In this season of generosity, it is not uncommon for us to do what we can to make the holidays a special time for others. We may give gifts, meals, participate in toy drives or other acts of kindness. Often, we give because we have a desire to make a difference.
However, I want to challenge us to think about how we are giving. It is important that we understand that there is a good way and a not so good way to be generous. If we don’t understand this, we could be the very ones helping in a way that is not very helpful at all.
Here are a few questions to ask ourselves in our efforts to bless others around us:
“Are we meeting a ‘felt’ need?”
“Do our helping efforts move people forward?”
“Does it affirm the dignity of those we are helping?”
“Does it address a root cause?”
And a final, important question, “Is this effort mainly about making us feel good or appeasing guilt we might feel because we have a bit more than others?”
If our giving becomes more about satisfying our own personal need to feel like generous souls, rather than our primary motivation being to meet the real needs of others, then we miss the point.
How does Jesus call us to give? Here are just a few biblical texts that inform how we should give:
“If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that?” James 2:15 Here we see that good intentions are quite pointless when the basic, practical needs are not met.
In Galatians 6:2, Paul calls the church to love each other through action when he says: “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” This suggests that we shouldn’t only care, but we must act in love by easing the pain and removing the weight of our neighbors. The ways in which we can do this are endless.
The final example is a prophetic text about our Savior’s life calling - “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor, and the day of vengeance of our God” Isaiah 61:1-2
There is a stark contrast between our holiday efforts of generosity and the example of Jesus’ life. Becoming more like Jesus is a lifelong process, but there are practical principles we can use to make a greater impact in each of our neighborhood context.
Urban Impact has been subscribing to the approach of the Christian Community Development movement from our inception. We live among the families that we serve; we seek their input to ensure that what we do really meets them where they are. We have a holistic approach working to meeting both spiritual and practical needs that exist in areas like housing, health, entrepreneurship, and youth development. All that we do is endeavoring to build the capacity of our community.
How does a church congregation participate in the work Christian Community Development (CCD)? At Urban Impact we have a passion to come alongside churches as they determine and meet needs in their neighborhood. Here are some examples of our Church Hub’s CCD work around the holidays: Rainier Avenue Church provides a transitional home for refugee families who are resettling in the Seattle area. Central Community Church has an ongoing relationship with the Seattle World School and is providing gifts cards for families to cover lunch meals during the Christmas break. Emerald City Bible Fellowship invited over 200 neighbors to their annual Thanksgiving dinner as a way to build relationships and listen to needs. Mount View Presbyterian Church is working feverishly in their local high school to recognize positive attendance so that students can participate in their own change. In all of this work, the church is mobilized to practice Community Development principles that empower others for God’s glory.
This season I pray that Christ will give you a burden-bearing love for those around you.
I pray that all that you do for others will not only encourage them, but meet a real need that they have, and give them a clear sense of God’s love for them. I pray for God’s church to grow in its love for justice in its own community and tenacity to persevere in the work.
Let me close by saying thank you for your partnership with us this year. All that we do is made possible because you have been obedient to the Lord and have shared with us the resources the Lord has place under your care.
Merry Christmas and Happy New year!
Freedom is an intrinsic spiritual value that is deeply rooted in the DNA of our country. It is a value we celebrate nationally. For weeks preceding Independence Day, our flag covers items in stores as families look forward to gathering for food and fireworks.
But, have you considered how July 4th alone does not encompass the ways that freedom has been found in America’s history? I implore the American church and would venture to say that it is imperative in our diverse nation that we recognize how our brothers and sisters have obtained their freedom.
Juneteenth: African American Independence Day
Juneteenth, also known as Freedom Day, is an official American holiday, that unfortunately, many know very little about. Juneteenth commemorates the announcement of the abolition of slavery to 250,000 of the African American slaves in Texas, who did not know that they had already been granted freedom.
The underbelly of June 19th, 1865 is that it was a delayed announcement that came more than two years late. President Abraham Lincoln had already issued the Emancipation Proclamation on September 22nd in 1862, with an effective date of January 1st, 1863. The document clearly declared that all enslaved persons were to be freed.
