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

Jo Rae and the Yellow Table

Food has been a centerpiece of community since biblical times when sharing meals and offering hospitality to others was a regular occurrence.  Over meals, kings have been persuaded, miracles performed, and ancient ordinances prescribed. A newly-resurrected Jesus shared breakfast with his disciples (Luke 24:42) and the early church regularly “devoted themselves . . . to the breaking of bread” (Acts 2:42).  There’s something special about gathering around a table together, and Jo Rae Bayless knows this well.

In a small brick home in South Louisville, the oven warmed a different homemade treat each week: doughnuts, sheet pan pancakes, cupcakes designed to resemble tiny hamburgers.  Each Friday evening after dinner, a different group of kids made their way across the lawn from Hope Place. There, they enjoyed dessert and conversation with the Baylesses–Jo Rae and her husband Kevin–in the home they rented known as Hope House.

“Having a naturally curious nature, I’ve always loved trying new foods and new preparations of it and so I’ve always been very adventurous when it comes to food. I love to share that love and curiosity with others,” explains Jo Rae.  “Even more important than the food is to look a child in the eye and convey to them that they matter and that they have great worth, that they are seen and heard.”

Jo Rae’s skill with cooking and hospitality make serving others look effortless and natural.  Most guests only see the bright yellow dining table piled high with the good things she brings out of the kitchen, but time and effort go into the planning.  She is committed to perfecting unique recipes, keeping up with all of her guests’ allergies, and executing each meal with excellence. It is her gift, and she stewards it well.

“My brokenness at a very young age came through the physical lack of nutrition and a lack of love and affection.  My body at an early age needed food to heal, and my heart needed someone to tell me that I had worth. When you use your brokenness to help bring healing to others, I think you are both healed a little more completely.”

During her time serving with Hope Place, Jo Rae conducted a cooking summer camp and was often seen in the on-site kitchen, serving the evening Dare-to-Care dinner, but it was her time with the Hope Place After-School Program kids on Fun Fridays that have endeared her to them.  

 

On Fun Fridays, the HPASS students divide into smaller groups that rotate through special activities that volunteers conduct for a 45-minute period.  Past activities have included smoothie making, team-building games, creative movement, tea parties, and time with a therapy dog. Jo Rae naturally signed up to host a dessert fellowship in her home next door.  And so, for about ten weeks, eight or so little heads gathered each Friday around the Baylesses’ cheery yellow dining table to be served some delicious surprise.

When Hope Place Hero Beatrice Makangila’s group was hosted, she says they were served hot chocolate and homemade doughnuts which the kids decorated with sprinkles.  “Ms. Jo Rae sat down asked how our week was and what we did at school that day,” the sixth-grader explains. “I felt grateful and happy to be there.” 

Six-year-old Noriah Ross adds, “She made me feel happy because she made food for us and she was being respectful and listening to what we had to say.”

In Jo Rae Bayless’ dining room, the yellow table became a place for children to be seen, heard, and nourished.  “I have learned that to love is to be vulnerable. When you love through food, through your everyday lives, and in your home, you open yourself up to judgment and criticism and comparison.  You have to be willing to be imperfect at all of that, but I think that people appreciate your heart, maybe even more, when we do it imperfectly. “

The yellow table, and the Baylesses, have recently relocated to Kansas, where Kevin accepted the call to pastor a church, and Jo Rae will no doubt begin using her gifts to bless the people of The Sunflower State.  

What are your gifts?  How is God calling you to use your gifts and experiences in his Kingdom?  Who is at your ‘yellow table’ and how are you bringing community and healing to those around you?

 

Sheet Pan Pancakes

Ingredients

Nonstick cooking spray

2 cups buttermilk

2 large eggs, beaten

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

4 tablespoons (½ stick) melted unsalted butter, divided 

2 ¼ cups all-purpose flour, spooned and leveled

¼ cup granulated sugar

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon kosher salt

 

How to Make It

Step 1

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Line an 11-by-17 inch rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.  Coat the parchment and sides of the pan with nonstick cooking spray.  Set aside.

