Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Uphill battle

" I cry out to God Most High, who fulfills his purpose for me." ~Psalm 57

So far, I haven't been very good at keeping up with this thing. The thing is, I have so many stories and memories I want to write down and share, but I'm usually out living them and don't have time to write them all down...

So we our on our third week of the elementary summer program. I don't think I'm exaggerating when I say that the first week may have been one of the most challenging experiences I have had in my life. I amazing how different it is to work with preschoolers and then switch over to working with 11-13 year olds. I definitely went called home crying more than once that first week. It's not that I dislike my job. Nothing could be further from the truth. But when a white middle class girl comes in and tries to take control of a class of 20 middle school kids who live in poverty, respect is generally not the first thing they feel towards said girl. It wasn't just that they didn't listen. They also let me know how much they didn't like me and couldn't stand my class. Those long days would have looked a lot brighter if I felt like the kids were getting something out of it. But, I wouldn't be able to post this entry if there wasn't a bright side to the story.

I am not sure exactly what changed at the end of that first week. We all have van routes to pick up kids from all over town and bring them to the church everyday, and I remember spending the 25 minutes it took to get to the first house in almost desperate prayer for the day and for strength. One day I was exhausted and I decided to stay inside during their recess and I ended up talking with a couple of older girls in the youth group about my class. Now, looking back I kind of can't believe I spilled my difficulties with a couple of teenagers (one of them being an older sister of a girl in my class) from the church, but I did. They encouraged me, gave me advice, and then took it upon themselves to go up to my class and give them a "talkin to". What ended up happening was I almost cried in front of my class while they told all my kids why I am here this summer and how I won't be leaving any time soon. I was nervous that their talk did more harm than good, but after that talk every kid in the class came up and hugged me and started opening up. Maybe they finally saw me as a person, or maybe they realized how much I care about them. Honestly, God stepped in and allowed a couple of 16 year old girls to lift me up and open those kids' hearts towards me.

Class hasn't suddenly gotten perfect. I still struggle to get them to settle down after they've been outside, or read their books during literacy class. What has changed is the way they interact with me. They trust me, have fun with me, and are opening up their hearts to me. This group of kids is definitely different from any I have worked with. I am learning so much from them, just by realizing I don't know everything and their is no way I can handle it on my own. The Lord has taught me that encouragement and support can come from any direction, whether it's a couple of 16 year old girls, my fellow interns, or a 13 year old who takes up for me in class to the other students.

I am definitely getting a lesson in humility and patience. But the Lord is also giving me strength and wisdom when I don't have any. Each child is different, and I am learning that they all deserve to be treated accordingly. Every church camp, mission trip, or children's program I have worked for has taught me that we abide by structure and rules in order to keep things running smoothly. Each child was treated the same so that we didn't show favoritism. At Capitol Hill I am learning the opposite. Each child has a different story and a different home life. We are encouraged to take a kid to sonic if they are doing really well, or take them to a movie to make them feel special. With some kids we expect them to sit still and listen in class, but with others we consider it a victory if they are able to not make a scene or get out of their seat without asking. Yes, it can be a lot to deal with, but it's worth it to see a teenage girl learn to respect herself and make a pledge of purity. It's worth it to see a boy struggle through reading a paragraph and help him gain confidence. Each child is an individual, and we are doing our best to invest in them on an individual basis. Just as Christ takes a specific interest into each one of our lives, I am learning to build relationships with each individual child.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Preschool week

This little girl is Tika. She & I were buddies last Thursday on our field trip to the zoo. It was a blast. It was also pretty hot, and someone got tired and asked if I would carry her :) We had lots of volunteers come help us take the kids to the zoo, enough so that every kid had a big buddy to walk around with.

This is Aydon. He has a hard time paying attention and/or holding still, but he's precious.

A stomach virus was going around last week, so I did a last minute sub in for the class on numbers. One of the other interns, Courtney, did all the prep work and I taught them how to count using lady bugs. The little boy I am helping in this picture is the trouble maker also known as Aydon. He's one of my favorites :)

Thursday, June 3, 2010

In You the Fatherless find compassion

"It was I who taught Ephraim to walk, taking them by the arms; but they did not realize it was I who healed them. I led them with cords of human kindness, with ties of love I lifted the yoke from their neck and bent down to feed them." ~Hosea 11:3&4

So the first week of summer program has come and gone and the second week is almost over. I have barely had time to breath, but it has already proven to be a wonderful and rewarding experience. I would be lying if I didn't admit how tough it has been at times. These kids have seen volunteers come and go quickly, so they have a hard time trusting that we are going to stick around. In general, the preschoolers are a lot of fun. They have an easy time trusting new people and just thrive in all of the love and attention they get with us. Many of them have learning disabilities or are developmentally delayed in some way. There is a little boy named Aydon who is a pistol. He literally cannot sit still and runs off the first chance he can get. But his smile is adorable and when you spend time with him one-on-one he just wants to be loved. It's easy to get frustrated or overwhelmed with these kids. We have a few "runners" who take off without warning, but each intern is learning which kids simply need attention and which kids have special needs. There is another little boy named Ivan who is four years old. He doesn't speak English, but every time I see him he lights up and hugs me. That is maybe one of the best feelings in the world.

