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Mentoring May Be More Important Now that Ever Before

What interesting times we are in! With so much uncertainty in the atmosphere, what a blessing it is to know that we are able to grasp onto the unchanging hand of our Lord Jesus Christ!  God did not promise us a life without difficulty, but He did promise to see us through if we trust Him! So, let us continue to trust Him in this season as we seek His face collectively.

As we attempt to plan and prepare for the upcoming school year, we are challenged in doing so due to the current state of society as a whole. It has not yet been confirmed how next school year will function, and therefore we are limited in our own capacity to plan adequately. However, we want to be ready to serve our students—whether that be in-person mentoring or virtually. Once we become clear on how schools will operate, we will then begin laying out our procedures for mentoring.

That being said, mentoring may be more important now than ever before. Those of you that have been mentoring students that were already facing significant challenges, can probably assume that those challenges have increased since the COVID-19 pandemic. Jefferson County Public Schools reported that thousands of students never logged on once to get their Non Traditional Instruction (NTI). 

My assumption is that those students are some of the ones that were already marginalized, struggling academically and probably in some ways socially; dealing with various issues such as a lack of parental support at home, financial barriers/poverty, technological issues (not having a device and/or WI-FI), drugs and/or violence in their community, etc. Therefore, the disadvantaged have only become more disadvantaged during times like these. Think about it this way: do the students that didn’t log on fail for the school year? Do they get passed? How are they ultimately impacted academically & socially, and therefore in life (both in the short-term and long-term) by this disease? 

This is most certainly a time for God’s chosen ones to sharpen our swords and equip ourselves for the battle ahead. How will we as mentors and servants, confront the issues that our mentees might bring to us following the pandemic and the multiple issues surrounding race? How will your mentees view you as their mentor on the back end of the protests (if there is an ethnicity difference)? Will the protests even be over when school starts? How will your ethnicity and/or their ethnicity meet, either to bring harmony or discomfort to the situation? How will your individual experiences, level of understanding, views & perceptions of reality, and education play a part?

We certainly cannot predict whether or not your mentees will want to explore these topics of race with you. But I cannot imagine, particularly those of us that mentor on the Middle or High School levels, not being met with these conversations. These are not easy discussions to have. However, with the right heart/spirit of compassion, and a desire to act in the love that God gave us and showed us through Christ, true growth as “One Nation Under God” can be experienced.  I personally believe we can bring about the necessary changes to create an equitable and safe society for us all. How much are you willing to learn and grow this summer? How much are we willing to explore and try to truly understand how some are impacted in this society simply by ethnicity?

Peace, Blessings, & Love in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ,

By Aubrey R. Williams I In-School Program Coordinator
B.A. Psychology with a concentration in African American Studies
Morehouse College

By | 2020-07-15T19:32:03+00:00 July 15th, 2020|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Praying for Hope Place

 

When I first began volunteering for Hope Place, there were no other people in the building.

In those early days, before HPASS kids filled the basement with laughter and conversation, I’d arrive in that eerie calm before the chaos. Soon after, neighborhood kids would bound in  to do their homework, Elevate Dance students would arrive for a lesson, and waiting parents would sit in a circle and pick up last week’s conversations. Life and energy would explode throughout the building.

But when I’d arrive, it was silent. 

As an extrovert with big dreams about the vision and future of Hope Place, it was a little disconcerting to find myself alone. In my mind, I’d expected to forge meaningful friendships with the colorful and interesting women from the neighborhood or gently shape the futures of the shining young students who found refuge in the halls of Hope Place. Instead, in His great wisdom, God brought me into a season of quiet solitude.

There were a few practical things I could do to serve while I was alone. I’d clean out closets or make popcorn for the coming rush of students. I’d sweep the floors or wash discarded dishes. But mostly, I prayed.

I began using my hour alone to pray urgently for the future of Hope Place. I’d pray for the staff and volunteers, who could have easily become overwhelmed and stretched thin. I prayed for the volunteers and ministry teams who’d learn more about their own world as they were immersed in this colorful world of cultures and contexts at Hope Place. And I prayed most of all for the children, women, and families who could potentially have their very first encounter with the loving grace of Jesus when they entered that building. 

I begged God for protection and favor. So many things could impede the purpose and dreams of Hope Place, including neighborhood violence, government interference, division and discord, lack of resources, trauma insensitivity, or other attacks from the enemy. I prayed that God would unite the staff and leaders of Hope Place, and that through their humble, passionate efforts, He would bring about His purposes. 

