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

Kairos Moments

In the Bible, there are two main words for time. The first is chronos – something we see appear in English words like “chronology.” Chronos is clock time; it’s minutes and hours and days. Chronos happens like clockwork (literally), for it is the regular passing of seasons and times. 

The other word for time that we see in scripture is kairos. Unlike chronos, kairos isn’t that interested in the clock; it’s focused on the content. Kairos doesn’t so much measure time, as it makes use of time. Kairos is finding meaning in the minutes; it’s seeing (and making) purpose in this time, this moment, this now.

Why the Greek lesson? It’s because our mentors make use of chronos AND kairos. Mentoring begins this week at schools throughout Oldham County, and each week our mentors have a chronos moment on the calendar. If they have committed to be at the school on Wednesday at 1:00, well, then that’s the chronos moment when their mentees and the schools expect them to show up. And, of course, it’s really important for our mentors to be there; showing up is the first half of the commitment they have made.

However, it’s possible to keep the chronos commitment, but miss the kairos moments. For mentoring isn’t just about taking the time, it’s about making use of the time. It’s about being there, yes; but, even more, it’s about being fully there, ready to love, listen, and encourage. Chronos is about being there, but kairos is about being ready to engage the students, right where they are. 

So, remember our mentors as they connect this week with their students. Pray that in the midst of chronos time, they will experience kairos moments, too.

By | 2018-09-10T19:01:18+00:00 September 10th, 2018|Public School Outreach|0 Comments

Freddie’s Story

It’s no longer surprising to see drug addicts on city streets, in alleys, or around public buildings.  Beechmont is just one Louisville neighborhood that has been particularly hard-hit by this trend. In 2017 alone, 292 doses of Narcan were administered in the area. Studies have shown that early trauma combined with the individual’s own poor choices can lead to substance addiction.  The result of this toxic combination can be seen around the borders of the Hope Place facility, as homeless men and women sleep under stairwells, shoot up, and make deals. When Hope Place opened, this activity was already well-established on the grounds.  We’ve found no easy solution to a problem that has taken root throughout the city. Like all of life’s hard things, it seems that God is leading the Hope Place staff through this struggle, rather than around it. When I met Freddie Woods*, he was thin and sickly, sitting on a stair in a recessed area of the building, talking to a female friend, Kathy, who presumably shared the same addiction.  I cautiously approached and they each relayed to me the tragic life situations and decisions they had made that eventually led to Hope Place’s side porch, where they currently shared an aging apple they’d rescued from a dumpster. Hope Place Director Kristy Robison asked her husband Matt to come over and talk to Freddie later that evening.  Lit by a streetlight, Matt leaned against the brick wall and offered Freddie, who remained shadowed on the porch, a bit of hope:  if he was interested, Matt would try to find Freddie a place in rehab. “I’ll check around and see what I can do. If you want to go and you’re still here in the morning,  I’ll drive you there,” Matt offered. “I’ll be here,” Freddie responded.  “I’m not going to leave this spot because I know if I go back out there, I won’t come back.” None of us was sure whether Freddie would still be on the porch the next morning.  In fact, he waited over 48 hours while Matt found him a spot in a rehab program, which is where he is now, voluntarily trying to get clean. After making it through his initial week of detoxing, Freddie has been transferred to a 60 day rehab facility.  Matt continues to follow up with him and reports that he is doing well and is appreciative of the support. Matt even became his emergency contact, when Freddie revealed he has no one left in his life willing to fill that role. The streets abound with others who are struggling with addiction like Freddie, but who are not yet ready to enter rehab.  Many have lost all hope that their lives could be any better than they presently are. Beneath the needle marks, the pale complexions, the hopelessness, lies not only someone’s son or daughter, born bearing the image of God, but a potential brother or sister, a future pastor, women’s ministry leader, or prayer warrior. Seeing the dignity in others can be difficult when it has been covered over by a haze of struggle and failure.  It is our job to help others dig down below the surface to find treasure.
By | 2018-11-07T23:47:27+00:00 August 31st, 2018|HopePlace|0 Comments

Amina’s Story

As a child, Amina Saidi* was just one of many young girls who herded their family’s goats around the countryside of Somalia, at least until she was sent to Mogadishu to live in her uncle’s home and attend school.  Amina worked hard at her education and was in the seventh grade when she learned that her father had died. Her step-mother quickly remarried, leaving Amina and her four teenage siblings to care for themselves. By this time, her father had left his nomadic lifestyle and settled in a village near the Shebelle River to farm.  Before his death, he had been a wealthy man and the children were able to continue working the farm and providing for their needs. “We didn’t have a father or mother, but we were happy and we did a good job cooking, cleaning, gathering wood…,” she explains.

