Dear Mission Partners,
My grandson lives in a tough, inner-city neighborhood, but he hasn’t become an inner-city thug.
He is tall and rugged, but beneath his veneer of toughness lies a tender heart for children.
As part of the EAPE-supported Walnut Hills Fellowship, Roman developed a special friendship with Milton, the nine-year-old child of a loving, highly dysfunctional family that has been part of that faith community for the past few years. This year, in order to secure Milton a spot in his school’s tutoring program, Roman became a regular volunteer there, working with a class of even younger kids. In that context, he has definitely seen the underside of urban public education.
During my last visit to Cincinnati, Bart and I were talking in his kitchen when Roman burst in, angry and upset over the treatment of one of his after-school favorites, a second-grader named Jamal, who Roman says is the nicest, most self-giving kid he’s ever met. No matter what goes on, Jamal always looks on the bright side, always shares, and always has a kind word for everyone.
The lead teacher in Jamal’s classroom, on the other hand, is what Roman calls ‘a screamer’. Day after day she yells at kids, belittling them for making mistakes instead of correcting them, and punishing them for having the kind of energy a better teacher would use to his or her advantage.
Because he is an active child who has a hard time containing himself, and because his teacher is a control freak, on this day Jamal had gotten in trouble for talking too loudly after he finished his homework. Much later, as she was handing out candy bars to reward the rest of the kids, Jamal was the only one who didn’t get one. Roman was upset by this, but he was hesitant to publicly confront the teacher.
When Jamal realized what was happening, he began to cry. Seeing this, the other children in the class began following the example Jamal had set for them all year long by sharing their candy with him. To Roman, this was a great outcome. To the teacher, however, this was a terrible outrage. She screamed at the students, “Don’t share what you have with him! He doesn’t deserve it! We only share with people who deserve it!” She took back the candy and sent Jamal home in tears.
Now Roman was furious. “What does she think she’s teaching those kids!?” he asked. “People always want to know why inner-city kids hate authority. I’ll tell you why: Ignorant jerks like that teach them to hate it!”
The more I think about that incident, the more upset it makes me. That little boy came to school full of natural grace. Grace doesn’t ask who does or doesn’t deserve to be blessed. As Jesus once said, “Freely you have received, freely give!”
The good news, of course, is that children do not suffer that kind of spiritual abuse in every urban public school classroom, and the better news is that they NEVER suffer it in the wonderful schools we sponsor through EAPE! At Cornerstone Christian Academy in Philadelphia, at Urban Promise’s Camden Forward Schools in Camden NJ, at the countless afterschool programs staffed by Mission Year team members around the country, and in child and adult literacy programs all over Haiti, grace is being given and taught on a daily basis by sacrificial servants of Jesus Christ. And in Walnut Hills, my grandson and the rest of The Walnut Hills Fellowship are giving and teaching grace too, trying to keep the forces of evil and ignorance from crushing the spirits of kids like Jamal.
All of them need your prayers, and all of them deserve our support. That’s why I keep asking you to stick with EAPE. Together, we are doing great things in difficult places for the sake of the Kingdom!
P.S. You can make a one-time gift or schedule a monthly pledge of support for our Red Letter Christians discipleship campaign by clicking here. Your gift will make a difference!
Your gift will make a difference!
Online giving makes good stewardship sense – for us by reducing overhead costs and potential errors – and you by reducing check writing, monthly paperwork and providing you with instant access to your account history.
For more information, please contact our office at 610-341-1715.
ABOUT TONY + JULY 2011