Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Ministry Doesn't Have to Be Big to Be Important (part 2)

BLOGGER'S NOTE: This post was written for my November 11 Wednesday evening rehearsals. Life has been running at break-neck pace the past couple of months. It has taken me until now to carve out a few minutes to upload my musings to the blog.

FACEBOOK NOTE: If you're reading this on fb, please take a moment to click the [View Original Post] link below so I can have a clearer picture whether people are actually reading this stuff online. I'm uncertain how many of my Wednesday ensemble members actually read what I write.


A few years ago I participated in a mentoring program at one of our local elementary schools. This particular school happened to be zoned in an area of our community that had a higher-than-the-local-average number of students from difficult home situations. The program was designed to make up for some of the family support deficit that these students lived under. The structure of the program was simple: Recruit people in the community to come for a half-hour one day a week and read with a 3rd grader that had been identified as “at-risk” according to certain¬ (mainly academic) criteria. Each at-risk student would have four mentors: one per day for four of the five days of the school week. The time commitment required of each mentor was minimal: 30 minutes per week; but the student ended up getting two hours of one-on-one instructional time each week. It was an elegant plan and I was honored to be a part of it.

This was the first time I had ever been put in a situation with a child who struggled with basic reading skills. I felt like a fish out of water. I didn’t have a clue how to teach a child how to read because I had never had to. My children taught themselves how to read, picking up the decoding of written language almost simultaneously with spoken language.

Though reading was the primary connection point, the program was also designed to increase the children’s contact with positive adult influence in their lives. They encouraged us to get to know the children a little more personally, so I would ask about home and family. Of all the boys that I mentored, only one could answer me when I asked how many brothers and sisters he had. He was the exception because he enjoyed a healthy home life with 2 loving parents and very involved grandparents as well. He just struggled with reading. Most of the students in the program struggled with school because their home situations provided little or no support for doing well in school. Some struggled for darker reasons than that.

One child in particular stands out in my memory. I could tell that he was too bright to need to the support of the “resource” class, but he had no patience for reading or anything else I tried to do with him in my half-hour. He would constantly interrupt asking if it was time to go back to resource yet … because that’s where he really wanted to be. I knew he was intelligent and his apparent lack of desire to learn frustrated me to no end. I would drive back to the church and ask God if what I was doing was making any difference in this child’s life.

As the football season began this year, I began hearing a familiar name over the PA as my young this student made key contributions to plays on the football field. I wondered how he was doing in school. The Lovely Wife was helping out some at the elementary school across the street from our house and told me of a nice-looking, very well-mannered CHS student that she had seen coming almost every afternoon to read with 2nd graders. His Friday attire showed that he was on the football team. She wondered what his name was. A couple of weeks ago I discovered that the young man that she had seen was my source of frustration years ago. As I was sharing the news with the principal of that elementary school (who now serves in senior administration in our school system), another of our choir members who is in administration at the high school told us that he has passed his exit exams and will graduate from high school. It has taken years for the groundwork that was laid by 4 men in this community to bear fruit. The impact on this young man may last a lifetime or longer. It wasn't big ... but it was important.

That’s enough to think about for now. The peace of Christ to you.


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