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

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

Hope’s Campers Make Summer Memories

Thierry Bahati sits proudly upon a horse led by Kelsey McHenry at Stone Creek Camp.

Fourteen-year-old Thierry Bahati flashes a grin in the direction of his friends as his horse, Ebony, saunters around the pen.  Well, it’s not his horse, exactly.  The horse he is riding technically belongs to Stone Creek Camp, but for a bit, it’s easy to imagine he’s on an adventure of his own.

Bahati grew up in the Democratic Republic of Congo, before coming to America as a refugee.   “We used to live in the middle of nowhere and take care of cows and goats and corn. [Going to the farm] felt like going back to my house.”  Bahati now lives in an apartment complex off of a busy street in Louisville with his parents and two younger sisters. “Riding horses was really cool.  It was my first time ever riding one,” he adds, his familiar smile rising with the memory.

Kenzie Young and Hope Place Director Kristy Robison began planning this outing last summer when Robison learned that Young operated a handful of summer camp sessions each year.  Robison was excited to begin figuring out the logistics for funding and the transportation required to carry over fifty Hope Place kids, plus parents and volunteers across Louisville for the two-day experience.

Kenzie Young, Stone Creek Camp

During camp, the kids also swam in a pond, zip-lined, and tie-dyed t-shirts.   Many of them had never before hiked a wooded trail or mounted a horse. Some bought their first-ever bathing suits for this event.

“It is just a little bit easier to breathe when you’re in the country.  There is something about being outside and being with animals that helps to counteract the stresses of life,” explains Young.  “It is therapeutic to stand in the summer sun and brush a horse or hold a kitten as it falls asleep.”

Hope Place has hosted ten camps in all this summer, growing significantly from the single four-day camp last year.  Camp options this year included cooking, music, construction, dance, gardening, basketball, a reprisal of last year’s Wacky Wednesdays, the Stone Creek Camp, and two cultural camps, one run by the Karen people and the other by the Chin people of Myanmar.  A total of nearly 250 children were served by these camps and the countless volunteers that worked them.

College student Eh Htoo served for two weeks at Karen Bible Camp.  Darting from classroom to classroom and from basement to office, Htoo taught, translated, and made copies for the sixty or so Karen kids in attendance each day.  Htoo, a refugee herself, arrived in America twelve years ago.

Eh Htoo, Karen Bible Camp

During Karen Camp, children learned Bible stories and songs in their native language.  “We don’t want them to forget about their culture or their language because one day, when they grow up, our people will need help with our language and it’s important for them to know about our culture,” says Htoo.

Last year, Beechland Karen Baptist Church’s pastor Saw Gay ran this camp out of his own family’s apartment.  Originally, he planned to continue to use his home again this year, when space was offered at Hope Place. Hope Place partnered with the church by supplying them with some materials and copies, providing lunch, and arranging for a visiting team to lead a few mini-camps under Gay’s oversight.

With summer coming to an end, Hope Place is gearing up for fall after-school programming.  Hope Place kids, however, have accumulated a variety of new skills and memories of their adventures.  Kids like Thierry Bahati and his sister Sophie Mwanzagaza, who explains what she will remember most about the summer: “At basketball camp, I finally learned how to play basketball.  But I also learned about being respectful and kind, and I made a lot of new friends.”

By | 2019-07-27T21:54:59+00:00 July 27th, 2019|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Year One: A Virtual Tour of Hope Place

Hope Place recently celebrated its first birthday!  Our “Out of School Block Party” event was the official kickoff in June 2018.  This past year has been a blur of activity; the building is full of life and hope.  The following is a brief description of a typical week at Hope Place.

 

On a Friday morning, the rooms at Hope Place are beginning to fill with people.  

In the Learning Center, teachers with the C.O.F.F.E.E. English as a Second Language Program assist students from places like Iraq, Somalia, and Cuba.  

In the now-vibrant Hope Cafe, refugee women from the MAYA Collection piece together handmade boutique-quality items like handbags and earrings to sell at market.  The income they receive will benefit their families. Volunteers assist with their young children.

On the third floor, the Women’s Fitness Center is gearing up for the arrival of mainly African and Middle-Eastern women who will, within the hour, be working out with REFIT instructor Christie.  

The weekend brings streams of people in through various doors:  a Somali wedding, an East African choir practice, a Myanmar church service.  Speakers, microphones, and podiums are set up and broken down, chairs arranged and rearranged.  Voices are raised in song in languages unfamiliar to the uninitiated.