As I prayed, I began to imagine the transformation that He could accomplish there. I dreamed of unguarded laughter, breakthrough conversations, family transformations, and a shelter in the storm. 

Now, when I volunteer, there are kids everywhere. HPASS leaders genuinely know and love their students. There’s laughter and honest conversations and transformation. It’s everything I prayed for and more.

But as COVID-19 paused the activity in the building, it felt familiar and powerful to return to my old habits. 

In the absence of all the people, I prayed.

Written by:  Carla Williams

By | 2020-06-16T16:34:29+00:00 June 16th, 2020|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Court Diversion Workshops Go Virtual

Last week, as they had done many times before, Hope Collaborative volunteers began meeting with students involved in Kentucky’s Pretrial Court Diversion Program. This time, however, the meeting was different. This time, the meetings were done through an internet connection.

Over the past month, amidst school closings and social-distancing measures, Hope Collaborative has been working with both the Court Designated Worker Program (CDW Program) and the Administrative Office of the Courts, to put together online versions of their Community Works Workshops. These workshops, which are a part of the Court Diversion Program, are designed to educate and empower kids who are working to have non-violent misdemeanors expunged from their records.

While education and accountability are key components of the Community Works program, the long-term hope is that, through these workshops, participants are able to develop relationships with caring adults who both support them and see past any legal charge or past decision. In just the two years of operation, there have already been many cases of these relationships continuing with Hope Collaborative volunteers even after the workshops have been completed.

With still many restrictions and shelter-in-place orders in effect, the new online format has presented many new challenges. Engagement and discussion through technology simply is not the same as compared to the in-person sessions that used to take place at three different locations within Jefferson and Oldham County. Despite these obstacles, however, the opportunity remains the same.

Even just a few weeks into curriculum, volunteers have already begun reporting positive interactions and observable changes in participants. In one group, each student was able to share and answer questions about their future goals. Talks of attending college or graduating high school were not only encouraged, but discussion around short-term goals and steps to achieve these dreams were also fleshed out. All of these interactions, despite taking place through a screen, were tiny steps toward change.

After completing the program, every participant will not only be given a certificate of completion, but will also be one step closer to wiping away a past mistake that could have impeded on a bright future. Thanks to the blessing of technology and the hard work of both Hope Collaborative volunteers and CDW Program staff, that process won’t have to be delayed.

Written by: Jason Allen
Hope Collaborative Staff

By | 2020-05-15T16:05:20+00:00 May 15th, 2020|Diversion Program|0 Comments

Vibrant Beauty in Unexpected Places

On a recent Tuesday, as I was waiting in the Hope Place lobby for my daughter to finish her dance class, I glanced at some light switches next to the main entrance. Though they worked well, the switches were dingy, with dirt trapped in the small letters etched into each switch.

 

In some other contexts, people might be worried about cleaning those switches, making sure they look perfect for all who pass through the building. I smiled, though, when I noticed this small detail, because, in the context of Hope Place, these dirty-but-usable light switches represent a much larger truth.

I have had the distinct privilege of working with Hope Place from very early on. My family and I attended the initial kick-off meeting, excited about this new chapter in the history of this building.

I say new chapter because my history with the Hope Place building extends far beyond Hope Place. I attend Grace Community Baptist Church, which was formed when Lynn Acres Baptist Church and Yorktown Baptist Church, where I attended, merged in 2005. The building that is now Hope Place formerly housed Lynn Acres, so I have gotten to see what’s happened at the building since something as incredible as Hope Place could barely be imagined.

My wife and kids were the first ones to volunteer, helping out with child care during C.O.F.F.E.E. on Friday mornings. In the fall of 2018, though, my wife, Sarah, connected with Lindsay Shores regarding the need for male mentors for elementary-aged boys.

The fact that I connected with Lindsay for this opportunity was full of past connections, similar to my past connections with the building. Lindsay had attended Lynn Acres when it merged with Yorktown. As a result, not only did the Shores and I suddenly attend the same church, they eventually became my youth leaders, as well. Now, after more than a dozen years, I was working with her to become a male mentor for a group that would include her son, Isaiah. When I began as a mentor, Isaiah was just a few years younger than I was when his parents were my youth leaders.

My first few weeks (okay, months) of mentoring certainly had their challenges. The abstract idea of mentoring young boys and actually living that out are often worlds apart. Though I certainly worked to bring about change in my guys’ lives, I began to realize that the most significant changes in their lives probably wouldn’t happen until I let change happen in my own life.