Step 2

Whisk the buttermilk, eggs, vanilla, and 2 tablespoons melted butter in a medium bowl until combined.  In a separate large bowl, whisk the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add the milk-egg mixture and stir until just combined (do not overmix).  

Step 3

Scrape the batter into the prepared baking sheet, smoothing into an even layer with a spatula.

Step 4

Bake until the pancake is lightly golden and springs back in the center when poked 11-13 minutes.  Remove from oven and heat the broiler to high. Brush the remaining 2 tablespoons melted butter onto the pancake.  Broil until golden brown, 1 to 2 minutes, rotating halfway.

Step 5

Cut into 12 slices and serve warm.

 

By | 2020-01-22T22:17:38+00:00 January 22nd, 2020|HopePlace|0 Comments

Boys Meet World

Crossing Cultures with Pre-Teens

In late July, while his coworker Aaron was gearing up for a mission trip to East Africa, Southeast Christian Church Southwest campus youth minister Craig Donnelly was preparing to lead six green middle school boys all the way to sunny . . . South Louisville.  At SECC, it is typical for high school students to begin exploring the world and having their first overseas mission experiences. Donnelly’s vision is brilliant: he wants to prepare his younger guys for the not-so-distant future by making a far shorter journey to the diverse Beechmont/Southside neighborhood.  He has a point. Learning to interact with people who are different than oneself and facing culture shock for the first time is a lot easier if it’s only for a couple of days and fifteen minutes from your own bed.

Earlier in the year, Donnelly contacted Hope Place and he and staff began working together to build an experience that would benefit both his young team and Hope Place’s wider community.  The result was a combination of educational trainings, testimonies of in-cultural believers, community service outside of the building, and several delicious meals prepared by immigrant-owned local restaurants over the course of two and a half days.

Ten-year-old Ryder Munday explains his thought process after Donnelly personally invited him to join the team.  “My brothers go on mission trips a lot. When my dad told me there was going to be one for sixth and seventh graders, I wanted to go so that I could see what a mission trip really is.”  Ryder’s father, Chris Munday, came along to chaperone. 

Snapshots of a Middle-School Mission Trip

On Friday morning, the team set up tents and sensory bins in the Hope Place garden in preparation for Fun Friday–a summertime staple in which neighborhood kids have free playtime outside.  While a diverse group of children moved rocks with toy dump trucks, served mulch “smoothies” in the playhouse, or painted watercolor masterpieces on the fence, nine-year-old Yolian sat on the steps and chatted about Ethiopian politics with the Mundays.  As a member of a persecuted people group, she is keenly aware of the situation that brought her family to America.

Hope Place volunteer Amy Cunningham later led the team through a simulation designed to help them understand what it is like to live the life of a refugee.  Their small, subdivided groups found themselves choosing between holding on to cash, food, and family heirlooms or facing dire circumstances: situations true refugees are faced with every single day.

On Saturday afternoon, after playing an intense cross-cultural learning game, they headed to a nearby apartment complex.  People originally from Iraq, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Somalia, Cuba, Mexico, and other nations call the collection of brick buildings home.   Here, the team kicked around a soccer ball and played games organized by Hope Place volunteer Jonathan Fields. Local Hope Place kids called their friends out of their homes to join in and soon a small crowd gathered on the central green space, sweat trickling down their necks, as they refilled their cups at the orange water cooler.  

Saturday night’s dinner at Caribbean Cafe, a restaurant situated on Beechmont’s main drag, began with owner Francis Bien Aime discussing his journey from Haiti to America and the growing business that his family operates.  His story echoed many of the themes Haitian-American Sarah Thomas shared the evening before. The team enjoyed their meal which was arranged for and purchased in advance, talked about the day, and then headed back to rest for the night.  

Going and Growing

What was ultimately the SE/SW team’s takeaway?  “I love when I see students getting out of their comfort zone and engaging another community,” says Donnelly.  “[The] neighborhood interaction and picking up trash, . . . both [activities] allowed for growth in our students.”

