The Rev. Saleem Ghubril was a ninth-grader in Lebanon when he first heard about Jesus. At 14 years old, his first prayer was that he wanted his life to count.
"That continues to be the heartbeat of this man," said Ghubril, co-pastor of Mosaic Community Presbyterian Church and executive director of The Pittsburgh Promise, which raises college scholarship money for students in Pittsburgh Public Schools.
That desire to not waste one's life is universal, Ghubril said July 28. He was speaking at the New Wilmington Mission Conference held at Westminster College July 24-31, where he was the daily morning speaker.
"We are called to live a revolutionary lifestyle," he said, adding that that means making hard choices and challenging the status quo.
When Ghubril first came to Pittsburgh in 1984, he was struggling with the notion of a call. After being challenged to change his view of what a call can be, Ghubril decided to focus on serving a people rather than a particular institution or position.
And so Ghubril is living out his life’s calling to serve the people of Pittsburgh. He spoke of a mentor of his who dreamed that Pittsburgh would one day be known more for being a city of God than for being a city of steel.
"I still want to be a part of that," he said.
And although the steel industry took a nosedive in past years, there is still much work to be done to achieve the vision of Pittsburgh as a city of God.
In that vision, "the most vulnerable among us aren’t vulnerable anymore," Ghubril said. Pittsburgh will be "a city where the least among us fare well."
Ghubril directed his speech to the youth and young adults in the crowd, telling them that while older generations have already made most of their big life decisions, younger generations still have plenty to make. And they have the chance to make those decisions count.
What if you made decisions based on how they affected the world? he asked.
In the past 50 years, Pittsburgh has lost more than half of its population, meaning an increase in crime and a decrease in the quality of public services like parks and schools. But what if a group of young people chose to buy their first homes in an empty neighborhood? It would change the neighborhood.
"What if we said, 'We're not gonna take the path of least resistance — instead, we're going to take the road less traveled?'" Ghubril asked.
What if new teachers took jobs at the bad schools and worked to improve them? What if families went to health clinics, where their insurance could subsidize the health care of the poor? Ghubril encouraged people to go not only where there is an opening, but to push against closed paths.
"You and I are loved and equipped and empowered in order to be able to be sent to places where people have not gone in a very long time," Ghubril said. "We're not called … to places that are comfortable, familiar, safe."