When this liberty was realized by slaves in Galveston Texas, there was rejoicing and jubilation in the streets. Some then moved north for a new start, some stayed in the south, but all faced great opposition as Jim Crow laws created a new form of oppression that further segregated and disenfranchised.
Even after emancipation there were barriers when it came to celebrating freedom. There were no public places available for blacks to gather. One account tells of a resourceful community in Houston that pooled money together to purchase a 4-acre plot of land. It was then established as “Emancipation Park”, the sole public park available in Texas for African Americans to gather and celebrate their freedom on Juneteenth.
Recognizing Juneteenth Today
Today Juneteenth is observed largely in local celebrations, parades, and cookouts, but on a national scale still goes largely unnoticed. If we are to value each other’s stories of freedom, we must first value the history. I challenge us to recognize the emancipation of African American people because I believe in doing so we recognize the value and worth conferred on them by Almighty God. He is a God who surely values our freedom.
“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.”
For Christians in America, there is a grander reason we each celebrate freedom. Christ purchased our freedom and eliminated the perpetual state of brokenness with his blood through his death on the cross. Until Christ’s extravagant act of love on a brutal, humiliating cross, we were all in bondage and were being conformed to the ways of corrupt culture. We were each destined for eternal separation from our creator.
Much like the African Americans in Texas, many today do not know that their freedom has already been bought and paid for. Our freedom is guaranteed when we respond to Christ. It is a freedom freely offered to all.
As we celebrate the liberty from sin that we have each found in Christ and as we celebrate the ways that freedom has been found in the history of our nation, let us recognize and value each other in love.
On April 4th 2018, we celebrated the iconic life of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. acknowledging the 50th anniversary of his assassination. Admittedly, we lost a true American. Tragically, three days later on April 7th 2018, Seattle lost a like-minded man and community pillar—Rev. Dr. Samuel Berry McKinney.
Dr. McKinney and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. were classmates at Morehouse College. In 1953, Dr. McKinney married Louise Jones, an educator and activist in her own right. The couple had two daughters.
McKinney graduated from Morehouse in 1949. Additionally, in 1952, he earned a degree from New York's Colgate Rochester Divinity School. Finally, in 1975, he received a Doctor of Ministry Degree from the Colgate Rochester/Bexley Hall/Crozier Theological Seminaries. Within the same year, he also published the Church Administration in the Black Perspective, with Floyd Massey.
Dr. McKinney, a Baptist minister, author, and civil rights advocate in Seattle, was the beloved pastor of the Mount Zion Baptist church, one of the largest and oldest Black churches in the Pacific Northwest (1958-1998 & 2005-2008).
In the 1960s he took part in civil-rights demonstrations in Seattle, Alabama, and Washington, D.C. During this time, he talked his college classmate, Martin, into coming to Seattle in 1961, which would be Dr. King’s only visit to our city.
By the 1960s McKinney became one of the most powerful voices for civil-rights in Seattle, participating in demonstrations for equality in housing, employment, and education. In 1965 McKinney joined in the Selma to Montgomery Voting Rights march which pressured the U.S. Congress to enact the 1965 Voting Rights Act. In the mid-1980s, Dr. McKinney was arrested while protesting Apartheid outside the South African consul’s house in Seattle. He also chaired the Washington State Rainbow Coalition.
While at Mt. Zion, Dr. McKinney established numerous programs that assisted the Black community including the Mt. Zion Baptist Church Credit Union, Liberty Bank—the first Black-owned bank in Seattle. He also was the first Black president of the Church Council of Greater Seattle. A brilliant visionary, Dr. McKinney acted as founder and president of many organizations: the Seattle Opportunity Industrialization Center, the Mt. Zion Pre-School and Kindergarten, and the Ethnic School (later the Louise Jones McKinney Learning Center). Completed in 1998, he led the construction of Samuel Berry McKinney Manor. Collectively, Dr. McKinney’s devotion and work blazed the trail for economic and social opportunities for African Americans in Seattle.