Ryder Munday elaborates, “The first day I sort of felt weird and stuff, like, ‘This is new.  It’s different.’ [But] I got to meet a lot of new people and I enjoyed serving and getting to meet people from different backgrounds and learning how they or their parents got to America.”

Donnelly notes that this group of kids has definitely grown in their cross-cultural knowledge and confidence and he hopes to return to Hope Place with them–and other newbies–in the future.  Hope Place, on the other hand, is proud to be a launchpad into the world for young people like Ryder Munday and his teammates.

Steps to Bringing a Short-Term Mission Team to Hope Place:

  1. Choose a Team Leader to contact Hope Place staff.
  2. Determine the size of the team, budget, and how you would like to serve.
  3. Meet with Hope Place staff to determine dates and potential activities.
  4. Nail down service and learning activities.
  5. Locate housing and plan meals.
  6. Have each team member complete the Volunteer Training Manual.  Return surveys and background check forms.
  7. Arrive.  Lean and serve in prearranged areas.
  8. Impact lives!
By | 2019-09-20T01:46:03+00:00 September 20th, 2019|HopePlace|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

Moms Carry A World of Hope

At Hope Place, we recognize how important relationships are, for connection, growth, and overcoming traumatic experiences. For this piece, in honor of Mother’s Day, I interviewed six moms and their daughters who are part of the Hope Place community and are from a variety of cultural backgrounds.

Amy, is American-born and mom to Hannah, 24, and Maggie, 11.  Iman, from Iraq, is a single mom to Mariam, 10. American mom Beth adopted her twin daughters, Ella and Elline, 11, from Haiti.  Arwe, who immigrated from Yemen, is the mother of Asmaa, 19. Somali refugee Habiba, gave birth to triplets just after arriving in Chicago and her daughters are Najma and Nasteho, 13.  Farida, who is originally from the Democratic Republic of Congo, gave birth to her daughter Beatrice, 11, while living as a refugee in Tanzania.

After the first couple of interviews, I found myself questioning the mothers and daughters at the same time, mostly because the daughters were translating for their moms.   It was fun to see them react to one another’s answers and hear the side conversations that were spawned, particularly when the daughters sat, mouths agape at a story they’d never heard.  “You never told me about that!” they would exclaim. The mother would nod knowingly, as if to say, “There are many things you don’t know about me yet.”

As one would expect, each of the moms expressed joy when they first met their daughters.  Both Amy and Iman experienced difficult labors. “I was very sick and had a fever when she was first born so the doctors were worried about her, too.  I had to have surgery. I was so worried about Mariam. I just needed the doctor to say that she was ok. I forgot about everything else. To say I was happy is so not enough.  Mariam is my life,” explains Iman. Mariam smiles at this and snuggles into Iman’s shoulder.

Says Amy, “I was grateful to God that Maggie was alive because she almost died when she was born.  I realized God’s authority over life and death and saw him breathe the breath of life into her.”

Habiba tells of her surprise when she learned she was carrying triplets.  “I was pregnant when I came to Chicago in 2005. When I went to the doctor he said, ‘Habiba!  You have three babies!’ I was so very happy.” She gives orders for her daughters to bring out a photo album filled with images of newborns in a hospital. She shares them proudly.

The ladies praise their own mothers for setting their example. Says Habiba, “My mom was always right, never wrong.”

Beth adds, “My mom taught me to not make a big deal out of the small stuff and that relationships are more important than anything else.  You can never say that you love your daughters enough.”

“My mom just had a sense of peace about her and a lot of wisdom.  I think I can be so anxious and always striving. I have to be always doing something.  She used to say to me, ‘you can’t burn the candle at both ends,’” says Amy. “She’s right.”

While the mothers were conscientious about their own weaknesses, their daughters praised them highly, as well.  They specifically note their moms’ wisdom and willingness to listen, their service of others, their domestic and professional work, and their endurance through difficulties.

“My mom is brave because she went through cancer,” says Elline.  Adds sister Ella, “She’s really kind. She’s gone through a lot of things in life and she’s lived in two different countries.”

