Thursday, August 26, 2010

Summer break! (?)

This summer was FULL!

...(How full was it?)

The summer began with Pat working at In and Out Cleaning, our friend Jake's business, where he had worked for the last several years. But we've been feeling more and more that we need to clear as much time as possible for working with our church and neighborhood -- even taking that on as our primary job. So Pat worked as little as possible there this summer, though he has enjoyed the job working with the men employed there and the friendships that were formed during that time. But, as I said, it was time for a new season in life and we began being paid for the equivalent of one day a week working with Urban Light as youth leaders. And the kids were out of school for the summer so that meant...SUMMER PROGRAMMING! What to do with all this time in our schedule and ours? Well....

We collaborated with Leslie Draper, who has also been working with kids and youth programming in our church and came up with a game plan of activities the kids could earn tickets to do. This would require time helping the kids earn the tickets as well as rewarding them for the tickets they earned. We wanted to be sure the kids kept growing over the summer -- spiritually and academically as well as taller! The main event for earning tickets was a Tuesday reading time. We had collected a small library of books for the kids to read, so we partnered up and read with the kids for an hour and a half each week, including time for a healthy snack. (I have realized providing fresh fruits and veggies -- something lacking in schools and refrigerators around here -- is a passion of mine. I like the challenge of trying to introduce these foods to kids old enough to have established habits to the contrary.) The reading program was a great success; many kids got some good reading time with an adult. It makes me wish we could continue on through the school year to help the kids get closer to reading on-level. Hmm....

With the tickets the kids earned from reading, memorization, and helping out in the community, they got to go on some pretty cool trips. Leslie took some kids to the science center in Fort Wayne. Pat took some kids on a fishing trip. There were LOTS of fish caught out on our friend's private stocked pond. I stayed home with the kids, but it was apparently a beautiful day. We also all had a camp-out with lots of the kids, grades K-12. It was a lot of fun and not a lot of sleep. It was classic, with a camp fire, marshmallow roast, and a scavenger hunt that took the kids through an old cemetery at the back of the property. Israel and Eden went along for that trip, and it was both insane and cool (now that I've slept since then...) having so many kids I love all together camping out. We had to push a trip to Chicago into the school year, so there's more fun ahead for us!

Of course, if you've followed our lives for very long, you know that
we have a huge block party every summer in our neighborhood. We're partnering more and more with our sister church across Madison Street,
Deliverance Temple. This year, youth from both churches came together to paint the official block party sign. We think it turned out just great! Here we are, all lined up on our front porch at work.
At the block party, I did the cake walk and Pat did the basketball tournament, just like every other year. I remember the first year, when we had no idea what to expect from the party. Would people even come? What if people who hate each other show up at the same time? But now the block party comes complete with traditions and growing help from others in the community. People in our neighborhood ask about it and it is truly a source of neighborhood pride!

Pat also took on a "one day a week" job with a program called LACES. We love the mission and vision of LACES! The idea is to have a couple administrators oversee and disciple a group of coaches -- people from our neighborhoods -- who will then form teams of kids in their neighborhood to coach and disciple. We love the idea of it being neighborhood and relationship-based, as that is the best way we've found to really make a difference in the lives of young people. (I know we're not the first ones to find this out!) The program was started over in Liberia and this was its pilot year here in the U.S. Pat and our friend
George (that's him speaking at the end-of-season banquet over there) put in a lot of hours working out bugs and getting the community involved this year. It was a LOT of work and we are relived that it is over for the year, but we are also excited for what will be able to happen with LACES next summer now that all this groundwork has been laid.

Our sister church also invited our youth to join in their step class. A few of our girls have been able to attend and I've been introduced to a new form of art/exercise! We will be able to participate in their youth service tomorrow. It's an adventure learning how to marry two churches when usually these days are about churches splitting. We're happy for the invitation!

We were glad to be able to spend so much time with the the youth this summer. They truly are an inspiration to know. I know they push me to be a better person every day. We're now moving these relationships into the school year. We're tutoring two particular girls (not the girls in this picture, though I LOVE my time with them, too!) every day this year. I am excited for the challenge of working discipleship in with homework and academic exercise. We're beginning a new season of youth group and watching more and more of the little boys and girls we knew grow up and move toward and through high school! We have so many hopes for them. We want them to do well in school. We want them to be able to make wise decisions. We want them to make and meet goals for themselves and to be successful in whatever they do. And I know Jesus cares about those things. But mostly we want them to each have their own relationship with Jesus that stands whether we're part of it or not. Here's to having learned a lot over the summer and to continuing to learn and grow together through this next school year!

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