When I started as a mentor, I was trying to tightly control everything that happened. I was always looking for more: better behavior, more efficient use of time, faster results, somehow thinking that I could will my way to seeing life-change in these young men’s lives.

The longer I mentored, though, the more I realized that control is exactly what I did not need. Not that the time I had with my guys should be out of control, but that I needed to focus more on the good that was already there before I could focus on what could be.

Slowly, I began to accept that the craziness and unpredictability that I often experienced as a mentor were not necessarily bad things. Ultimately, they were just things, and I could choose to use those things for building up the Kingdom or for tearing it down.

The outcome would ultimately be determined by my willingness to surrender control of the future of the mentoring class and of these young mens’ lives to God’s sovereignty. To surrender to the God who lovingly stitched together and knew, completely, each of the boys He had entrusted to my care. To surrender to the God who made me and knew all my shortcomings and stubbornness and sin. To surrender to the God who knew the outcome of this class before the world was formed.

Slowly but surely, I relented. Not perfectly, by any means, and not without God revealing more sin in my own heart that I needed to deal with, but still, I was making forward progress. As I did, the most incredible thing began to happen. God opened my eyes, for the first time, to the true beauty of all that was happening at Hope Place. Not just with the guys I mentored, but in all the activities that keep Hope Place humming on a daily basis.

I was realizing, more and more, that the broken people around me at Hope Place were so precious in God’s sight. Not only that, but I was very much myself one of these broken people, precious to and loved by God. Not that I didn’t realize these truths before, but that they took on a much more immediate reality when I gave up control of how I thought things should operate. Instead of chaos, I now saw a buzzing hive of activity that only God could orchestrate.

I would compare what happens at Hope Place to a snowflake. Like a snowflake, the beauty at Hope Place is easy to behold, but only when you look through the right lens (a microscope lens, in the case of a snowflake). Also like a snowflake, though, the beauty at Hope Place is impossible for anyone but God to create.

I thought about all these things as I studied the grubby light switches while waiting for my daughter on that recent Tuesday evening. I whispered, to no one in particular, “those light switches, and that broken door handle, and that stained carpet, they mean so much, you know. After all, though they may be dirty and broken, they are not a lost cause. They are still so important and necessary, and with just a little love, they can be fully restored.”

As it is for the light switches and door handles at Hope Place, so it is for the people at Hope Place, a group of people that I am proud to be counted among.

Written by: Jonathan Fields – Hope Place volunteer

By | 2020-04-15T12:10:02+00:00 April 15th, 2020|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Navigating Adversity

Everyone faces adversity. Challenges come at all ages and all seasons of life. Choices matter, and they affect not just ourselves, but those around us.

Hope Collaborative has been given the opportunity to come alongside students who are learning these key lessons at a difficult time. Specifically, we recently began partnering with Family-Juvenile Services to offer 8-week groups for minors who are facing misdemeanor criminal charges and low-class felonies – helping them learn from their choices, and consider how to make better ones. We now regularly offer these groups at three locations – 2 in Jefferson County, and 1 with young people from Oldham, Henry, & Trimble that meets in La Grange. At one session of our most recent La Grange group, Zack Murphy joined us to share his story with our students.

Zack went to North Oldham High, where life seemed pretty normal for him until he woke up one day, and everything changed. At age 16, he had suffered a spinal cord stroke. Unable to walk, he began using a wheelchair. After years of therapy, he now can walk a few steps, is able to drive, and lives a full and faithful life – but still needs the help of a wheelchair to get around.
Zack shared with our students the response he gets from other people: A young guy in a wheelchair? He must have been driving recklessly or been drinking. Assumptions are easy for people to make, but it doesn’t take long interacting with Zack to realize he is a faithful, joyful person. Zack has faced his share of adversity, and through it all, he is a light to his 4 children, the students he works with at his church, and to those who hear his story – including the kids in our court diversion group, where recently he shared with them 3 principles to navigating adversity:
  1. Do not use your life circumstance as an excuse or a crutch.

  1. Realize that everyone else has their own struggles too, and seek to be compassionate and understanding.
  2. Understand that most things in life are beyond your control, so control what you can – your attitude and your reaction.

Zack’s message was an important one, beneficial to the young people in our group – delivered by a messenger who truly practices what he preaches.

At Hope Collaborative, we’re grateful for the opportunity to come alongside students in need of encouragement and support. And we’re grateful for friends like Zack – and so many others like him – who help us meet students where they are, showing them love and compassion – and a better way forward.

Written by:  Jeff Dye

By | 2020-03-17T14:21:28+00:00 March 15th, 2020|Uncategorized|0 Comments
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