Najma, at her mother’s command, pours me a glass of juice, “My mom is brave because she stands up for what’s right.  I just found out right now–right this minute–that she went to Kenya because there was a war going on in Somalia!”

“My mom is very supportive because when I make wrong decisions she gives me advice to make it right.  She is very wise through stuff.” (Nasteho)

“I admire really just how selfless my mom is.  She is always there to care for people, to listen, to serve people, first and foremost for our family, but for other people, too.  She’s always there to listen no matter what time morning or night and even just to be with me and say nothing.” (Hannah)

“I want to be like my mom by loving and taking care of my future kids and being smart in school.  I want to be a teacher when I grow up like my mom was before,” says Mariam.  Ella and Elline both want to be teachers like their mom, and Maggie expresses a desire to follow her mom into cross-cultural work.

“I want to help people like she does.  When my uncle came here from Africa, my mom got ready for everything that we needed to do to prepare.  She did all the cooking and cleaning to welcome him.” (Beatrice)

“When we were in Yemen she couldn’t work, but when we came here she made her own house.  She works hard for us. I want to have a big heart like hers and be a good mother for my kids.” (Asmaa)

All the moms wish only the best for their daughters’ lives.  “I want Beatrice to be a lawyer or a doctor,” says Farida. (The look on Beatrice’s face doesn’t seem so sure about this.)

“I hope for her to follow Jesus,” explains Iman.  “I also hope she’ll become a doctor and have a happy life.” (Mariam interrupts, “But I actually want to be a teacher like you.”)

Beth hopes, “that they serve the Lord in whatever way he asks of them and that we always remain connected and close.”

The takeaways from the interviews with these women and girls from around the world are several.  First, the feelings experienced by moms when they first met their babies is universal. Whether the child’s addition occurred through an uneventful pregnancy, a long labor, or was facilitated by an adoption agency, everyone interviewed experienced the same joy. Second, while all of the moms seem to doubt their abilities in one way or another, every one of their children highly praises their work for the family. Third, all moms have a secret life story that their children may never fully know or appreciate.  But it’s those stories that have contributed to the brave, wise, women their daughters adore.

Finally, all of these moms have high hopes for their kids’ success in life, however that may translate culturally.

“My number one hope would be that my daughter finds her identity in Christ and does not fall into the trap of comparing herself with others,” summarizes Amy, “I hope that she would see her unique gifts and personality as something that can be used for him.”

By | 2019-05-06T18:45:49+00:00 May 6th, 2019|HopePlace|0 Comments

Five Tips for Your Youth Mission Trip

Shhh.  Listen.  Do you hear that?  If you really concentrate, you can just make out the sound of throngs of enthusiastic teenagers loading onto vans and buses and heading toward your friendly neighborhood ministry center, armed with sack lunches and paint rollers.  Even if their skill sets aren’t yet fully developed, their energy and zeal can make up for what is lacking, as they kick soccer balls with the kids and ladle one hot meal after another onto waiting plates.

Of course, if you’ve ever worked with a youth missions team, you know that things can either go very well, or, well, very, very, wrong.  The last thing any good youth minister wants is to head across the state or country with an ill-prepared group of students who contribute to more problems than they alleviate.  

Hope Place recently hosted a team through our partnership with ServeLouisville, that contributed beautifully to our ministry goals.  The team consisted of nine high school students, an additional local teen who joined with them during their trip, and three adult chaperones.  Throughout their service at Hope Place, which included an ice cream sundae party during the Explorer Clubs on Wednesday night and a full Thursday of cleaning up trash littering the streets surrounding our building, these teens were fully present, open-minded, and worked hard without complaint.  We asked Youth and Family Minister Ethan Davis, of Center Christian Church in Knightstown, Indiana, to share a bit about their strategy and preparation.