An often-overlooked fact is that many of the gains made for Blacks in American happened because Christian leaders of high character, passion, and skill stepped up. Their lives are a model for any community development organization to exemplify. Since our beginning, Urban Impact has been committed to raising up leaders who take on the qualities of Dr. King and Dr. McKinney. We know that our future necessitates having men and women with high morals and tenacious fortitude to bring about radical change. Our purpose has been to raise scholarships, develop strong leaders, provide homework support centers in our local high schools, and summer internships. These are just a few ways that we have proactively prepared future leaders with a solid sense of Christ and community well-being. Truth be told, there are plenty obstacles our young people contend with. The work is not always easy and we have had some misses; however, our purpose remains the same and our resolve is strong, thus we will continue.
A region-wide celebration of Rev. Dr. Samuel B. McKinney’s life was held this morning at McCaw Hall/Seattle Center.
Kaeshon and his team are participants in “Sharks At The Beach”. In this program they have access to a free college course and present their social venture at the Sharks At The Beach pitch competition. Here's a bit of his story as an emerging entrepreneur:
What is your story?
“I had been out of juvy for 3 months when I got into Community Passageways [a youth diversion program]. Since then, I’ve had 3 felony charges dropped. The neighborhood I grew up in didn’t give much opportunity beyond becoming an average joe or being a criminal. Sometimes people would shoot the next person just because they had a little more. I think if more people had the opportunity to become entrepreneurs, there would be less violence.”
What is your social venture?
“My social venture is flipping cars: buying used cars at auctions, fixing them, and selling them at an affordable price. One day I want to be able to open a used car dealership, be able to hire youth from the community and keep them out of trouble, and sell good quality cars at an affordable price to people who need them.”
What has your experience been like?
“[My experience] has been educational. I’m learning real steps to start a business. It becomes more than an idea. You learn how to outline your plan and map it out. Things you wouldn’t think about. This is a learning opportunity you wouldn’t get anywhere else. These aren’t courses you would be able to learn in high school. It’s a special opportunity.”
"I was just 13 years old when Dr. King was stolen from us by one who was filled with unimaginable vitriol and imprisoned by incendiary hatred." .... "As I got older I began to understand Dr. Kings actions...I recognized that his dream was built on the dream of The King of Kings."Read More
Inspired by the popular television show, Shark Tank, Urban Impact successfully held its 2nd Annual Sharks at the Beach Social Venture Pitch Competition in March. Urban Impact’s version of Shark Tank addresses poverty by promoting local business and supporting local entrepreneurs with coaching, as they present and work on their business plans.
This year’s winner, owner of Jacob Willard Home, an antique furniture store for over two years in the heart of Hillman City, Karl Hackett is launching a groundbreaking process of helping local small businesses remain sustainable and keep up with a neighborhood that continues to see change and development as a result of ongoing gentrification.
As a 20-something, Karl grew up during a time when it was still affordable for a young person to live alone and easily foster relationships with small business owners in the community. As a homeowner in the Central District, he began to see the effects of gentrification in his community over the years. He realized that the very thing that made a neighborhood “cool” to live in was being diluted by raised rents that pushed locals out, as new wealthy residents moved in. As a business owner in the Hillman City neighborhood, he and others saw their leases increase by 50% over a short period of time.
Karl took a leap of faith and allowed God to use his passion for collecting chairs to become something much grander. Impacted by the work of Urban Impact and Community Development Hub at Rainier Avenue Church, he has seen the impact of what an active church in the community looks like. He believes that Urban Impact shares his vision of breaking stereotypes and endless cycles that leave a community crushed. Karl would like to see more churches get involved in their communities and step outside the church walls to do outreach like he has seen with the Urban Impact Community Development Church Hubs.
In his business plan, Community First Development is the idea of promoting cooperative commercial ownership in the community that will allow small business owners to purchase their rental space. Karl’s team is hoping to partner with contractors to acquire buildings that are in need of updates so they can be purchased at an affordable rate, remodeled, and units can be sold in a coop structure that would be affordable for local businesses to buy and sell, essentially acting like an HOA (Home Owners Association) for a business with the idea to keep small locally run businesses at the heart of the community.
Although the hope was to launch this venture in a year, it will be a challenge due to the fast pace of the economy. However, he is confident that they will have the full support of the community to reach their starting goal soon, and will be launching a fundraising campaign to raise capital to acquire their first project. Stay tuned!
