Buddy Osborn is the Senior Pastor of The Rock – Calvary Chapel of Kensington and founder of Rock Ministries of Philadelphia. Pastor Buddy was born and raised in Kensington, a tough working-class neighborhood where he lived until he was 26 years old. He had eight siblings, all raised by a single mom. He became acquainted with the street life early on, and by the time he was an young teen had, in his own words, “seen things the human eye shouldn’t see.” At 13, however, the wrong road he was traveling seemed to take a turn for the better. He discovered boxing.
At just 16, Buddy was considered one of the best fighters in Philadelphia, a city with a rich boxing tradition. By 19, he won the Pennsylvania state Golden Gloves. He later traveled throughout the country and then the world, competing on the USA national boxing team. He retired at the young age of 22, after winning several championships. Boxing had pulled him off the streets and given him a sense of purpose. But he would soon face the harsh reality that boxing wasn’t enough to supply what was really missing inside.
Now 28 years old, champion boxer and “Kensington success story” Buddy Osborn was facing life in prison. His boyhood attraction to the street life had grown up with him, and he was arrested on numerous racketeering charges. Ultimately Buddy would be sentenced to 8 years in federal prison.
He was released in the early ‘90s. A friend soon began witnessing to him about Jesus. On the telephone with him one New Year’s Eve, Buddy gave all of his life to Christ! He began attending Calvary Chapel of Philadelphia, sitting under his Pastor Joe Focht for 12 years. As Buddy recalls, Pastor Joe once said to him, “Perhaps one day you’ll go back to Kensington to preach the Gospel.” Ironically, Buddy thought, “He’s nuts! There’s no way I could ever do such a thing.”
Buddy travelled to far eastern Russia on a church missions trip, during which he ministered to young men in prison camps. Upon his return, he was invited into Philadelphia’s House of Correction prison to give Bible studies to juvenile males who had committed serious crimes. It was there that he would have a critical experience that would change the course of his life.
Buddy had been a boxing coach to a young boy who, at 16, fought for a national championship. He lost in a controversial decision and, mysteriously, never returned to the gym. During Buddy’s Bible study at the House of Correction, that same boy walked in. He was there for murder. At once, Buddy realized that he had never shared his faith with him while he was coaching him in boxing. In fact, he had never shared his faith with any of the kids he was training. He now knew that he had to get the Gospel to kids on the city block, before they wound up on the prison block.
After much prayer, with no money, but with lots of favor from the Lord, Rock Ministries was launched, reaching Kensington kids with the Gospel of Jesus Christ through boxing. At 45, Buddy was returning to Kensington with his old gym bag; but this time he had a Bible in it.
Thousands of kids have come through the Rock doors and hundreds have made a decision for Christ. Although boxing was the main attraction in the beginning, much more has been added to reach a community with the Good News! The Rock now features grappling, kickboxing, weight lifting, an afterschool program for young children, art, music, drama, homework club, and more for kids of all ages. Through our church plant, The Rock – Calvary Chapel of Kensington, we provide regular street-level outreaches and evangelism, assistance for addicts, food support for the needy, and all types of community activities to lift up the name of Jesus. We offer live-in Internships for those interested in inner city missions, a residential discipleship program for women coming off life on the street, and a missions program in which teams from around the country stay for up to a week and serve here in Kensington.
From the very beginning, Buddy would always say that we want reach one kid at a time. As God has miraculously grown the Rock, now it’s one block at a time and one family at a time.
Romans 8:28 says, “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to purpose.” Buddy lives by that verse every day as he Pastors in his old neighborhood.