1. Prayerful Preparation

“For this trip, we prayed, opened up the registration link, and prayed more.  We didn’t advertise heavily, but trusted that those who wanted to go and were engaged enough would self-select.  We do ask some questions on the registration to get more info about their relationship with Christ, but we don’t make it laborious.”  In the time leading up to their departure, during their weekly meetings, Davis says they worked on “our choices and allowing God to be the focus and honoring him in all things. . . [Before we left], we were brought up and prayed over by the elders.  We were sent as an extension of Center Christian Church, as a whole, and not just the youth.”  

2.  Looking for God in Each Moment

“Besides the weekly meetings, we all attended Sunday school together the day we left.  They were pestering me about the details of the trip. I shared with them the Greek has two words for time:  Kairos and Chronos. . . We as Western Americans live in Chronos time–clock time. I was asking them to step into Kairos time–‘living in the moment’ time.”  Davis and his leadership team encouraged the teens to look for what God was doing in each moment, and participate with the Holy Spirit in that work, rather than simply filling the hours with empty activity.  To minimize distractions, the students were not allowed to carry their cell phones. Davis attributes the team’s success in Louisville to, “the grace of God, no cell phones, and having leaders committed to being present with no distractions.”

3.  A Biblical Approach to Discipline

Davis cites Matthew chapter 18 frequently when he discusses discipline.  This passage discusses how believers should confront one another when one has sinned.  “Before we left for the trip, we only had one real rule: Matthew 18. We knew conflict would come, we just wanted to handle it biblically.  We really strive to create a “follow me” approach to leading these kids. Our leaders have high trust and high accountability for and with each other.  This modeling is evident in how the kids approach each other. We are present, we are engaged, and other than that, we try to elevate relationship and unity above rules.  When we live out “submit to one another out of reverence for Christ,” it shows. This means that it’s not the leaders rule, but Jesus who gets to rule. Our leaders know that they are not perfect, we are just accountable to a higher authority.”

4.  Emphasizing Grace

Davis notes that while the team didn’t have any major disciplinary issues, “we did have some joking around that was a bit on the line.  We [the leaders] walked alongside both students by asking questions, not demanding behaviors. We try to allow them to discover for themselves the reasons behind a God-given ‘rule.’  After all, there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ. The struggle is to make sure all of our actions are in Christ. That [has been] our mega theme for this past year.”

5. Creating Margin for the Team

When asked how the leaders dealt with the inevitable bad attitudes that emerge after many hours of togetherness, particularly when the students are outside of their own local culture and learning so much new information each day, Davis responds, “Honestly, we didn’t have a lot of grumbling at all.  We tried to create relational white space in our calendar to allow them to be as a group rather than just do.  We really wanted to get to know them, but not push.  On the way down, we played . . . a collaborative card game [called Oregon Trail].  They had to overcome challenges and take on responsibilities of pioneers settling the old American West.  It really doesn’t seem spiritual, but it was a good chance for us to see how their personalities presented and who we can partner together for future assignments.”  

Davis’ notes offer encouragement to other student groups who may be heading out to serve in the coming weeks and months.  As we serve together for Kingdom purposes, may we use our gifts–along with our soccer balls and paint rollers–to build one another up and bring God glory in all that we do.  

If you would like to bring your team to serve at Hope Place, contact kristy@hopeccd.org.

By | 2019-04-02T03:01:26+00:00 April 2nd, 2019|HopePlace|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

Funmi Aderinokun: Loving People through Tasty Food

Tucked away unassumingly in the Gardiner Lane Shopping Center, Funmi’s Nigerian Restaurant is empty when the group of girls enter.  The restaurant typically closes between 2:30 and 5:30 while Funmi Aderinokun prepares for dinner, so the regular lunch crowd has already dispersed.  Today, however, the place is reserved for a special event. Within moments, it is once again bustling with activity.

“So how many languages do you speak?” one girl asks another. The answer is three. Another young lady at the other end of the table chats about school problems.  A few dare to stand up and dance to the West African music that is playing, showing off ornate African dresses that represent their individual cultures.

