help at-risk kids in Andrews, Griffin formed a foundation called What Yeshua Can Do.
“People thought he was crazy to bring The Newsboys to Andrews — of all places Andrews Expo Center,” said Brant Fricker, marketing and ministry development for the foundation. Fricker, a former program host on God’s Learning Channel, met Griffin when he was promoting The Newsboys concert on the Christian TV network.
“One business man — not a pastor — one man who was convicted in his heart to do more for God saw a need to do more for those kids and he took action,” Fricker said.
What Yeshua Can Do is bringing in Brandon Heath in October and The Newsboys are returning to Andrews in November.
“The Christian music industry is calling us now and they’re spreading the word that the people of Andrews are on fire so they don’t mind coming to play in the dirt,” Fricker said.
Griffin hopes the concerts will give local teens a safe entertainment option.
“We don’t have a bowling alley over here, we don’t have a movie theater over here,” he said. “There is nothing for the kids to do, I always say, except sex and softball.”
Though it’s not the same music he remembers hearing as a teen, Griffin said the songs performed by groups like The Newsboys and Mercy Me send a positive message.
“I’m 52 and these bands aren’t what I was listening to at the time but I’ve started listening to them now because that’s how to reach the kids,” he said. “The same person is writing these songs as wrote the hymns — it’s God. These songs are about what the kiddos are going through today.”
Griffin said Andrews has seen a lot of growth in recent years and, as seen throughout the Permian Basin, abundance is accompanied with families and individuals who can’t keep up.
“They tell me there are kids here that don’t eat on the weekends,” Griffin said.
When the foundation hosted Rapture Ruckus, McDonald’s donated 1,200 hamburgers. For $10, teens could watch the show and have a hamburger and a drink.
Other local businesses and donors are buying concert tickets for Griffin’s ministry to give away to local at-risk kids.
“When we first started I couldn’t get anybody to help sponsor (concerts),” he said. “We have 26 different churches now.”
In addition to the concerts, What Yeshua Can Do is gearing up to offer its second year of summer camps on 1,700 acres of land Griffin owns south of Ozona. Last year Griffin hosted a group of young men who were being raised by their grandparents.
“We have a summer camp for kids to be able to get them out in the outdoors and teach them about God,” Griffin said.
The teens were tasked with building a wooden cross without the help of power tools or technology.
“It was hilarious to watch,” Griffin said, noting most of the teens had never before swung an ax. “When I was growing up, my mom had to lock the door to keep me in. Now you have to kick them out.”
This summer, What Yeshua Can Do will host two camp sessions — one for young men and one for women. The camp targets at-risk high school students, especially sophomores and juniors because that’s an age Griffin said many teens can get into trouble that could impact the rest of their lives.
“So many of them make a bad choice in that age that’s lifelong,” he said. “We want to be there and give them some accountability and some responsibility and some loving.”
The foundation also is reaching out to younger teens through assemblies at local middle schools.
And for other communities looking to reach at-risk adolescents, What Yeshua Can Do is offering tips at training events and in an upcoming book, “Out of His Way and Into His Will.”
“We’re having churches from other cities asking us how can they put on Christian concerts and influence their kids,” Fricker said. “So we’re putting together events that will train other churches.”
The book will include Griffin’s story and how he came to launch What Yeshua Can Do as well as a how-to guide for organizing Christian concerts.
“I think it’s something that can be done anywhere,” Griffin said. “There’s a lot of money in West Texas right now, there’s a lot of blessings, but we need to pass that on, and what better way than to give back to the kids?”
For more information, follow What Yeshua Can Do on Facebook.