Greeting supporters, prayer partners, volunteers and future partnersJ! Just wanted to update the blog as we are nearing the completion of the first year mentoring at Heritage Academy. We started with the 3rd grade boys. There are 6 little guys in the class, and we have come to love each of them for their own unique personalities. At the risk of putting any personal information in a public I will just share some of the things that make them special! For instance, this past visit, one of the boys said the blessing before lunch and I was literally tearing up when he was done—not only did he pray for each of his classmates individually, he prayed for at least 4 of us by name, and for our families. We are truly blessed to be able to learn from these children and I think everyone would be served well if we went back to seeing the world from the eyes of a child!
Our visits consist of mainly 3 activities—we arrive around 11:30 and bring our bag lunches to the back lunch table. There are about 5 other classes in the midst of their lunch when we get there, and we try to say hello to all! Then “our guys” arrive and give us the update of the goings on from the past month…the conversation usually focuses Steph Curry or a WWE “wrastler” or NFL current events—just normal boy stuff! We are usually spread out so each of us can be 1-1 with a child to let them tell us how things are going.
Our next mainstay is going outside to “play” either basketball or football. This usually consists of 1-2 of the more athletic kids showing off their skills, and then all 6 boys (yes, only 6 in the whole 3rd grade this year!!) usually end up in a giant group all fighting for the ball! We do our best to maintain order, but it is nice to see them run around and burn some energy!
Lastly, and most importantly, we take the last 30-45 minutes to share a brief devotional with a theme centered around character traits similar to the First Tee 9 core values like teamwork, integrity, gratitude, persistence, etc. Then we parlay that theme into a project. 2-3 have been things for them to take home like a Lowes pull back race car kit, or neat Lego projects, and 2-3 have been more service oriented—we have done a thank you/goodie bag for Active Duty Armed Forces, thank you notes and gift cards to Chick Fil A to 20 local firefighters and police officers. Most recently we tested our green thumbs and did a potted Daisy project from scratch—38 pots, potting soil, daisy bulbs and a Bible verse from the Parable of the Sower in Matthew 13:8-9 for all 32 faculty and the office and lunch room staff from our guys.
Just wanted to update y’all on what we have been up to. Also, to let you know that our hope and prayer is for this opportunity to multiply. This is super fun, doesn’t require much time—11:3 0-1:30, 6-8 times a year, and you are investing in the lives of our community’s youth who lack a lot of positive role models, especially male role models. We are hoping to have another group of men start with next year’s 3rd grade class and continue to cycle until every class has a group like this. We also want to expand this to the girls—in fact a 3rd grade girl just last visit asked me, “When are y’all going to have a group for us?”. I want to be able to answer that little girl, and all of her classmates, with “soon, very soon.” This needs to happen!!
So many men in our country—regardless of ethnicity or economic status— are absent in the lives of their families. Some areas of the population provide more obvious effects of this, but suburban, upper class families are also feeling the impact of men who place higher priorities on things other than being a husband, father and leader of their homes and communities. This is much more subtle and harder to detect, but our country is showing the outward signs of the failing family unit in a big way. We recently read Resolution for Men (great book and would HIGHLY recommend it for every man) and it talked about the 3 things our kids need from their fathers: attention, affection and affirmation. If they don’t get it from the father they will seek it out from someone and somewhere else, and rarely will that alternative have the child’s best interest in mind. Look around and you will see evidence of this in every neighborhood, rich and poor, in our town and the country. Human trafficking, gang participation and drug use are just a few examples of the places that kids may end when they seek attention, affection and affirmation from the wrong sources. So, while our initial focus was on men, and justifiably so, there is absolutely no reason at all that we shouldn’t develop a similar program for the girls of Heritage Academy too.
OK—sorry for the rant there, but if we don’t identify these type of issues, we will never turn the tides. If we don’t have a clear understanding of how these situations are breaking down our homes and communities, things will only get worse. If we don’t show the love and give “our children,” all of “our children,” hope for a better future, what are we doing? As the father of two young boys, I wonder what the future will look like for my own children—will the downward spiral of absenteeism prevail, or will we reset our priorities and focus on the things that matter. Will my children see their father upset with the status quo, but do nothing to change it—or will they see him working with a band of brothers and sisters to make a difference? Our children see everything we say and do—actions speak louder than words so will our children see us do?
Graham for KH