By Rosa Booker, Development Associate
CrossFit program participants often begin their fitness journey with a goal to simply get physically fit. However at RHF CrossFit, Head Coach David has designed class size and structure to create a unique environment where members of this fitness community have the space to share their stories of change and transformation beyond physical fitness. The space has allowed close relationships to form, accountability and the growth of both spiritual fitness and social engagement.
David’s friendship with South Seattle New Holly resident Monte is just one example. In November 2015, Monte began his CrossFit journey hoping to get fitter and lose some extra weight. Most people would be too tired to go to the gym after commuting 70 miles round-trip on a daily basis like Monte does. This 49-year-old member, however, felt extra motivated having just hit his two-year mark since getting diagnosed and treated for prostate cancer.
About a month into his fitness journey he finished last in a running workout feeling discouraged. Monte asked Coach David if they could meet up to talk about goal setting and nutrition. The meeting provided an opportunity to talk about much more than nutrition. During their conversation, David asked Monte if he could pray for his journey towards health and Monte agreed.
Now, six months after that meeting , Monte has lost 30 pounds, decreased his mile time from over 19:00 minutes to less than 11:00 minutes and reported his blood pressure is at a healthy range for the first time in 15 years. Additionally, Monte has gained a supportive community of faith and friends. Having not attended church for three years, through Coach David’s encouragement, he now frequently attends Rainier Avenue Church and is building tight community of friends and support.
1 As of May 2016
By David Calderon, RHF Crossfit’s head trainer
Many of you have heard that Urban Impact is launching our newest Urban Impact Community Development Church Hub at Seattle First Presbyterian Church on First Hill neighborhood. Amidst the unknown future of the church has made the decision to break away from the denomination, there is still work to be done. Bill Douthit, hired as the Community Development and Outreach Director at Seattle First Presbyterian Church along with lead pastors, Jeff & Ellen Schultz have a vision to reach out and minister to their neighbors, inviting them into community that they may come to know the love of Jesus Christ.
Please continue to pray for the church as they move forward into where God will lead and for wisdom for the leadership and staff as this new hub launches its vision, cultivates relationship with its neighbors and begins programming. You are also invited to join for this benefit brunch as we form community, vision cast, and get excited about what God is doing in and throughout the First Hill and Downtown neighborhoods!
This October, the 180 Program, a new strategic partner of Urban Impact received Seattle Met’s “Light A Fire Award”. The Seattle Met’s “Light A Fire Award” honors outstanding individuals and nonprofit organizations based in the Seattle metropolitan area that are working to make the city—and beyond—more prosperous, rewarding, and healthful for all our citizens. Winners are celebrated in the November 2015 issue of Seattle Met and honoured at a special awards event in the fall.
Founded in 2011, the 180 Program is run by Co-Program Directors Dominique Davis and Terrell Dorsey and gives an opportunity to youth who have been arrested for misdemeanors to get their charges dropped.
We are thrilled and proud that the 180 Program has received this prestigious acknowledgment!
DeSean was known as “Hot Boy” because of his quick temper and notorious street activity. When I initially met him in the detention center a few years ago when he was 15 years old, he wore an angry look on his face. His reputation and behavior from the block followed him into juvy as he got into fights and other trouble, letting his inner rage get the best of him.
DeSean shared much of his upbringing with me: his move from Chicago to Seattle, his unstable home life, and his undertakings as a gang member. He often expressed thanks to still have breath as he recalled times when death got very close. I remember asking him, “Why do you think God still wants you alive?”
“Hmmm. I’ll have to think about that.” Even at 15, DeSean was a deep thinker.
In subsequent conversations, he expressed a desire to change. “I don’t want to be Hot Boy anymore,” DeSean stated. Just before he was sent to a long-term prison, he achieved ‘honor level,’ the highest tier in juvy that allows for privileges, such as extra snacks and going to bed later. He left juvy a few days later.
I tried calling DeSean, but I later found out that he was sent to a different prison than he thought. I lost touch with him, but never forgot about him. I put a daily reminder in my phone to help me remember to pray for him.