When the new week begins, the Hope Place Kids programs pick back up.  Volunteers who have been trained to take a trauma-informed approach lead classes in music, mindfulness, art, dance, and recreation.  The children, from diverse backgrounds and religions, learn constructive ways to express their emotions through strokes of a paintbrush, the cadence of words, the beat of a drum, physical movement, and teamwork.

In a large, bright, basement room, Elevate Hope dance teacher Rachel instructs a group of tiny ballerinas with their arms outstretched to the side, to run across a tape line on the floor, leaping over a sandal laid on the path.

A few parents wait for their children in the cafe.   A couple of Arabic speakers are engaged in intense conversation over the coffee table.  They break into laughter occasionally. A mom with a messy bun reads a book with a highlighter in hand, soaking in this momentary calm in her day. 

Amy, Jessica, Carla, or another building hostess unlocks the storage cabinet and distributes snacks and supplies to mentors who have arrived for their weekly meeting with students.  In the cape cod-style cottage next door, Jo Rae removes her sheet pan of blueberry pancakes from her oven at Hope House in preparation for the teen girl mentor group which is coming over for dinner and conversation tonight.

His job training through the P.A.C.T. program finished for the day, a young twenty-something guy from Somalia meets up with a mentor.  He discusses the future of his job and his family. His life in transition, the world is more uncertain to him than to anyone else in the building.

As the sun sinks low, Congolese, Burundian, and Rwandan women in African-print dresses with the ministry Gate of Hope stand in silhouette against the sky, grasping hoses that water the vegetables they will soon harvest.  Their flip-flops sink into the cool soil. The garden will produce good fruit. It always does.

By | 2019-06-21T18:20:13+00:00 June 21st, 2019|HopePlace, Uncategorized|0 Comments

Get Fit and Fit In: Hope Place’s Women-Only Gym Opens in South Louisville

Getting in shape is a common New Year’s Resolution for many.  Kristy Robison and Hadeel Mahdi’s resolution was slightly bigger than that:  they wanted to see an inclusive, women-only gym open in their South Louisville neighborhood.  

A trained therapist, Robison recognizes the benefits of fitness.  Through her education and experience with clients who have experienced trauma, she notes, “I’ve had to learn the hard way that taking care of myself has to be a priority, so I’m excited to help others take care of themselves, their families, and their mental and physical health.”

For Mahdi, a 31-year-old Iraqi immigrant and mother of four young children, the need was more personal.  “After I gained weight, I started to change my diet and wanted to work out. I can’t take off my hijab [when I’m with men], but here I feel safe to do that.  A women-only gym is my dream!”

Robison, who has been the Director of Hope Place since it opened last year, remembers the initial conversation with her friend well.  “We were walking to get popsicles with her kids and Hadeel mentioned she needed a place to work out that was only for women, so we started praying about that.”  God’s answer came through former women’s gym owner Kim Caples. “One day, [she] just called and said that she had been praying about what to do with all the equipment she no longer needed and she was wondering if we wanted it at Hope Place.  She donated it all.”

The cheery new workout area is located on the third floor of Hope Place’s spacious building.  It features a children’s playroom, a large sitting area, dressing rooms, private restrooms, ellipticals, treadmills, weights, and, of course, the centerpiece:  all of the fitness machines required for a complete circuit workout. While the circuit takes only thirty minutes to complete, it is equivalent to a ninety-minute workout at a traditional gym.

Inspirational quotes pop off the bright pink and gray walls, while a dance mix of high energy music floods the room.  Every thirty seconds, a chime announces that it’s time to switch machines. After two full circuits, the workout is complete.

“[This gym is] very important because when we opened Hope Place, our mission and priority has been to meet the needs of the community.  It was Hadeel who kind of started the conversation that a women’s only gym was important for Muslim women who can’t work out with men,” explains Robison.  And while they may have been essential to its design, the gym is not designated for Muslim women alone. All women are welcome to join. Currently, Robison notes, “we have 60-70 people who are interested.”

Women curious about the Hope Place Women’s Fitness Center, may come out and try the gym the first time for free.  Monday through Friday from 9:30am-1:00pm and Monday through Thursday from 5:00-7:00 pm, someone will be here to help them use the equipment.  Members may join online or when they arrive on site. The fees are $15 a month or $150 a year. The month-to-month option can be canceled at any time.

By | 2019-01-28T19:54:46+00:00 January 28th, 2019|HopePlace, Uncategorized|4 Comments
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