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

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


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
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