A few months ago, I reconnected with DeSean at a group home as I was visiting another young man. I wasn’t sure if it was him at first. It had been over two years since I last saw him. But we recognized each other and got to catch up.
As I visited him over the following months, I saw no signs of Hot Boy. Conversely, I saw and still see one of the kindest and most generous people I know. One afternoon, when he brought some pizza back to the group home, he made sure all the other youth got a slice, even though it meant less for himself.
A few weeks ago, DeSean saw a distraught youth with a broken CD player. DeSean approached him, put his hand on his shoulder, and said with genuine compassion, “Don’t worry, I’ll buy you a new one.”
When I asked DeSean if he would want to perform a spoken word or rap for our fundraiser, he agreed to without hesitation:
It feels good knowing God loves all cuz all the stuff I done I shouldn’t have love at all.
...but one thing I know for certain,
is that I’m worth it.
Don’t be a follower… be a leader… guide yourself into the path of righteousness.
I was reminded of God’s power to transform. I praise God for transforming DeSean from Hot Boy into the man he is destined to be.
Jon Abe is the Director of King County Youth Chaplaincy and has been a chaplain since 2009. Learn more about King County Youth Chaplaincy and how to partner in this ministry at www.urbanimpactseattle.org/kcyc
Written by Emily Williamson, Rainier Health & Fitness Marketing Coordinator and community member
“I’m here because I need an ORCA card,” I overhead a young woman wearing a hijab say.
We struck up a conversation and she asked if I wanted to be part of something bigger than myself. I learned her name is Bahsan and she is a Rainier Beach High School (RBHS) senior. Like many of her classmates, she was eager to make change through the evening’s student-lead Town Hall on transportation justice.
“We can make a difference like Martin Luther King Jr.!” Bahsan said.
This attitude of youth empowerment rang throughout the night as students presented a series of statistics backed by personal stories to nearly 200 students, parents, community members and officials gathered at RBHS’s Performing Arts Center. The stage was set with a cardboard replication of a King County Metro bus and signs from the scholar’s march to Seattle City Hall calling for ORCA cards for students [For more info, see urbanimpactseattle.org/blog]. From the back of the darkened auditorium, students made their way to the front singing “Which Side Are You On?” while carrying giant illuminated letters. They lined across the stage to form the message: “SEE ME MY LIFE MATTERS.”
Many RBHS students shared personal stories, including Emerald City Commons resident, Miriam. She has asthma so finds it difficult to walk quickly to and from school.
The current two mile walk zone for Seattle Public Schools creates a barrier for many students to get to and from school and access afterschool programming, community events, jobs. Plus it’s a financial burden on many lower income families who spend 62% of their income on housing and transportation (according to the City of Seattle).
The following day, Laura Wright, Education Coordinator with Urban Impact at RBHS recapped the history of the movement. The previous school year’s See Me My Life Matters BLOC party led up to this summer’s CDF Freedom Schools® scholars march on the Day of Social Action. Having inspired students to use their voice for change, 25 of those CDF Freedom Schools® scholars helped organize the Town Hall to raise awareness about the disparate impacts the school’s walk zone policy has on our community.
Although there was much elation elicited by the success of this student-led Town Hall, Laura emphasized that the need is urgent, and ongoing.
“Last night after the event some of the students didn’t have a way to get home,” she said.
COMMENTS FROM THE EVENT:
“We are consumed with closing the achievement gap but we can’t do that if our students can’t get to the classroom.” – Community Member
"I want to send a shout out to all the staff and community partners who supported students to step up, organize this event, share their stories, create the artwork for it, and do outreach to the community in different ways so that last night could be such a success. I knew the Town Hall event was going to be an important event. I didn’t know it was going to be this incredible!" - Rainier Beach HS Teacher
“As a social worker in the community, I wish to say ‘I see you’ to all the RB students. To the surrounding village, let’s not wait until tragedy to get hyped for justice. We must act now. What is more important than children and them accessing their education?” - Community Social Worker
“If this happens [free transportation for all students] it is because you all [Rainier Beach students] organized and raised your voices.” -Transit Riders Union
What made this night so powerful?
