Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Fun in Farmington!

Could you imagine having someone in your family shot very near your apartment, and then being forced to walk past that location every day, due to the fact that you had nowhere else to live?  That is what one beautiful little girl and young man deal have had to deal with this past year.  We have had the privilege of working with them in Kid's Club.  Their older brother was shot several months ago, not to far away from their apartment.  He did not survive.  Yet in Christ, there is always hope.

We were so blessed to be invited to Christian Life church in Farmington near the end of August.  They invited some of our Kid's Club kids for a day of food, and fun.  The little girl I mentioned earlier was one of the kiddos who got to go.  The kids were able to play on their beautiful playground, eat some delicious tacos, and decorate cookies.  They could play with chalk, bubbles, and face paint.  It was an amazing time for the kids to be kids, in a safe environment, away from the city.  The other amazing blessing was it was all done in the name of Jesus! It was a moment to breathe and heal, for that little one, and others like her.   Now when the kids look back on their life, they can remember fun and love they were given on behalf of the Lord!

We give a huge "THANK YOU" to the ladies in Farmington who made this event possible.  The kids loved it!  Thanks for helping to create a moment of connection-where hurting kids can connect with the Lord through the kindness of others!

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Creating Relationships Though Creativity (AKA: The Outdoor Art Camp)

What does painting canvases, sculpting, and a giant paint filled balloon launcher all have in common?  If you guessed an outdoor art camp, you are correct! (and you probably read the title of this blog...)

As many of you know, Akina Kid's Club takes a break during the summer. We are always looking for fun ways to maintain the relationships we've build with the kids in Little Earth, and their families throughout the summer.  This year, we were approached by Pastor Bobby with Autumn Ridge Church in Rochester to partner with a team of middle-schoolers from their church and create a summer missions trip for them.

We were so glad they came!  It was a really great time.  During the morning hours, the group helped with maintenance around the Akina building, inventorying books for the literacy program, and building a composter for our community garden!  Then, in the afternoon, we met in Cedar Field, right in Little Earth.  The group brought some fabulous art supplies and projects, set up a tent, and made themselves available to build relationships with kids!

At first, only one or two kids trickled in.  A local police officer stopped by to thank us for showing up.  He said it was keeping some of the more dangerous people away from the park, allowing the kids to feel safe to play.  (That right there was a testimony to the Spirit of God!)  Slowly, more and more kids began to come!  Soon around 50 kids were playing with clay, painting, and even playing games of kickball in the park.  It was great to re-connect with the kids we knew from Kid's Club, and see new faces too.  We were able to talk to parents about Akina's programs and invite them to come check us out in October.

Over the next several days, we saw many of the same faces stop by. The number of kids coming grew too!  The team from Autumn Ridge was amazing, and because of their hard work and love for the kids, we had an amazing Akina camp within the following weeks where kids grew in the Lord.  We are so thankful for our partnering churches and families.  We could not to this much needed work without you!

Friday, September 7, 2018

When Camp Changed My Life: A Personal Glimpse into the Heart of an Unlikely Missionary

Working with at-risk youth wasn't what I originally thought I would do with my life. Even after I became a teacher, the challenging kids kind of scared me.  I am an introvert who likes order, peace, and control.  Trying to help a traumatized child regulate after a major behavioral breakdown was something I was unfamiliar with, and a skill I am still perfecting.  It throws all my ideas of order, peace, and control out the window (sometimes literally).

But I do know what it is like to hurt.  There is emotional pain so strong it takes your breath away, and makes your brain turn off.  I've been in that place.  And, I have been in the place of quiet healing, when Jesus took that pain away.  Sometimes whispers of that pain come back to haunt me, but the breath of God always sweeps in to silence them.  I remember being so amazed by God's love that I was heart broken at the idea of others trying to struggle through this type of pain without Him. So, I prayed the Lord would take me to the most broken of people to share his hope.  I didn't understand what an overwhelming but wonderful job that would be.  In fact, I still have trouble wrapping my mind around it, because it often requires so much of me with so seemingly little return...and yet...

Enter in this year's Akina Camp.  Dan and I have been working with families and kids in Little Earth for over 12 years.  We began as a small missions church, and over the past few years, have felt God calling us to focus on the next generation of kids, building on the relationships we have built with the Kids Programs we run.  This includes mentorship, discipleship, literacy, and connecting the kids to local churches.  It has been tough, because the community we work with is very broken.  There were at least three shootings this past year, and now a huge homeless camp is growing right outside the community. 

 Camp is an amazing week in August where we bring the kids to a beautiful retreat center in Wisconsin where they can get away from all that stress and just be kids, with the added bonus of connecting with Jesus.  I was feeling nervous, because camp requires a lot of energy, patience, and prayer.  More and more kids have been wanting to come each year, and it was my heart's desire to see kids meet with Jesus.  But, truth be told, I was dreading some of the student's behaviors that might pop up.  Sometimes I even wrestled with the fact that we might not be making a difference in the lives of these hurting kids, because at times, their situation seemed hopeless.

I noticed a difference in the kids this year, though, almost immediately.  When it was time for Bible lessons some of the kids, who had been so hard behind their walls years before, had already began opening up.  By the time the kids sang "Reckless Love," in worship, God was there to meet us.  Throughout the week, stories came out from these lovely children.  Stories of abuse, of finding parents passed out on the floor because drugs, stories of pain. Kids who were silent due to trauma began to whisper things to their counselors.  Boys who were the most difficult ones to work with started talking about their futures with hope. As these stories came out, Jesus was there to meet them  with his healing love.  It was something that years before I thought I'd never see.  I'm so glad God proved me wrong.

I know that everything still won't be perfect for these kids.  But I do know that some amazing relationships were strengthened, and now we have more of an opportunity than ever to reach these kids for Christ, and help them overcome generational poverty!  Only GOD can do this.  Not us, not for a single moment have I ever been equipped to help these kids.  But God is.  I think I am finding that if we are willing to step out in love and wisdom, even if that is in places that make us uncomfortable, God will work the change in the most impossible situations.