What began as a small effort to save a handful of young gang members from the streets of Brooklyn in the 1970s has grown to an organization that serves tens of thousands of people each year. See how it all began, and how far we’ve come.
Forty years ago, a group of dangerous-looking teenage boys entered through the back door of a church in Brooklyn, where a young Rev. Doug Heilman was leading a Bible Study class. The gang members, who called themselves The Homicides, sat themselves down and told Rev. Doug that they had decided he would be their pastor.
Instead of calling the police or fearing for his safety, Rev. Doug welcomed these young men and offered them his care and guidance. Thus began Discipleship Ministries.
Many of these boys and young men had never had a father figure to guide or protect them. Many had no safe place to sleep at night. They had turned to a life of crime mostly because they had nothing to eat. School was not a priority—or even an option—for most.
Rev. Doug turned his own home into Discipleship House. He made sure “his kids” had a clean bed to sleep in at night, a meal when they were hungry, a way to earn a High School diploma, and the hope for a life beyond the streets. “I knew I had to do something,” Rev. Doug says. “If I had done nothing, ordered these boys out of that Bible Study class, they would have been dead or in jail inside of a year. I wouldn’t have been able to live with that. The choice was simple. The answer was clear.”
Forty years later, these young men still call Rev. Doug “Dad,” and Discipleship Ministries became Turning Point Brooklyn, serving tens of thousands of individuals and families each year. Most of Rev. Doug’s “kids” grew up to be upstanding and outstanding citizens. They are healthcare professionals, public servants, leaders in their communities, and good fathers to their own children—all because one good man had the courage to care.
How Discipleship House Became Turning Point Brooklyn