Summer Program at IPS 105

As part of our ongoing effort to minister to the children at families in the neighborhoods near Post Road and 42nd Street, we will be hosting a summer program for kids at IPS School 105 with our ministry partners at Crossroads Bible Church.   The program will run from 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays, from June 19 through July 21.  Students in grades K through 5 will have the opportunity to improve their math, reading and other academic skills and will learn Bible stories, play games that will help develop their cognitive abilities, and develop much-needed relationships with positive role models.

This is a great opportunity for us to not only help these children gain the skills necessary for them to succeed in school but also to continue to build relationships with families in these neighborhoods.  The program will present many opportunities to serve, including:

    • Group Leaders – Group leaders will be assigned to a group of approximately 6 students and will lead those students through various stations throughout the day.  Students will be divided by age group.  Group leaders will not be responsible for teaching the lessons at each station, but instead will focus on supervising and building relationships with the kids in their group.
    • Station Leaders – Station leaders are responsible for teaching the lessons to each group in individual stations (i.e. math, reading, Bible, etc.)  Each lesson will be prepared in advance and will be ready to teach in an easy to learn, age-appropriate format.  Station leaders can teach in the morning session (approximately 9:30 to 11:00), the afternoon session (approximately 12:30 to 2:00), or both.  No lesson planning or other advance preparation is necessary.
    • Program Assistants – Program Assistants will assist as needed throughout the day, helping with tasks such as preparing snacks, addressing children’s individual needs, helping supervise children in the cafeteria and on the playground, and assisting the Group Leaders and Station Leaders as needed.
    • Nursery – One of the ways we are trying to make it easy to volunteer is by providing child care to our volunteers.  Nursery volunteers will supervise the children of volunteers serving in the program on sight in the nursery at Crossroads Bible Church.
    • Transportation – Van drivers will use the church van to pick-up and drop off a small number of children with transportation needs.  All children live in a small radius near the school.  Van drivers will be needed from roughly 8:30 to 9:00 a.m. and from 2:00 to 2:30 p.m.

 

 

This program will present wonderful opportunities to build and strengthen relationships with children and families who face a number of difficult circumstances.  We have already seen how these kids respond to the kind of individual attention a program like this can provide.  For this program to be successful, we need lots of volunteers.   Please prayerfully consider whether you have some time this summer to serve these kids in one of these capacities.

There will be an information meeting with more details about the program and the many opportunities to volunteer on May 14 during second service in Room 207.  If you would like to volunteer or if you have any questions, contact Mike – mwilkins@outlookchurch.org.

Sponsor a Child at Grogon

Today, we are beginning a drive to find sponsors for at least 50 children at the Grogon School in Nairobi, Kenya.  Our ultimate goal, along with the two Indianapolis churches we partner with to support Grogon, is to make sure that all students who attend Grogon have sponsors.

After sending several teams to Grogon, we have seen firsthand the tremendous impact of child sponsorship.  Sponsored children receive an education, something we take for granted here but something that is highly sought after and valued in the slums of Nairobi.  Even at a young age, these kids know that a good education is their best hope of overcoming the pervasive poverty they have been born into.  The children who attend Grogon and the other Missions of Hope International schools progress through school at a rate far higher than children attending government supported schools in Kenya.

Through the child sponsorship program, children and their families receive regular visits from social workers who are focused on meeting the entire family’s needs.  They have access to medical care that would otherwise be out of reach.  They have opportunities to receive skills training to help them obtain employment.  They receive the Good News of Jesus Christ and are connected with churches committed to transforming their lives spiritually as well as physically.

But the benefits of child sponsorship go well beyond the resources the monthly support provides.  Children who are sponsored know that they are loved by someone on the other side of the world.  They are consistently amazed by the fact that someone in America, — someone who, from their perspective, is rich and powerful – cares enough about them to not only support them financially, but to pray for them, to write them notes, to treat them as the beautiful children of God they are.

Time and time again, we have children come up to us during our trips and ask us if we know their sponsors.  Many of these kids know all about their sponsors – their names, their children’s names, things the sponsors have shared about their lives.  And time and time again, they tell us that they are praying for their sponsors.  Children, living in poverty so severe you really do have to see it to believe it, care enough about their sponsors that they are praying for us.  That is a divine connection, a foretaste of the connectedness we will experience in eternity.

