As a community, we have covenanted to serve together weekly. Our main focus has been at North City Church of Christ, particularly with the youth through mentoring and tutoring programs. We work with 30 children, grades K-8, on Thursday nights. Through building relationships, our goal is to educate the children spiritually, academically, and socially; or in other words, we strive to teach them how to have an abundant life. Over the past two years, we have offered devotional classes focusing on the love of God, the life of Jesus, and the fruits of the Spirit; academic classes in math, reading, science, and art; and social/life skill classes in  cooking, making choices, character building, personal finances and strategy games.

There have been many challenges-no doubt about that. The children were not trusting of us at first, but why should they have been? Who are these young white they care about me…will they stick around on my bad days too? After two years of being with them weekly (sometimes multiple times in a week), these walls are beginning to come down. They have tested us with yelling, cursing, vulgarity, disrespect, and even graffiting playground equipment with genital drawings. And perhaps, after all that, since we stayed and continued to try to show love, they are beginning to let us in. It can be discouraging work without many quick results.

However, I’d like to highlight a few glimpses of hope we’ve seen lately. One of our students has multiple learning disabilities, and at age 11, I had only heard him talk in our program on one occasion (in the past 2 years). We know that he talks up a storm at home, but refuses to utter a word in our program, and most of the time refuses to participate. For the last 2 weeks, he not only has participated but has spoken multiple times! He drew a picture in class, signed his name, and read in class last week. It has taken a long time for him to perhaps feel comfortable, but he’s beginning to open up. Another student, age 14, is at every church event. He’s there every time the doors are open, and beating on them when they aren’t. Despite his eagerness to be there, his presence is often extremely disrupting with yelling and cursing. Last week, he offered to say the prayer before dinner, and reached out for everyone to hold hands. Coming from a child who normally would curse during prayer time, and would recoil yelling if you touched him, this was quite a breakthrough.

Especially when these breakthrough moments are few and far between, it’s so encouraging to have the support of your housemates serving along side of you. I don’t think that any one of us could make it very long serving alone, but together we can help lift each other up, and remind each other of those wonderful glimpses of abundant life in the children.