A Different Kind of Lion's Den

by Cheryl Warren Brugel '90

Few people would relish being thrown into a lion’s den. Just ask Daniel. As a Jewish leader in a foreign government, he was subjected to the dangers of the lion’s den. Yet instead of finding destruction, he found — through the power of God’s mighty hand — a place of great safety and refuge.

There are areas of our country that are similar to lions’ dens: our inner cities. This is where Greg Dyson ’98 has been called to minister. It is here, in the inner city of Springfield, Massachusetts, that Greg is establishing a “different kind of lion’s den”: one where youth will find, like Daniel, a place of refuge and safety in a world too often filled with peril.

Greg’s “Lion’s Den” is an outreach center designed to reach unchurched youth with the truth of Jesus Christ. As founder and executive director of The Lion’s Den, Greg sees this ministry as a trauma unit for students in the inner city. In 1987, due to renovation on the church building, Greg’s small youth group moved its weekly meeting to a downtown section of the city. Meeting right in the middle of the city, young people began to come, and soon average attendance grew from six to 126 teens! Greg shares, “As long as we remained in the city, we had involvement and impact on their lives.” With this experience, the idea for The Lion’s Den was born.

Greg is passionate about reaching inner-city youth. He feels strongly that these young people need trained adults who are committed to making a difference in the inner city. It was this desire for training that led Greg and his wife Gina to Cedarville in 1995.

While Greg was at Cedarville, the Lord opened many doors for ministry, giving Greg opportunities to apply the truths he was learning. Now, as minister of Christian education at Church in the Acres, a Baptist church in Springfield, and as executive director of The Lion’s Den, Greg is using his education to reach out to the hurting in the inner city.

Open Monday through Wednesday in the afternoon and evening, The Lion’s Den includes a coffee house, an Internet cafe with eight computers, a game room, and a workout room. Additionally, it will soon house a fully operational recording studio. A Bible study is held each afternoon, and Greg and a team of dedicated volunteers run a teen program on Monday nights and a program for children and girls on Tuesday and Wednesday afternoons. Special events are hosted throughout the year, such as taking teens to a Celtics game, playing paintball, or going shopping. Currently, more than 50 teens come to the Den each week. Greg shares that his goal is not just to offer young people a “nice workout room” or “a cool place to go online.” Instead, his mission is to create a safe place for teens to encounter Christ. Greg feels strongly that if an aspect of the center, such as the workout room or Internet cafe, got in the way of that goal, it would have to go!

Although The Lion’s Den has only been open since 2002, it has a rich history. While Greg’s church knew it wanted him to spend 50% of his time focused on urban ministry, they had no place to have that happen. Yet God was at work in providing just the right place. Greg’s mom had worked for a company in the inner city of Springfield 27 years ago. A strong woman of faith, Greg’s mom had openly prayed for the owners of the company and their spouses and children. God had answered her prayers in exciting ways during her years employed there. When a friend from the church told Greg about a two-story, 4,000-square-foot building up for sale, it “just happened” to be the very same building where his mom had worked! When approached about renting the building, the owner remembered Greg’s mom and her prayers on his behalf and how they had changed his life. Instead of renting the building to the church, the owner decided to sell them the building — which had been appraised for $100,000 — for the mere sum of $1. Clearly, God had opened a door for Greg to invest in urban ministry!

The building owner’s generosity has led to changed lives, like that of “Jason” (names have been changed to protect identities). He came to The Lion’s Den because he was chasing a girl. But when that girl — who was just in town to visit a relative — returned home, Jason continued to ride his bike three miles across town to come to the Den. One night during Bible study, the discussion dealt with evidence that there is a God. Jason said, “I know there is a God because I’ve lived in over 20 foster homes, and in every home the parents had a strong belief in Jesus!” One day while on a “friend trip” with The Lion’s Den leadership team, Jason clearly heard the gospel and accepted Christ as his personal Savior.

Greg could also tell you about “Luke,” who came to the Den to take revenge on someone he thought was there, only to meet two godly women who loved him and made him feel welcome. Their kindness drew him back again and again. What he didn’t know was that these two women were the aunt and the sister to the young man Luke wanted to hurt. When he found that out, he was moved — especially when he learned that they knew who he was all along. While Luke has yet to receive Christ, he continues to visit the Den, giving opportunities for believers to build into his life. These few stories could be multiplied by countless young people who visit the Den on a regular basis.

While the Lord is using Greg in the inner city of Springfield, Massachusetts, there are other inner cities across our nation that have the same desperate needs. Greg reminds us that these lions’ dens need men and women on fire for Jesus Christ and serious about getting involved. His challenge to believers: “Go into these areas of need and do everything you can to make a difference for the cause of Christ!” In this way, believers can play a part in making these lions’ dens places of refuge and safety where God’s mighty power will be seen.

Greg ’98 and his wife Gina ’99 are celebrating 21 years of loving marriage. They have three children: Jessica (15), Miranda (10), and Michaela (4). Greg is a minister of Christian education, a college chaplain, and the executive director of The Lion’s Den Youth Outreach Center. You can learn more about their ministry at www.lionsdenoutreach.org and you can reach Greg and Gina directly at dysong2@lionsdenoutreach.org.