Sunday, September 23, 2007

SOMETHING FOR SUNDAY

Mr. Brownstone and I are involved with a youth group for tweens at our church. The church leadership recognized that class-size seemed to be shrinking in this particular age group because they had really outgrown the activities that are in place for the younger kids, but they were not really old enough to be part of the Junior High youth group ~ they were just left floundering somewhere in the middle.

After some deliberation, Club 56 was born. It's a brand new program, and we are so blessed and honored to have been asked to be a part of its conception.
In addition, we are so very fortunate to be teaching with three other couples that are part of our closest group of friends. As a result of our friendship, we have gotten to spend a significant amount of time discussing this youth group and the direction we would like to take it.

Some of our goals for the group include:

  • classroom growth
  • increased excitement and actual involvement in Bible classes
  • Spiritual growth
  • learning new praise and worship songs
  • daily prayer
  • social development among church peers through class get-togethers
  • to be good examples at home, church, public places, and school
  • service projects
  • to increase awareness of the world around us
Today we had an activity that related to the last goal: to increase awareness of the world around us. We had our class this morning, followed by church, and then we loaded the kids into vans and took them to a church in the inner city. Our kids had lunch with the kids at this church and got to sing some songs before the other kids headed off to their Bible classes. At this time, we loaded our kids back into the vans and did what is known as a "drive-by". This is where we got a driving tour of the community with a guide giving commentary. We were encouraged to look out the windows and notice different things along the route, and we stopped at three different places along the way as well to hear more from our guide and to pray for the community and the kids of the community.

Our first stop was a plaza. We learned some of the history and contributions of the community, and we also learned that the plaza was the first completed project in the renovation of the neighborhood. On this stop, we prayed for the development of the community. We prayed that necessary funds would be provided, for good weather when projects were under construction, for support from extended community leaders, for involvement of the community, and many other things.

I'm not asking for an audible (or visual in the case of a blog) answer, but I ask you:
  • How often do you take for granted the opportunities and the businesses you have in your community?
Continuing on our drive, we saw many homes in disrepair, many abandoned buildings, overgrown lots, signs posted on homes, such as "No criminal activity allowed. No standing. No sitting." It was very eye-opening for a group of tweens. We also passed a park that was not a part of the neighborhood we were visiting. We were told that it is the park to which they must bring the kids in the church and after-school programs because the park in their community is not safe. We then drove to the park in their community, where we proceeded to get out the vans. I will admit that it was a bit out of my comfort zone. There were people in the park lying on benches; there were men congregated in small groups. We had been told that the park was not safe because it was a place for prostitution and drugs. We joined together in prayer. We prayed for the children of the community. We prayed that the park could be reclaimed as a safe place for them, that they would not fall victim to the negative influences so easily visible to them on a daily basis, for the people that were preventing the kids from being able to use the park, and for many other things.

Again, I'm not asking for an audible (or visual) answer, but I ask you:
  • When was the last time you could not take your kids to the park in your community because it was not safe?
  • When was the last time you saw a "No Criminal Activity Allowed" sign posted on a home in your neighborhood?
Finally, we arrived at the area where the MHMR (Mental Health/Mental Retardation) facility and the homeless shelters are located. The MHMR facility works primarily with substance abusers and those with mental health illnesses. The homeless shelters do not need further description, as they are exactly what the name implies. We were not able to exit the vans at this location because although the doors to the shelter were not scheduled to open until 7:00 pm this evening, there was already a long entrance line when we arrived at 2:00 pm. We did, however, park our vans in the parking lot. We prayed for the shelters. We prayed that the people working there would always be able to extend a helping hand; we prayed that they would be blessed with the supplies and volunteers needed to support such a facility. We prayed for the people waiting in the line for a meal and a bed. We prayed for the shelter across the street that houses only women and children. We prayed for the women and children that would be housed there for the night and each night in the future. We prayed for the shelters around the corner and many other things.

And now
I'm not asking for an audible (or visual) answer, but I ask you:
  • When was the last time you were not content with your home?
  • When was the last time you complained about having to prepare dinner?
  • When was the last time you had to wait in line for five or more hours to receive a meal and have a mattress on which to sleep?
After leaving the area, we drove back to the church building and toured the facilities there. We saw where the kids have their Bible classes and the rooms where they can come after school to get help with homework and to have a safe place to relax. We gathered in a circle and talked to our kids about what they had seen today. We asked how they had been affected by all they had witnessed. The homeless shelters were the area that had the most impact on them. They could see the anguish and defeat on the faces of some of those who waited in line. They could see the bodies that had been destroyed by substance abuse and bodies that were undernourished. They could see the mental confusion in some. They could see men, women, and children that were holding all they possessed in the world. Seeing the hundred or more people either lined up or milling about the area left a very distinct image in everyone's mind.