The elementary kids are different. It has been a slow uphill battle with our 11&12 year old class. When me & my co-teacher first started, they did everything they could to scare us away. They were disrespectful, loud, and just plain mean to us. That first Thursday we taught them, I went home and cried. But slowly we have seen change in the kids as they begin to trust us and even like us. One girl, Annie, was out to get me the first week I was here. She called me names, lost her temper and even walked out of class. Now she is our star student, always listening, answering questions in class and staying late to help us clean up the classroom. She is the girl who yells at the other kids to be quiet and listen to us. It's hard to express how rewarding it is to see those changes. While its easy to get preschoolers to like you, working with the older kids is gratifying for different reasons. Though it is difficult, it's so fulfilling to see the change and maturity our class is starting to show.

The Lord has definitely given me a heart for these kids. Each day I am amazed at how much joy I see in them and how much of a blessing they are to me. I am learning about each child individually and what their home lives are like. It is important to have perspective on where they come from in order to help reach them. The Lord is also teaching me to see them through His eyes. Though I can get frustrated, I believe the Lord is teaching me patience and unconditional love for these kids. I will hold on to the promise that the Lord loves all of them far more than I am able to, and He holds them in his hands.

"The Lord your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing." ~ Zephaniah 3:17

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Summer Beginnings

Isaiah 58: 6-11
"Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—when you see the naked, to clothe him, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood? Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the LORD will be your rear guard. Then you will call, and the LORD will answer; you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I. If you do away with the yoke of oppression, with the pointing finger and malicious talk, and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday. The LORD will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail. "

I'd like to begin by sharing what Capitol Hill church does exactly and why it exists. Capitol Hill Church of Christ is an inner city ministry in the impoverished area of Oklahoma City. It focuses on providing those in the surrounding community with basic needs such as food, clothes, and medical treatment. Their goal is to show the love of Christ in a real, tangible way to those who are lost and in need. The church is run mostly by volunteers who regularly attend another church in the surrounding area, but who are interesting in reaching out to those who are less fortunate. Many students at Oklahoma Christian University teach the children's bible classes on Sunday evenings and Thursday nights. Women from other churches volunteer to cook meals for the congregation on Sundays and Thursday in order to provide food to the members, and doctors and nurses volunteer their time to serve those who can't afford medical treatment.The Lighthouse Clinic is a medical clinic in the building that offers hundreds of people in the community with free treatment each month. Worship is in both English and Spanish, since the area is highly Hispanic and some do not speak any English. On Tuesday nights, the church offers free English classes as another way to reach people in the area. The children are a large part of the work at Capitol Hill. It is amazing to see how many of these children live in such terrible circumstances and are still smiling when they come to church. Our job is to teach these children about the love of Christ and what it feels like to be loved unconditionally.

I have the privilege of serving as a children's ministry intern at this church for the summer. This means lots of time with lots of kids. I am already so excited to see what the Lord teaches me through the kids and through my team. I will be teaching the preschool kids starting next Monday, May 24 until June 7 when the elementary summer program begins. There are eight total interns and two of us will each be teaching a class together. I will be teaching the 11 & 12 year olds with another intern named Philip. Summer program is 8 weeks during the summer, Mondays - Fridays. The typical day will begin around 9 am with the interns driving all over the city to pick up the 50 or so kids and bringing them to the church. We will be providing the kids with two meals a day starting with breakfast when they arrive. After songs and announcements, we will all split up into our classes and start the morning with the literacy program. Most of these children are pretty behind developmentally and need help in school. Each class will be reading a couple of different books throughout the summer and having lessons that reinforce the material. My class is a fun age to read with, and I am excited to help them learn to love reading. Following morning class we will have singing and then lunch were they will have some time to move around and be active. In the afternoon we will be teaching them bible lessons designed to fit their age group. My class is going to be going over some pretty cool stuff having to do with spiritual development and what it looks like to follow Christ. Then we wrap up the day with a 'celebration' time which rewards the kids for their hard work throughout the day. Thursday we will have outings like the zoo or the water park and Fridays we will have specialty classes the kids can choose from such as art, music, sports, science, and math. I am already learning so much about these kids and what it looks like to serve them.

It is truly incredible how this ministry allows the Lord to lead its work. There is so much need in this area, but the Lord is a big God. I believe that the Lord has plans for this community and I pray that the work at Capitol Hill will help bring His kingdom here to Oklahoma City. I cannot wait to see what He does this summer!