Abdi Mohammed* was 21 years older than Amina when they married.  She knew that she needed a husband to provide for her, and Abdi Mohammed, an Army General, seemed advantageous.  He was also well-connected, as his brother was married into the notorious Somali President Siad Barre’s family in a nation where family is everything.  Amina moved back to Mogadishu, this time into a home of her own and the two lived an affluent life together. Still, she felt like an outsider, and when the sound of gunfire signaling Somalia’s civil war reached her neighborhood, her husband ran away in fear, leaving his pregnant wife with their seven children and an adolescent nephew.  

For fourteen days, Amina and the children remained huddled in the house while gunfire exploded around them.  “Once, we were eating our meal and a bullet came in and landed in our food. I said, ‘God, help me!’” Every day, she would feed an increasing number of people one meal of “a little meat and a lot of rice,” she says.  Tanks would come by and fire on houses, but their home and the inhabitants remained, so she would say, “Today, praise God, life.”

One day, she and the children decided to escape to her childhood farm and for miles they walked.  Her thirteen-year-old daughter carried the two-year-old along, as expectant-mother Amina navigated the way.   They paid a tractor pulling a flatbed trailer to carry them the rest of the way. Eventually, the family made their way to Kenya.

When Amina’s sister in America decided to sponsor the family’s immigration, they traveled across the Atlantic to Virginia.  Her early days here were hard. Only eleven days after arriving, her husband, who had reunited with them, died from lung cancer and pneumonia in a hospital. Overwhelmed, she would often go into the bathroom, weep for a while, and then come out determined to be strong for her children.  “I didn’t know the language, didn’t have money, didn’t know where to go to get help. No one was helping then. I didn’t even know where the food stamps place was. But it was the church that helped me.” The family stayed in a Volunteers of America family shelter when they had difficulty paying their rent and then moved to Columbus, Ohio when they heard that rent there was more affordable.  

Churches in Columbus kindly invited them to stay for a week at a time and fed them dinner each day.  “The church people were a . . .,” she pauses as she searches for the perfect word before finally exclaiming, “. . . a community!  If they sponsored four families for one week, I thought, the money is not just coming from the [institutional] church, it is coming from the community of the church!  They really helped us. They were the nicest people I’ve ever met.” For the first time, Amina was seeing the church not as a lifeless structure, but as a group of living, breathing, sacrificing people.  “They even helped the kids read stories and played with them. They just kept them company while the parents rested.”

Over the years, Amina was certified to work as a nursing home aid, which she enjoyed doing for many years, and she became an American citizen.  She now a grandmother living in Louisville and her grandson is attending Camp Hope’s Wacky Wednesdays at Hope Place. She is very passionate about education and is hopeful for the youth mentoring and tutoring sessions that are being planned. “The reason I came here is for a better life.  I came here for two things: safety and a better education for my children,” she states. Hope Place wants to help make both of those things a reality.

 

*Names changed

 

By | 2018-11-07T23:48:36+00:00 August 13th, 2018|HopePlace|0 Comments

Piecing Hope Together

One of the goals of Camp Hope’s Wacky Wednesdays last month was to create a lasting work of art–a mosaic–for Hope Place’s reception area.  It was a huge undertaking, however, that quickly became much more than mere art.

For several weeks, I scoured Louisville-area Goodwills and peddlers malls for brightly colored ceramic plates that we could smash into thousands of pieces.  By the third week of camp, we had built a large enough supply that the camp children could each break one. We wrapped the plates in towels, donned protective goggles, and began smashing with abandon.