Sponsoring a child does something to the sponsors as well.  It expands our capacity to love others the way God calls us to.  Our family sponsors three children.  We pray for them every day.  We have now met them and each of their parents.  We have been to each of their homes.  We know them well enough that we pray for the same things we pray for for our own kids, from their health and safety to their purity to their future husbands, the growth of their faith, their eternal salvation.  It would not be fair or accurate to say that we love them the same way we love our own children.  But there is no doubt God has used them to expand the capacity we have to love those who otherwise would be total strangers to us.

Sponsoring a child is a financial commitment.  But it is a commitment that almost all of us can afford to make, if we choose to do so.  And I am absolutely convinced it is the best $38 you will spend each month.  If you have never experienced the blessings of sponsoring a child, will you please pray that God will guide you in deciding whether to do so?  And if you already sponsor a child, please consider expanding your impact – and your heart – further by sponsoring another.  It is a commitment you will not regret.

The Transformative Ministry of Missions of Hope

Although I have made several trips to Kenya, I never cease to be amazed by the amazing work being done there by our ministry partner, Missions of Hope International (MOHI).  A ministry started 17 years ago by a husband and wife whose hearts were broken by children living in poverty, which began serving 50 students in a two room shanty, now serves 14,200 students in 20 schools, including schools throughout the Nairobi slums and most recently in heavily Muslim and unreached areas in northern Kenya.

We have witnessed firsthand the amazing transformation that takes place in the neighborhoods MOHI serves.  In Grogon, a community in the Nairobi slums where just a few short years ago we were not even allowed to take our team, we are now welcomed as guests.  We see students being educated who previously would have had no realistic hope of an education.  We see kids and families with hopes and dreams for the future, not merely focused on day to day survival.  We see a neighborhood where crime has been reduced and where even the government has now committed resources to help improve lives.  Life is still difficult, without question, but the change in attitude is perceptible.

Because of its success in the slums of Nairobi, MOHI has embarked on additional projects that are incredibly ambitious.  In 2012, MOHI began serving in Turkana, an area of northwest Kenya heavily reliant on raising livestock and recently hard hit by a prolonged drought.  In this area, girls were historically prevented from receiving an education.  Instead, girls were groomed, sometimes as young as 7, for marriage and motherhood.  Many of these girls were married by the time they were 10 years old, often to men several times older than they were.  Against the opposition of many community elders, MOHI started a school in the area that was open to both boys and girls.  At last count, 1060 students were enrolled in the school, half of them girls.  Because children are often forced by families to begin working (or, just as often are married) before they enter high school, MOHI is now preparing to open a boarding school to serve students after Grade 8.

As a result of the success of its programs in Turkana, MOHI has also begun partnering with government schools in two nearby communities, providing a feeding program to the kids in this very impoverished neighborhood.  The impact of that program is staggering:  school attendance has increased from less than 30% to more than 98%.  The result is that kids who would have never received an education are now receiving both nourishment and an education.

Last year, MOHI opened its first school in a predominantly Muslim community.  Roughly 160 students attend the school, all of whom are Muslims.  Despite the religious differences, the Muslim leaders have no objection to Christians working in the community because they recognize the need for a quality school.  Although the approach in this community is necessarily different than the approach MOHI takes in its other schools, an entire community is having a positive encounter with people who are showing them the love of Christ.

Finally, just last month MOHI opened a school in Mersabit, an area of Kenya that has virtually no knowledge of the gospel.  There are already 91 students enrolled.  MOHI sees this as an incredibly fertile opportunity because the people in the area are very interested in the good news of Jesus.  There are already discussions about opening a second school in the area.

The take away from all this information is that holistic, transformative ministry works.  We are witnesses to it.  The challenge for us, both individually and as a church, is to find a way to make this type of transformative ministry work in our local communities and neighborhoods.  If MOHI can transform the slums of Nairobi, surely with God’s help we can reach even the most difficult neighborhoods in our own communities.  Please join me in praying that God would fill us with a desire to do so and guide us in the steps we need to take to transform lives through the love of Christ.

Growing Pains

Last week, a young lady who is one of our tutors at IPS 105 shared with me her frustration that one of the girls in the class she tutors in had moved away.  “I’m just so sad I will never see her again,” she said.  “That’s good,” I responded.  She looked at me funny.  “That means God is working on your heart.”

