There are a lot of programs intended to fight crime. Too many cost taxpayers a lot and accomplish little. But one local man is running a faith-based program that – according to the local congressman – is cutting crime where it counts.
Pastor Terry Horn is the one responsible for the program and he is Eye on Jacksonville’s Citizen of the Month.
Horn was born in a small town north of Indianapolis, Ind. He lived in a Christian home and his father was a policeman.
As a child, Horn liked Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy, and the TV show Howdy Doody. He learned to use puppets and perform a bit of ventriloquism.
After attending a bible college in Dallas, Tex., Horn became a pastor in 1974. He had a friend who dressed as “Capt. Hook” when doing ministry work and at Horn’s request helped Horn select the figure of “Uncle Sam” to be his own. Horn said, “I felt like it was what God wanted me to do,” and has used it ever since.
He moved around and worked with TV evangelist Jimmy Swaggart at one point but eventually Horn settled in Washington, D.C., and began working with inner-city kids, starting the DC Dream Center.. He was there 19 years until, while praying one day, he said, the Lord told him to go to Jacksonville and work with kids. His wife, the Rev. Cynthia Horn, is from Jacksonville.
In 2010, they moved to Jacksonville. Within two weeks he was working in a ministry in Grand Park near the Cleveland Arms public housing complex, now called Vista Landing
At the time, it was one of the worst public housing sites and a hotbed of crime. There were 85 deaths within a quarter-mile of the site by 2019, according to Horn.
But children who lived in the project began to drift into his ministry. “At first it was just four kids but it grew to about 35,” he said.
He started the Metro City Kids program and it spread to other public housing sites in the city.
“We began to change lives,” he said.
He has a truck, made possible by a large donation from Pat Robertson of the 700 Club, that is used to put on puppet shows and video presentations for the children in the projects. But they also are taught biblical truths, moral values, good manners and citizenship.
U.S. Rep. John Rutherford, speaking on the House floor, credited Metro City Kids with a 40 percent reduction in juvenile crime in the projects where they minister.
“The whole goal of Metro City Kids is to connect these kids to Christ, encourage and empower them through prayer, Bible-based material and weekly evangelism along with Godly mentoring which will help these kids learn to successfully live the Christian lifestyle right in their own neighborhoods,” Horn says on his Web site.
Horn’s latest wrinkle is called Sunday City Kids. Children from public housing are taken to a local church for a 90-minute program featuring food, games and “lots of Jesus.”
Each month, Eye tries to recognize a local person who is active in local affairs and is making a difference.