The “Black Girls Bloom” group first began at Hope Place when several African refugees and adoptees began gathering together on Saturday mornings.  They talk mainly about identity, specifically as it pertains to embracing who God created them to be, counteracting the unkind words that many have heard about their accents, cultural practices, or appearances.

Conversations at Funmi’s continue as each girl is served a plate of tomato-tinted chicken, jollof rice, and fried plantains.  The real treat, however, is that Aderinokun herself takes a seat and begins to share her experiences as a Nigerian immigrant and a successful chef and business owner.  

Born in Lagos, Nigeria, Aderinokun came to America when she was 33.  She worked in a bank until she decided to step out and open her own restaurant in 2010.  In the midst of raising a family with her husband Yomi, through hard work, struggle, and the grace of God, Funmi’s Nigerian Restaurant has become a gem in the local restaurant scene.  “I’ve never had a sous chef,” she explains to her guests. “For the past eight years, I’ve been the only one cooking. Phil 4:13–’I can do all things through him who strengthens me’–is my watchword.”

Along with her personal success story, Aderinokun encourages the girls surrounding her to have confidence. “I don’t mean an arrogant confidence like, ‘Who does she think she is?”  No, it’s, ‘Who does she know she belongs to?’  She adds, “And when you face challenges in life, realize it’s because you have God’s calling on your life.”

The girls are attentive as she combines wisdom with her personal stories of overcoming, generously folding in Scripture throughout.  Both Aderinokun’s cooking and her hope shine through and warm her guests on this chilly November day.

By | 2018-12-05T23:32:16+00:00 December 5th, 2018|HopePlace|0 Comments

Meant to Make a Difference

Every Tuesday evening, Jean Thomas catches a city bus outside his downtown office and heads to Louisville’s South End, where several energetic little boys wait to meet with him.  

Thomas is one of Hope Place’s EMPOWER coaches in their youth mentoring program that began last month in the Beechmont community.  Although Hope Place is a recent addition to the neighborhood, deepening relationships through family and student coaching has been a goal since its inception.  

“Mentors are so important for our youth because they focus on supporting the growth and development of their mentee through relationship and connection,”  explains Director Kristy Robison. EMPOWER mentors meet for an hour or two at a set time each week with the same small group of students. Mentors assist with homework, play games, and help the youth set and reach goals, encouraging them along the way.

The day before Thomas was approached and asked to join EMPOWER, he had started contemplating the idea of partnering with a mentoring program.  He had begun to feel that mentoring youth was something in which God was leading him to become involved.  The timing seemed perfect, so he readily agreed.  A background check and training session later, Thomas found himself face-to-face with a small group of elementary school-aged boys, assisting with math problems, teaching lessons on character, and playing table football with carefully folded triangles of paper.  

As a Haitian-American and a graduate of Hunter College in New York, with degrees in both economics and political science, Thomas is a strong role model for the kids in his EMPOWER group.  A husband and father of three, including his middle son who has special needs and “requires constant and energetic supervision to remain safe,” Thomas serves his mentees with the patience and faithfulness he has developed over a lifetime.  

Although any child may apply for a mentor at Hope Place, many of the children come from backgrounds in which they have experienced some type of trauma in their lives: upheaval in their native country, the death of a parent, adoption, etc.  Robison’s vision has always included the use of trauma-informed care to serve Hope Place’s population and the EMPOWER groups are central in this.

“Research has shown that connection can actually help rewire a traumatized brain,” she explains.  “This is amazing to me because God wired us all for connection. In fact, he sent his son to die for us so we can have connection with him and he created human connection to be healing.”

Thomas agrees.  “The reason I have prioritized mentoring in the midst of my own life’s busyness is that I consider smaller, intimate groups to have the greatest potential to influence young people to manage themselves and to treat others with justice.”

The boys in Thomas’ mentoring group don’t understand all of the logic undergirding the EMPOWER program’s foundation just yet.  For them, the time each week is simply fun and games with someone who cares about the things that matter most to them.

By | 2018-10-31T01:54:34+00:00 October 31st, 2018|HopePlace|0 Comments
Load More Posts
X