One of the many blessings we experience when we serve others in Christ’s name is an expanded ability to love the way He does.  When we begin to see those we serve not merely as people who are oppressed or in need but as children of God and greatly loved by Him, it is easy to care about them, to love them as our fellow brothers and sisters.  However, that increased capacity to love brings with it an increased exposure to pain.

I have experienced this many times.  Just a week or so prior to my conversation with our tutor, a little girl in the kindergarten class I tutor in had moved away.   She was one of my favorites, a chubby little girls with a sweet smile and her hair in a braided side pony.  She struggled with learning her letters, but she always tried and her smile got even wider when she did well.  One week, I was encouraged by her progress; the next week, she was gone.

We sponsor – or, I guess more correctly, we used to sponsor, a boy in Kenya named Alan.  Alan was a troubled kid with a tough past.  We loved on him when we saw him, but he was always very withdrawn.  On one trip, we could see he was not doing well.  His eyes were very yellow and his hair was falling out in places.  Although the staff at the school paid special attention to him, after a while he stopped showing up at school.  Missions of Hope was able to track him down in another neighborhood, but then lost track of him.  We don’t know what happened to him and we probably never will.  But his picture still hangs on our fridge and we continue to pray for him as we do for our other sponsored children.  In a little over a week, I leave for another trip to Kenya.  My prayer, as it has been for the last couple of trips, is that Alan will miraculously be there, in the school or at least in the neighborhood, safe and sound.

No one likes to experience pain like that.  But that increased exposure to pain happens only because we have developed an increased capacity to love.  If we want to become more like Christ – and that is the goal of spiritual maturity – we have to increase our capacity to love.  That means opening our hearts to others so that they can see the love of Christ in us.  It also means learning to trust God more with the pain that can come from exposing our hearts.  As difficult as it can sometimes be, we need to learn to put the worries and pain that come from loving others at the feet of our sovereign God’s, trusting in His never-ending love and his perfect plan for our lives and the lives of those we open our hearts to.  Only then can we love as He first loved us.

Dancing with a Princess

I had the privilege this week of being a “chaperone” at the Father-Daughter dance at IPS 105.  It was so much fun seeing the girls in a different context.  The school can be chaos sometimes but the dance was peaceful and fun.  Dads, many of whom do not spend much time with their girls, treated their daughters like the princesses they want to be.  Grandpas, uncles, and big brothers all stepped up to the plate so that the special girls in their lives could attend.

One particular girl who attended can be quite the troublemaker.  She is frequently disruptive in the classroom.  She has participated in a couple of our ministry programs and is a problem more than she is not.  I have held her tight in the middle of a prolonged outburst, removed her from activities she was disrupting, and on one occasion barked at her when she had pushed all my buttons, a response I regretted as soon as I saw the look on her face.  But this night, she was sweet.  Dressed in a long white ruffley gown, proudly wearing the tiara the school had given each girl, with a smile from ear to ear, she was every bit the princess she hopes to be.

After dinner, the girls and their dads were all learning a dance.  This little girl was with four other girls she had come with, all trying to dance with the man who brought them.  As I walked by them, she came running up to me.  “Come dance with ME, Mr. Mike.”  With permission from her date, I agreed.  The fact that God has apparently decided that dancing would not be one of my gifts did not stop me from taking her hand.  Nor did the fact that she was not my daughter.   A princess wanted to dance and had chosen me for the honor.

Dancing with this little girl reminded me of how God transforms our lives.  We often think about service to others in terms of what it does for the people we serve.  What we can overlook is what it does for us.  When we serve others, we are blessed with the opportunity to see them as God sees them.  This night, this little girl was not the one teachers dread coming to their classroom.  She was just a little girl who wanted to dance with someone who treated her with the love and respect she wished her daddy would.  She was happy and innocent and removed from the many things going on in her little life that trouble her and often cause her to be trouble.  This is how God sees her every day.  A precious and lovely child.  A princess, no matter her situation.