Confused, a tentative little boy with raised eyebrows asked, “More?”  A little girl begged to break another dish, “Pleeeeeeeease?” she pleaded.  A dad dropping his son off late stared in shock as a kindergartner giddily slung a hammer toward his towel without aim.

That afternoon, I began to outline the design on concrete backer board.  I can now freely admit that I was in over my head. I had never attempted a project this large and I had no idea how much time and material I would actually need.  I formed the shapes of the iconic buildings in my design with small glass tiles in order to keep the lines bold and straight. During week four of camp, the art class began to piece together the sky.  

“There are many things that have happened in our lives that have made us feel like these beautiful plates that have been broken,” we explained.  “Right now, they may seem like useless pieces that serve no purpose, like maybe the pieces should just be thrown into the trash.  But we will soon see how God uses all of our broken pieces to make a beautiful masterpiece.”

Fifth-grader Jonathan learned to use the glass tile cutters.  Phoebe and Fikir glued geometric teal forms to the board. Chrisily delighted in placing a single aqua bead in the growing atmosphere which looked like a fading star.  Still, only a small portion of the 5’x6’ canvas was finished by the close of camp.

In the days that followed, help trickled in each evening.  For several days, we ate pizza and played music and neighborhood kids shared their lives with me while we worked late into the night.   

Hadeel, a local mom, built celadon-hued windows into the exterior of the iconic Galt House.  Malik, Ruby, and Layla glued tiles to the dual red-topped Waterfront Plaza towers. Isaiah, Joseph, Donald, and Yerandy affixed hundreds of irritatingly irregular pieces of pea gravel that, much like them, would not stay put.  Mariam sorted through piles of glass to find the perfect shades of blue for the Ohio River. Hope Place Director Kristy Robison used them to build portions of the shimmering, patterned water.  After his African church service ended on Sunday afternoon, four-year-old Frank firmly held the tiny pieces of a heart in place while the adhesive dried. My husband built and stained a frame.  This truly became a community project as the weeks passed.

The mosaic process itself is a piecing together of many different types and styles of glass, just as our neighborhood is a blend of people from all around the world:  Congo, Ethiopia, Somalia, Vietnam, Cambodia, Iraq, Burundi, Nepal, Cuba, and America, to name just a few.  Each of these cultures contributes to the unique beauty we find here.

I knew at the start that I wanted to make a mosaic of the Louisville skyline and the word HOPE.  Although I had a basic image in mind, it began to take on additional symbolism as we worked. The sunrise signals the hope of a new day.  The Hope Place tree grows along the riverbank. Small strips of mirror create movement and also point back at the viewer who himself becomes a part of the artwork.  And at the bottom, a tiny heart waits anxiously to break out of its stony prison into the hope above. It is buried, yet it hopes.

The grouting process was the hardest for me personally.  Burying what was already a perfectly nice picture beneath messy black sludge is a slightly terrifying process.  In only a few minutes, long hours of tedious work become concealed by a dripping, charcoal-colored mess that stains everything it touches.  All of the children who saw the mosaic during this time thought that I had certainly ruined it. But as I slowly wiped the drying grout away from the tiles, they saw the image being revealed:  the hope of something more glorious than they ever could have imagined back when we began with just a pile of broken shards and sticky mud. How often it looks like all is lost when we are buried in the pain, only to see God make something so much more beautiful out of our situation in the end.  And sometimes we can’t see this until we can step back and appreciate the process from a distance.

The finished mosaic is a piece of art, for sure.  But it has also been a process in growing and cementing relationships, a remedy to fear, a call to courage, and a monument to what God is doing through his people at Hope Place as he builds this diverse community. It was an honor to be able to collaborate on it with so many talented, but unknown local artists–our own campers!

We invite you to come by Hope Place and see where you fit in the picture.

(Thanks to Elevate Dance Ministry for inspiring this idea.)

By | 2018-11-07T23:52:20+00:00 August 13th, 2018|HopePlace|0 Comments

Craig’s Story

Craig Peterhansen answered the call to mentor four years ago in the early pilot days of implementing our mentor program in the Oldham County School District. Take a look at how one step of faith impacted his life.

