Here’s a few pictures (and captions) that summarize our feelings at the end of our season in Allendale:
A Taste of Heaven (Rachel Verughese): “Restoration is not only focused on the restoring of our souls and spirituality, but also a restoring of creation, including the communities around us. Before this Summer I never thought the restoration of a community could be an expression of the Gospel.”
Broken, then Restored (Michael Zuch): “Through all of these experiences God showed me He wasn’t only restoring these communities, but He was also restoring my broken view of missions. More than anything, healthy change can only happen when you place Jesus at the center, and that is something that I continue to learn this summer.”
And if you want more special memories, check out these older posts, from previous interns in Allendale:
It was the end of the last day of the final week of STEAM Camp. My daughter was sitting on the stage, and she told me, “It’s kinda’ sad that some of these kids we might not see again.”
I told her that she was right, and that I try to not think about it. I gave a half-hearted smile and big hug, and walked away with those thoughts.
Of course, if you live at the coast, this may not be one of the many advantages of living in Allendale. But for the rest of you, when was the last time you took a day trip to the beach?
We did last Thursday (Hunting Island, Beaufort):
Thanks to the generosity of First Presbyterian Church of Hilton Head, students in Allendale will have more books in their hands. (Remember this church? A couple of years ago, they sponsored a beach trip for 60 students from Allendale.)
Volunteer and staff leaders from this church started collecting books a couple of months ago, and wound up with enough to donate 400 to each of three elementary schools (Allendale, Fairfax, and Estill Elementary Schools). Plus, there were another couple of hundred books that they were able to give to the high school.
These books will be able to go home with the elementary students. Studies show that access to books is an inexpensive but effective way for under-resourced children to build their literary skills over the summer. See the photo to the right, which I clipped from a recent issue of Educational Leadership.
“A three-year Florida study found that providing free books to primary students over the summer was as effective as summer school in boosting reading achievement.”
Of course, personal encouragement and interaction can improve the results even more. But every bit helps, and each of us can do our part!
Thanks again to this church for their commitment to students in Allendale (and for their continued work with students in Hampton and Jasper Counties)!
A friend of mine sent me this article, Liberal Policies Have Destroyed the Black Family, and asked,
“Ignoring the fact that he obviously has a distaste for liberals and seems angry, what’s your take on the content?”
To summarize, Sheriff David Clarke (an African-American man) believes that liberal policies (lowering standards for young people, welfare for adults) are a form of modern racism. You should read the entire article, but the gist is that he says that bad parenting is the cause and result of such liberal policies.
“We take kids out of the home with early childhood education programs, and the government feeds them breakfast, lunch and dinner, and provides after-school programs.
Who needs parents in the black community anymore?”
So what’s my take? First, my friend is correct — Sheriff Clarke seems very angry, at liberals in particular.
Second, Sheriff Clarke is correct . . . to a certain extent.
Finally, I’m concluding this series. As I wrote over 2000 words in these 3 posts, I’m amazed that I was able to share all of this in 12 minutes at CBC – Savannah. I could be an auctioneer.
In the last two posts, I explained the Context for Hopelessness in Allendale and then how we can engage that hopelessness through true hospitality and incarnation. I will conclude this topic with a quick explanation of missions done well, then a few examples of “random” opportunities to teach, and then some additional inspiration for you.
Missions Done Well
For missions and being missional, the goal must never be the event or the project or the program. Those are good things, but life change doesn’t happen by a project or program all by itself.
The primary means of missions is engaging others in meaningful relationships, for the purpose of helping others worship God. Life change always happens best in the context of community.
When it comes to “missions” programs, most churches use the relationship as the means to get the project done. They connect with certain people, get the team there and back home, and then they are happy. But this is wrong, and often harmful in the long-run.
A couple of months ago, I was asked to share part of our story at Community Bible Church (in Savannah, GA). As you may remember, this church has been a part of our ministry in Allendale, helping with summer activities in 2012 and 2013. I was glad (but nervous) to have this opportunity, but I shouldn’t have been as surprised as I was, since I was the one who asked for opportunities to speak to others.
I had 12-15 minutes to talk, and here is the core of what I shared. (I know it’s a lot. Good thing I talk quickly.)
Context of This Community
We moved to Allendale (SC) three years ago. There’s a bunch to that story, but let’s just say that God forced our hand, since moving here was not what we ever imagined ourselves ever doing. But we are so thankful that He did.
I don’t want to talk about all the negative stats about Allendale (although my scientist and pessimistic natures want me to do just that). But here is an overview, so you understand the context of what we are doing:
- In 2010, Allendale was listed as the 10th most impoverished county in the US.
- About 75% of the population is African-American, so my family is in the minority.
- Most white families, and some black, don’t have their children in the local schools.
- Over 70% of children are growing up in single parent households. (For more about this, see my posts about the Fatherless Generation, with respect to boys and girls.)
- About 12% of the population of Allendale is incarcerated.
- There are over 100 churches, but there is mostly a famine of God’s word.
Again, I’m not focusing on the negative aspects, because the rest of this talk will be on the great things that we’ve seen. I just wanted to set the context for how we have worked with children in this community, in our after school programs, day camps, coaching, and more.
Three years ago, we barely understood poverty. We (like most of you) saw poverty as a lack of money. Now, we see it more as broken relationships – broken relationships with God, others, the world, and ourselves. In that context, we are all experiencing poverty.
We can talk a lot about poverty and all the effects of it, but I want to focus on one word: HOPE. Poverty involves a lack or imbalance of opportunity, and even a lack of awareness that there are opportunities.