By simply spending time with them, I and the other Outlookers serving at Post and 42nd have been able to see firsthand that, contrary to the stereotype, the kids who live in this neighborhood are not bad people.  They are, first and foremost, kids.  They are kids who need love, positive reinforcement, and guidance.  They are kids living in incredibly difficult circumstances, who deal with things as children that most people would struggle with as adults.  Do they make mistakes and act out?  You betcha.  Can they be downright mean sometimes?  Oh yeah.  But are they bad kids, kids we should avoid simply because they live in a tough neighborhood or don’t always behave the way we expect them to?  No.  An emphatic no.  These are God’s children, made in His image and loved by Him.  Just as surely as our own daughters deserve a dance at the ball, these children do too.  And just as surely as our own children need someone to show them the love of Christ, these children do too.

I have learned this lesson over and over again.  Kids in the slums of Korrogocho – a place I had never heard of not too many years ago and a place people who live in Nairobi drive around in order to avoid – are children of God.  They are loved by God just as much as our own children.  They are His creation, precious in His sight and deeply loved by Him.  The same is true for the kids in the mountains of Honduras, the families scrounging for survival in Haiti, and the dudes living on the edge of civilization in Ethiopia who had never heard the Gospel before.  And it is true for the people standing in line right down the street at Angel Connection.  God’s children.  Hurting, suffering sometimes, often misunderstood.  But all dearly beloved by God.

I never knew these things before God touched my heart and convinced me of the importance of serving others.  It was not that my heart was hard, it was just that it had not been opened.  I never thought these people were not children of God, I just didn’t think about them at all.  It was only when I took the time to serve them – to be with them, to get to know them, to understand their situation, that I was able to begin to see them as God sees them.

I do not know what impact I have had on any of these people.  I pray that with God’s grace there has been some.  But I know what impact they have had on me.  Because of what God has done in my life, in every child of God I can see the princess dancing.

One For The Good Guys

When you’re ministering to hurting people, victories can be hard to come by.  Sometimes, though, through God’s grace, the good guys pick up a win.

David (not his real name) is a third grader at IPS School 105.  I first met him when we began our tutoring program in the school last fall.  In my first encounter with David, he was having a meltdown, emotionally distraught, telling his tutor that he did not want to be there.  In fact, he did not want to be anywhere and just wished he was dead.  His tutor, a Godly woman of incredible patience, had dealt with a lot bigger problems in her life.  But I could see the exasperation on her face.  No matter what she did, he refused to participate.

Over the next few weeks, I had similar interactions with David.  Sometimes, he was an emotional basket case.  Sometimes he was just sullen.  Sometimes, he wasn’t there at all, sent home for one disciplinary problem after another.  On his best days, he would participate for a few minutes at a time.  But his tutor kept showing up every week, positive and supportive.  When he was upset, she consoled him and tried to talk to him.  When he misbehaved, she addressed his behavior firmly but lovingly.  When he had been sent home, she stopped by his house to make sure he was OK.

By the end of the school year, her caring, consistent approach started to pay off.  There were still some bad days, but there were more good days than bad.  The good days got better and the bad days were less dramatic.  It was the first signs of progress.

David showed up on the first day of our summer reading program.  I confess I was not very excited to see him.  His behavior and mood were still unpredictable, but he continued to improve.  I learned that he was actually very bright and seemed to enjoy learning.  Progress turned to hope.

David played in our flag football program this past fall.  He was surprisingly athletic – a threat to score every time he touched the ball and quick as a cat on defense.  He took a liking to his coach, an Outlooker with a similar quiet demeanor who served as good role model for him.  He responded to his coach’s encouragement and actually helped younger kids when they struggled to learn the game or control their behavior.  I was not the only one who noticed.  As others praised him, both his performance and his attitude continued to improve.  Hope blossomed into encouragement.

I had not seen David a whole lot this school year.  In a recent progress meeting, I learned that his behavior has turned around almost 180 degrees from last year.  He rarely gets in trouble and consistently does well with his school work.  His great grandmother, who is raising him, was baptized shortly before Christmas and joined Crossroads Bible Church, our partner at School 105.

Recently, one of the elders from Crossroads who spends a lot of his time volunteering at the school was confronting a girl in the school about her disruptive behavior.  As he loves to do, the elder brought Biblical principles into the conversation and eventually asked the girl if she went to church.  “No,” the little girl said.  “We don’t have a car so we don’t go to church.”  David, who was sitting at the table near the little girl, immediately piped up.  “You don’t need a car to go to church.  You can walk to church like we do.  You can come with us if you want.”  Victory.