Student Leadership and Self Advocacy—This event was organized and executed by our CDF Freedom Schools scholars/Rainier Beach students. Students engaged community members, bravely spoke about their experiences with challenges getting to and from school, and had articulate, thoughtful ideas for solutions. Students who may not experience being heard/seen or may not experience leadership in traditional ways had the attention of 200 people as they shared their experiences and ideas. From interviewing attendees for the Viking Shield, running sounds/lighting, talking with media, presenting data, and sharing testimonies –our students have so many gifts and skills that had a platform to shine and be seen. Specifically, 25 of our Freedom Schools scholars took the lead on much of the organization and is a tangible example of how summer learning and engagement changes everything. They are equipped and becoming leaders of change. Go Freedom Schools!
Art Activism/Story-telling- We used ART to engage our community in narrative. We believe that hearing each other’s experiences allows us to SEE one another. When we SEE one another, we are compelled to ACTION. Simply put, STORY SPARKS ACTION.
Community collaboration- Our community is a powerful force of active community leaders and partners who mentored and supported students in their planning and execution of this event. Special shout out to Rainier Beach Action Coalition, Transit Riders Union, Puget Sound Sage.
Race and Justice Lens- Students framed current experiences in a historical and critical analysis of race and equity. They raised awareness about how current policies have a disparate impact on our neighborhood and called for collective action.
Shout out to Rainier Beach team/Freedom School staff, Renee Willette, and community organizations advisors who devoted many many hours, energy, passion, and creativity supporting and organizing this event . Thank you everyone who supported this amazing event through prayer, volunteering, and attending.
Educations Coordinator at Rainier Beach High School
UPDATE: November, 16, 2015
Seattle City Council unanimously voted to fund ORCA cards for Seattle Public Schools high school students on free/reduced lunch. For more information, contact Seattle City Council.
As summer wraps up, I am grateful for how God has been challenging us and I am looking forward to where God will take us. Recently, we began the work of creating a theological statement of resources and development.
In our commitment to break the cycle of poverty and our belief that poverty is more about broken relationships than financial resources, we began to see how our culture views resources and how we as a non-profit play a role of navigating the partnership of those who give resources and those who receive. Our desire is to develop a theological foundation with a consistent message we can share with our entire community. As we develop this work, we look forward to the opportunity to invite you along on this journey of discovering God’s Kingdom principles and putting the practice of generosity in all areas of our ministry. Please pray with us as we step into this new work of building a solid Biblical foundation of development.
In our last newsletter, I unveiled our new Church-based Community Development Hubs strategy in which we partner with key churches: Rainier Avenue Church, Emerald City Bible Fellowship and Seattle First Presbyterian Church. These are churches that see themselves called to specific communities and partner with their neighbors to break the cycle of poverty while building hope.
We launched Seattle First Presbyterian as a hub this spring and are in the process of hiring the first Community Development and Outreach Director there. We are encouraged by the efforts and progress surrounding this hub even though the process has been slower than we had initially hoped. Since our philosophy is based in building relationship and capacity within the church and neighborhood, we are committed to take the time to develop trust and understanding in quality working relationships. Please pray with us as we hire for this position and discern direction with the community.
We want to thank YOU for your partnership and support of CDF Freedom Schools® . In this newsletter, we highlight exciting the work and impact of our Church Hub at Rainier Avenue Church (UI@RAC.) These are exciting times and we appreciate your partnership in breaking cycles of poverty and building hope in our neighborhoods.
“Got hope! Got hope! Got Freedom, Got Love, Got Hope!” scholars chanted everyday, forging the first high school CDF Freedom Schools® in Washington State at Rainier Beach High School. Serving as a Servant Leader Intern, I both facilitated and experienced an encouraging, fun and impacting curriculum critical to my own growth as well as the growth of the scholars.
A typical morning began with 60 scholars gathering in the band room for Harambee, setting the culture for the day as well as the program. Freedom Schools’ culture fosters positivity and encourages the understanding of ethnic identity, a value for reading, an understanding of history, a keen hunger for justice and resilience for change in our society. I personally was revitalized and strengthened as an African American male through this curriculum and books we read that built confidence in understanding our identity, cultures and languages. The summer curriculum also engaged high schoolers in discussions about current issues and how they can make a difference in their world. During the Day of Social Action, scholars learned about advocacy and used their own voices to not only hope for change but to actually make change in their community. Led by Junior Servant Leader Interns, the scholars walked a mile and a half from Seattle Public Schools to Seattle City Hall calling for funding of equitable transportation for public school students.