“Like any opportunity to serve, I fully believe you get back far more than you can pour into it.  The mentoring program has been a great example of this. Since having a little faith to step up and be a part of this effort, I have clearly been blessed.  Serving these young men by participating in this important program has strengthened my ability to listen, has shaped my understanding of how to share a message of hope, and has taught me how to trust the Lord’s plans for my life and for the kids. These lessons have been beneficial across my life.

I also have learned that when kids begin to trust you and openly communicate with you, and when they understand you care for them without judging them, then real changes can occur.  They can begin to believe that they have an opportunity for a future, that by making better decisions will lead to a better result for them, and that their situation or their past does not have to define their future! I have learned many boys face some tremendous challenges and who better to walk beside them than men of faith. Who better to show integrity, empathy and love? So, my question to the men out there would be–why not you and why not now?

I believe that the time we spend planting and water these seeds with the kids, will reap a harvest one day.  I understand I may not always see it, but I have faith that God will use our efforts at His perfect time to make a difference in a life, just as he has done with mine.”

If God is tugging at your heart to pour into the lives of at-risk youth, contact us at Denise@TheHopeCollaborative.org to learn how you can get involved.

By | 2018-07-30T14:41:46+00:00 July 30th, 2018|Public School Outreach|0 Comments

Answered Prayer

Hope Place is located in the beautiful neighborhood of Beechmont in South Louisville. There are over 100 languages spoken within four blocks of the building, which is an amazing representation of what heaven will look like. While the neighborhood is wonderful in many ways, there are also challenges which include a high crime rate, addiction, homelessness and high unemployment. Many immigrants and refugees face challenges adjusting to the culture and struggle to learn English which makes finding jobs difficult. This is why Hope Place was started – to make hope tangible. To empower local churches to meet needs and bring hope to the hopeless in South Louisville. We have seen God do just that in the short amount of time that we have been here!

Hope Place was started in March and we have already watched the Lord mobilize his people to help! When we have presented a request to the Lord, it has quickly been met through the church.

We needed someone to handle day to day maintenance, we prayed, and God provided someone who volunteers much of his time to help with whatever is needed. Whether that is plumbing, HVAC, cementing in a basketball goal, painting, changing filters or lightbulbs, or organizing a work crew – he is here to help!

We knew that addiction recovery was desperately needed in the neighborhood. We prayed, and God answered with a man who just moved into the nearby apartment complex came over to see if he could host Alcoholics Anonymous here! We now have six AA meeting times per week. Shortly after a lady also called because she wanted to start a Christian addiction recovery program and they are now meeting one evening a week.

Realizing that many residents needed help learning English, we prayed for someone to help us get an ESL program started. God answered, and within a week, we met with COFFEE Louisville (an ESL ministry) who has started a Friday morning ESL class at Hope Place.

Our first Block Party was in May and we didn’t know what to expect. We prayed for volunteers and neighbors to come. God answered and had 40 volunteers and over 500 people come out to celebrate the opening of Hope Place! We were absolutely blown away at the support from local churches and the community!

We stepped out in faith and created connection cards for neighbors to complete at the block party. We added things like dance and summer camp, though we didn’t have a plan for how they would actually happen. We prayed and God answered – shortly after, I met a young woman wanting to start a dance ministry and a High School Pastor looking for a place to plug his high-schoolers in. A dance studio is in the works and we are now in our third week of camp, thanks to the help of 40+ high-school students!

We prayed for a volunteer who could help with financial sustainability and we now have an amazing lady with a business background who volunteers 3 days a week of her time.

In June we began praying for a co-laborer for myself as the only Hope Place employee. Two weeks ago, we hired Lindsay Shores as our Neighborhood Ministry Associate, who couldn’t be more perfect for the position.

We have been praying about doing some renovations in the basement and this week we got a call from a local church wanting to serve us by donating all the supplies and time to help us!

God is moving! He is at work at Hope Place and it’s fascinating to watch! The question is, do you have a role to play? Maybe there is something that we are praying for right now, that God is calling you to do. Maybe you are a piece to this puzzle that is so clearly coming together.

If you are interested in finding out how you can get involved or want to volunteer, contact Kristy at kristy@hopeccd.org

By | 2018-07-26T14:49:06+00:00 July 26th, 2018|HopePlace|0 Comments
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