After our discussion, some of the kids wanted to know more about how they could help the children of the community. They determined that first and foremost, they could continue to pray. They also wanted to know, though, if they could donate books. Some wanted to know if they could come down during the week and help with the after-school program. Many of them verbalized their own blessings. They recognized how we often have such an overabundance of things that we take what we have for granted and do not appreciate all of our blessings. The day was a great lesson in thankfulness and contentment.

Finally, I ask you, and please feel free to participate by commenting:
We have so many things. The people we saw at the homeless shelter today had literally only the clothes on their backs and anything they could carry in a sack or two. Let's recognize our blessings even down to the most trivial ones...
  • What is something that you could do without?
I'll start by saying...I could do without television, without magazine subscriptions, without soda, without more than one pair of shoes, without restaurants, and the list could go on and on. I am so very thankful that we have a home. We have a comfortable bed. We have food in our refrigerator AND in our pantry. We have clothing that keeps us warm. We have a park that is safe for our children. We have amazing friends. We have families who love us. We have our faith and our church family.

If you are a praying person, I ask that you pray for the people that we saw today and that you pray for the things we prayed for in our drive-by of this community.

Blessings...



8 comments:

jenn said...

what an inspiring post. you sure did make me think and the thinking will continue for days to come. i plan on sharing this w/ my own kids in the days to come. something for them to think about as well.

we could do w/out cable tv, soda, candy, dinners out, magazines, new books....i am sure there is more to this list but that is what comes to mind at the moment!

thank you for sharing

spaghettipie said...

your words were timely as I've been thinking a lot lately about what caring for those in my community really looks like. thanks for sharing your prayer journey today. in the least, you've inspired me to take a drive around to observe and pray. i look forward to future posts on what your group is doing.

O said...

Wow. You know today will leave an impression not just with those kids but many of us readers as well.
The "no criminal activity" sign reminds me of the overly-optimistic "Drug Free School Zone" and the more chilling "Gun Free School Zone" signs I saw in my former job as an admissions officer. The "Gun Free" ones were especially ominous because you knew if they were up at all, it was because it hadn't always been a Gun Free School Zone...and probably wasn't today, either.
So much I could do without. But I honestly don't know what moms without safe playgrounds do. We will not move until our kids are much older because we are two blocks or less from three different playgrounds. My heart goes out to moms of small, active boys who don't have a safe place to go with them to get some of that energy gone.

Jenn said...

Oh, it sounds like the kids eyes (and ya'll's) were opened. Aaron and I talked about it for some while last night. I'm thankful that the kids could see this "other side" of town...It makes me very thankful for the things that we have...Mr. Brownstone had some great points at dinner last night, too. I am so going next time, little man won't be pulling down furniture forever (hopefully!)

Mrs. Brownstone @ XBOX Wife said...

Thank you so much, jenn. We have talked with our kids about the day as well, and it has definitely left an impact. Especially on the one that was there. ~ Nice to see you by here again! Thanks for commenting!

Spaghettipie, Thank you so much for stopping by and sharing in my journey. I'm glad that it touched you in some way. Thank you so much for your support, and thanks for daring to make a difference through prayer! Thanks for your visit and comment.

O, it is so true what you say about the drug/gun free zone signs! I bet that being an admissions officer was exciting. Thank you so much for your comment. It means a lot to hear that it made an impression on the readers. Thanks for stopping by my blog!

Jenn, we missed you yesterday! I sincerely hope that we will get to take the kids on this journey again soon and that you will get to come next time!

Liza's Eyeview said...

This post gave me a lot to think about... thanks.

Mrs. Brownstone @ XBOX Wife said...

Thanks for stopping by, Liza. The experience has definitely weighed heavily on me this week as well. We have SO MANY things for which to be grateful. Tornado and I are going back out there tomorrow to help with the youth program.

windycindy said...

My! In reality, I and my family could
exist without many things. Even for Christmas and birthdays, no one really ( needs ) anything. Sometimes, we give to a charity in a person's name, donate to an animal shelter or adopt a family member an adopted animal ( in paper work only )! Cindi