A highlight for me this summer was working with a student, Daniel* who said to me, “Why do you always expect so much out of me? You are always pushing me. I’m just a dumb slow kid.” I said to him, “Daniel, you are valuable and truly intelligent.” Later he came and said he values the words I said to him and knows he is capable of great endeavors in the future. We started this summer proclaiming, “got hope!” and I can say the scholars are recognizing their potential and are striving to walk with freedom, love and, hope.
*Name changed to protect privacy
Tymon Haskins is the Homework Center Coordinator at Rainier Beach High School and served as a Freedom Schools Servant Leader Intern. Pictured with Freedom Schools books Slam and The Freedom Riders.
See pictures from the Day of Social Action
I wasn’t originally planning to volunteer this summer with the CDF Freedom Schools® at Rainier Avenue Church. But God had so much in store at this ministry and He ended up leading me to the front door of Rainier Avenue Church.
To be honest I was not prepared for the level of excitement I found at Harambee, every morning’s initial gathering that is jam-packed with songs, cheers, read-aloud guests and reflection. Harambee is Kiswahili for “let’s pull together” and though I typically have a hard time participating in camp cheers, I couldn’t help but get into it when 60 children were asking if you’re hype at the top of their lungs. YEAH I’M HYPED! Blood whizzing to my head and my voice rapidly approaching its expiration date, the first day was off to a good start.
For many young scholars who participate in Freedom Schools, life is difficult. I frequently heard the words, “no one cares about me,” implying, “why would you?” As a volunteer from Bethany Presbyterian church, I had the privilege of being able to spend intentional time with these scholars and really get to know them. Every day was filled with countless God-orchestrated interactions, both large and small, that broke my heart but also brought me hope.
One particular scholar, Alex*, whom I had the privilege to work with during the second week “tapped me out” one day. “Tap-out” is a term I used with a few scholars who had difficulties maintaining their temper. We made a deal to “tap-out” or go take a break in the hallway outside of the classroom, if any scholar needed space. Alex was having a particularly rough day. I responded quickly. “Alex. That’s not who you are. You are someone who loves life, who cares about others and treats them with kindness.” Later that week a child psychologist told me children can recognize that no adult has the power to see into their soul, so telling them, “this is who you are” without anecdotal evidence is pretty empty. I know that I have no power to change anyone - it’s all God - and if anyone could do the whole see-into-your-soul thing, it would be God. And although I don’t think my words were divinely inspired, I do believe they were divinely interpreted. Something happened here. After my knee-jerk reaction, Alex just stood there, a little dazed. He knew I wasn’t mad, I think he was just a little surprised I cared so much. Over the next few weeks at Freedom Schools I saw Alex improve his reading and social skills. I told Alex I was proud of him and it blessed me to see his improvements. His ears perked up particularly when I told him I wanted to recognize him publicly . For the rest of the day, Alex kept coming over to me brimming with puppy-like joy to check in to see if I remembered that I was going to recognize him. “Yes, Alex. I haven’t forgotten.” At the next Harambee I shouted “I got a recognition y’all!” and announced my praise about Alex.
The Freedom Schools model has a history of rising above the forces of oppression in our country to bring equity, freedom and Harambee - the people of God coming together to see His Kingdom come. In the presence of such inspiring scholars, staff, families and supporters, words spoken almost two thousand year ago by our Lord Jesus feel seemingly present. The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand. And as we say at Freedom Schools: Amen and Ashe.
*Name changed to protect privacy
Henrik Mansfield is a sophomore at Reed College. He has volunteered at Urban Impact fundraisers and has spent significant time with ECBF youth group. Before the Freedom Schools began this summer, he could be found volunteering with King County Youth Chaplaincy. To Henrik, community is “ a reflection of Communion with God and it is only through community that God’s Kingdom will be manifest on Earth as it is in Heaven.”