Now, I know this was not our doing.  It takes the grace of God to bring people to Him.  Volunteers from churches like Outlook and Crossroads are just the vessel through which God’s grace is poured out.  I am also worldly enough to know that the change in David’s behavior is likely the result of equal measures of divine grace and modern psychiatric medication.  For David’s sake, I praise God for both.

I also know that victories like this, as sweet as they can be, are often temporary.  David has more hurdles in front of him than any of us can imagine.  The odds of him making it long term are long.  But victories are sweeter when the odds are long.  And when you are playing for the right team, you keep up the struggle no matter what it takes and you celebrate your victories when you get them.  This time, it’s one for the good guys.

The Guy in the Booth

The week had not been going well for me.  A couple of relatively minor but very annoying illnesses had left me sleep deprived and with a perpetual pounding headache.  A couple of ministry setbacks had left me frustrated and confused.  The combination of the two had put me in a dark mood.

I was meeting for lunch with a minister from another church.  A mutual friend had brought us together to talk about our shared passion for reaching the lost, especially those suffering the effects of living in long-term poverty.  The conversation included lots of war stories.  There were some successes, but we talked mostly about the difficulties of that type of ministry, and the sometimes overwhelming nature of the work to be done.  The conversation included a frank discussion about the frustrations of being white ministers often serving in predominantly black and Hispanic neighborhoods.

Quite awhile into our conversation, the guy in the booth next to us got up and sort of tossed a folded napkin onto our table and walked away without saying a word.  I’ll admit that in the mood I was in, my immediate reaction was anger.  What had we said to make this guy mad?  Was it Christianity, race, or something else?  I unfolded the napkin slowly, bracing myself for an attack.  I read the words, then read them again.  “What?” the other minister asked.  I turned the napkin around for both of them to see it.  The three of us just looked at each other, literally with our mouths open.  Five words were scrawled across the napkin in three lines of capital letters:

Never Never Never Give Up

Our friend called out thank you to the guy just as he was about to leave the room.  He never turned around.  I’m not sure he even heard him.

Now, I could wrap this all up in a nice little bow and tell you the guy in the booth was an angel from heaven sent to encourage me.  For all I know he was; I certainly leave that open as a possibility.  But as I have thought about this encounter over the rest of the week, I have landed at a slightly different place.  The incident reinforced something we probably all know, or at least should know, but so often forget.  As believers, we are always “on mission.”  Our words, our attitudes, our actions all have an impact on the Kingdom of God – they either draw people closer to the kingdom or push people farther away from it.  Much like a missionary in a foreign country, we are never off mission, especially in a culture increasingly resistant to our faith.  What we do, what we say, even what we think always has an impact on other people’s relationship with the God we represent.  Nothing is neutral.  We are either helping build the Kingdom or helping tear it down.

I have tried to look back on our conversation to figure out what direction it might have sent others around us, not just the guy in the booth but the waitress or the people at the adjoining tables.  I know our hearts were in the right place, but were our mouths?  Was there too much focus on the obstacles and not enough focus on the greatness of the God we serve that gives us such a desire to overcome those obstacles?  Obviously, the guy in the booth thought we needed some encouragement.

But the bigger point here is not us, but the guy in the booth.  He had no way of knowing about the headaches and lack of sleep.  I never mentioned the discouragement from the ministry failures earlier in the week.  He just heard a couple of guys having a frank conversation about their desire to reach those separated from God and the difficulties of doing so.  Based on the words scrawled on his napkin, I can only assume the guy was a believer and wanted to encourage other believers.  For whatever reason, he did not want to engage us in a conversation, or even encourage us face to face, but his words – his heart – had more of an impact on us than all of the good ministry advice we offered each other.

Angel or not, I have thanked God over and over again for the faith of the guy in the booth and his willingness to share that faith in such a simple but impactful way.dsc_0664

Angel Connection

Winter is always a difficult time for Angel Connection.  The demand for food and other household supplies often goes up, while donations frequently go down.  You can drop off donations each Sunday in the bin under the Missions and Outreach table in the Commons.

Angel Connection also accepts donated gift cards, which are used for families in emergency situations.

