Sometimes working with immigrant kids in an urban context seems like a losing battle. The challenges they often face are so daunting that many times our efforts seem too small and insignificant to make a difference. Yet these challenges are not too big for Jesus!! After nearly six years of ministry, we are seeing the kind of long-term spiritual fruit that only comes from the power of God through life-on-life relational discipleship, carried out over time. Yesterday at our staff meeting, as we sat around the table sharing highlights of God's work over the past week, I was struck by the number of teens who made the highlight list; kids who have grown up in Kids Adelante who are now beginning to really own their faith and catch a vision for serving others!
Iris and Helen are two of the names that were mentioned. I can still remember the immediate impact the two sisters made on Kids Adelante when they walked through the door of my home about 5 years ago. They were both clearly leaders from the beginning. Of course they were in the oldest age group at the time (I think they were 11 and 10). But besides their ages, it was clear that the other kids followed them. If Helen and Iris participated, the other kids participated. If Helen and Iris had bad attitudes, well... that had its impact too. Yet through all the tough outward appearances, it was clear that there was a soft spot inside their hearts that would one day be fertile ground for the seeds that we were sowing in their lives!
Iris and Helen were in 7th and 6th grades respectively when they entered the pilot year of our "Leaders In Training" program. Three days each week they came to LIT where we emphasized Jesus, character development, and tutoring in core academic areas. LIT was, and is, a very satisfying program for kids. I stop short of using the word "fun" because it is very hard work, and some kids don't see it as fun! They are challenged in self-discipline, attitude, relational skills, and provides an amazing relational context to work on issues of character that inevitably arise throughout the year. Although we never had real significant challenges with Helen and Iris, it was not always easy for them or for those of us who led them. By the end of the year they were pretty tired of me (and I of them). But, God had begun to accomplish some exciting works in their lives, one of which was Iris' admission into Sumner Academy, a public school in our urban neighborhood that happens to be one of the best performing high schools in the entire metro area. The following year Helen was accepted too!
Three years later Helen and Iris are still involved with Mission Adelante and continue doing well at Sumner (Helen has a 4.0 grade point average). Volunteers and certain staff members have built deep and lasting discipling relationships with both of them. And they are involved in other ways too. A few weeks ago I popped my head into one of the LIT tutoring rooms (math) and found Helen and Iris there, now not as students, but as volunteer tutors! I was so proud of them! And a flood of memories came to me of times I had sat around the math table with both of them during LIT afternoons!
I am endlessly thankful for the volunteers and staff who invest in the lives of immigrant kids, both on the Bhutanese and Latino sides of our ministry. Keep going! (¡Adelante!) Your efforts are bearing fruit, and you are storing up for yourselves treasures in heaven where moth and rust do not destroy!!!
In other news:
- Including Iris and Helen, nine teens are actively serving this trimester in Kids Adelante, Leaders In Training, and on the Worship Team. David Coon is giving music lessons to several budding musicians and incorporating them into the Worship Team. It's thrilling to see these young people not only pursue an interest in music, but to use it to worship the Lord!
- We're grateful for the help of a group of eight people from Heartland Community Church who spent Saturday morning here. They demonstrated great initiative sorting clothes, organizing our Resource Center, and preparing bags of staple food items. Molly Merrick is astonished by how orderly the Resource Center looks now!
- A group of about 35 Bhutanese refugees and American volunteers gathered at the Stetler's house on Saturday to share a meal and deepen friendships as they enjoyed of one anothers' company.
- The Raices ("Roots") ministry in Q-ba revolves around discipling believers. The Sonlife team, a discipleship ministry, from Costa Rica is in Q-ba this week giving the Raices team further training.
- Praise the Lord! Janoy, a passionate believer who's part of our Latino church, witnessed to two of his coworkers on Monday evening and one of them declared faith in Christ! Pray for that new seed to take root!
- The Lord's changing the heart of a teen boy that has been around our community for several years. He has declared his decision to walk away from a past of risky behavior and is beginning to stand out as a leader as he becomes more passionate about pursuing God. Please pray for the Lord to strengthen this young man so he can stand firm upon his conviction when temptations arise.
- Despite coming from such a different cultural background as Hinduism, various Bhutanese refugees are coming to the Lord! Mercy and grace are whole new concepts to them as far as the way a deity would relate to people. There's a wide curiosity about Christianity among the Bhutanese community here in Kansas City, and they are hungry to learn about Jesus. Please pray for the Holy Spirit to make the good news of Jesus perfectly clear to them.
- An I-pod for the Bhutanese Kids Club
- 55 gallon trash bags to accommodate our large trash cans
- Plastic-ware and paper plates
- March 14-19: Break week. No L.I.T.; no Bhutanese outreach programs, no Latino outreach programs. The Mission Adelante office will be closed March 16-19.