The following items are always needed:

  • Bread
  • Cereal
  • Oatmeal
  • Canned fruits
  • Canned vegetables (corn and green beans are usually NOT needed)
  • Pastry/dessert items
  • Rice
  • Pancake mix
  • Peanut butter
  • Jelly
  • Condiments (mustard, ketchup, etc.)
  • Snacks
  • Ready-made meals
  • Macaroni and cheese
  • Spaghetti and sauce
  • Laundry detergent
  • Dishwashing soap
  • Cleaning products of all kinds
  • Shampoo
  • Soap
  • Toiletries (deodorant, toothpaste, toothbrushes, etc.)
  • Paper supplies (tissues, toilet paper and paper towels)

During the first quarter of 2017, Angel Connection will be open from 9:00 a.m. to 10 a.m. on the following days:

  • January 18
  • February 8
  • February 22
  • March 8
  • March 22

Volunteers are always needed to assist people through the pantry. Angel Connection is located at 7739 N. 600 West, roughly a mile north of Outlook.

Missions and Outreach Focused Groups

There are two new groups this semester that are focused on missions and outreach related issues. Information about each group is below. Is the next step in your spiritual growth to participate in one of these groups? If so, register today.

God of Justice

God of Justice shares biblical truth and front-line stories of justice work moving people toward discussion, reflection, and action. The level of injustice in the world is staggering. Outlook is responding by equipping and mobilizing ourselves to be the hands and feet of Jesus to the vulnerable and oppressed. The God of Justice is a twelve-session, discussion-based study that explores the biblical narrative of justice from Genesis to Revelation. This study will be on Sundays at 11:00, beginning January 22. To register, contact Tamara Portee, tamaraportee@gmail.com.

Putting Love Into Action

Putting Love Into Action is a small group that is focused on being the hands and feet of Christ by actively serving those in need. The group will be up to two times per month at various times and locations to engage in service projects and other volunteer opportunities. To register, contact Amy Dorman, dormann0404@gmail.com.

Touching the Hearts at IPS 105

Listed below are several ways to touch the lives of the children and families at School 105:

  • Christmas Store – Share the joy of Christ this season by volunteering in our Christmas Store. For $5, parents can shop at the store and select a hat, gloves, two toys, and miscellaneous small presents for their kids. Help us make this possible by volunteering for preparation and set up on December 22 or by being a stocker, “personal shopper” or “gift wrapper” on December 23. More info and sign ups on the web site.
  • Classroom tutor – Classroom tutors serve in an assigned classroom approximately one hour each week. Tutors are directed by the individual classroom teachers and work directly with students, often helping students who need additional instruction on specific subjects.
  • Requested tutor – Our relationship with teachers in the school frequently results in requests to assist specific students who are struggling in one or more subject areas. These opportunities can be short term – for example, getting a struggling student up to speed with a particular math concept or reading skill – or they can be longer term, providing guidance and direction to students who require additional assistance. Volunteers can tutor during the school day or after school (generally, 3:45 – 5:00), depending on the needs of the individual student and teacher.
  • Classroom sponsor – Classroom sponsors show Christ’s love to teachers at School 105 through prayer, small gifts, notes of encouragement, and even by providing classroom supplies or treats for the teacher’s students. Participation as a classroom sponsor can be as involved as you want, from just the occasional note to regular communications, gifts, etc. This is an especially good opportunity for life groups.
  • Kingdom Kids – We lead a character-oriented Bible study for elementary age students who live in Meadowlark Apartments, a large apartment complex in the neighborhood. The group meets every other Monday from 5:00 to 6:30. Volunteers lead small groups for the last half of each session or work with individual students who need additional direction and guidance. This is one of the ways we are building stronger relationships with at risk kids and, hopefully, their families.
  • Transportation – We are experimenting with providing transportation to School 105 students who participate in extracurricular activities after school. Students are transported only from the school to their homes. All trips are scheduled in advance and are usually within 10 minutes of the school, often less. For now, we are providing this service on the same Monday evenings as the Kingdom Kids program, from 5:00 to roughly 6:45. The church van is provided for this service. Driver’s license and proof of insurance is required, but a CDL licenses is NOT needed.

 

Questions on any of the above items, contact Mike at mwilkins@outlookchurch.org.