Back in 2011, I heard Mama Maggie Gobran and Bill Hybels share about tough callings. One of the points was the world is not going to get better unless we make ourselves available for tough assignments. In an effort to be reminded of this idea after the conference, everyone was given a piece of broken pottery.
At that time, I was part of a small group of young professionals being asked to volunteer in some of the local elementary schools where over 90% of the students came from low income families. It was a pitch made by Partnership 4 Kids. It worked with my schedule to volunteer at Franklin Elementary, a school I attended briefly as a kid. Franklin also resided in a part of Omaha we were focusing in on (that we call Village One), as a church, to serve. So, I said yes to helping out.
The first time I volunteered at Franklin I was nervous. I was battling the idea I would have nothing to offer the students. “What could I do?” It sounds silly now, and I knew better, but it was my reality as I sat in my car outside Franklin that first time.
It was an inauspicious beginning. It makes me smile to think about it now.
I’ve written about that first year of volunteering at Franklin a few times. About halfway through the first year, I talked to my friend (and coworker) Eric Carpenter about helping out. Eric works with a lot of our local partnerships, and had a lot of connections in the Village One area. Plus, Eric is just a fun guy. I thought he’d be a natural with the students. And, he was right away when he started volunteering. With Eric’s connections, he recruited other volunteers to help out at Franklin.
We’ve been blessed to get to know the students and staff. I’ve worked with the younger students, and it brings me joy every time I see them. It’s also been inspiring (and challenging) to hear the teachers’ stories of what they do every day. They are unsung heroes in the community as they teach, and serve, kids who disproportionately come from difficult home environments.
Eric and I are in our fourth year at Franklin. Over these past few years, we’ve built relationships with the Franklin Principal, Decua Jean-Baptiste (Principal JB), and Partnership 4 Kids staff Yolanda Williams (Ms. Yo). Over the years, Eric has helped spearhead a number of service and outreach projects in the area. He has built up relational credibility. When it came time to do a big project to bless Franklin students, it was an easy sell because of our track record.
As I mentioned before, over 90% of the students at Franklin come from low-income families. Eric pitched the idea of Christ Community Church doing a food drive for all the students’ families over the Christmas break. We were calling it Family To Family. I was with Eric when he talked to Principal JB about it, and it was cool to see Principal JB’s joy at what we hoped to do.
Jordan Johnson worked with Eric to produce a video that would make the Family to Family pitch to Christ Community Church.
The response from CCC was tremendous. We ran out of boxes for people after the first service, and Eric had to run to Lowe’s to buy more before the end of the second service. All together, we’ve handed out 1100 boxes for people to fill with food. If 75% of those are returned filled, that means 825 families will be blessed. Because of this amazing outpouring of love, we will be able to help another school that has a high percentage of students that are food insecure. That’s over 600 students who will have food this Christmas season, with another 200+ families being helped out as well. (Thank you CCC!)
Eric and I have talked since then about how this all started out. There wasn’t a massive plan. It was simply about helping some kids in our community. In fact, when I initially talked about going down to Franklin to help out, one leader wasn’t sure it was a good idea. They thought it might be a waste of time. It’s a tension with doing church, ministry, or non-profit work.
We really didn’t do much over the past few years, but we showed up. We kept coming back. We listened. We learned. We made ourselves available. It sounds easier, but our nature is to come in and do something. Fix something. We want to get in and out as quickly as we can. We feel better, but what about the people we served? We did something, but was that something transformational? Was it a part of something bigger, or just something we could point to that we did to make ourselves feel better?
It’s no wonder Jesus summed the Law up with, “And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other commandment greater than these.”
-Mark 12:30-31 (ESV)
What can we do to make a difference? It’s a question I wrestled with the first time I volunteered at Franklin. Love can make a difference, though. I’ve learned how to love my neighbor better over the past few years, and I still have much to learn, but I see the difference love has made.
Going back to tough callings, we all can acknowledge the need for them. However, for some who can make it happen it’s hard to go through with because they don’t see a return on the investment right away. Or never. We are the Church first and foremost, not a business. It’s good for the Church to use smart business practices, but we still need to be aware we are the Church. Business practices are not the trump card. God, and what He has called us to (individually and corporately), should be. We may never see a return with some of the things we are called to do, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t proceed with them.
“The world is not going to get fixed unless leaders like us are available for tough assignments.”
2011 Leadership Summit Session (Mama Maggie Gobran & Bill Hybels)
Back to 1985 (Thoughts on Being a Student Amongst Poverty)
Returning to the Scene of the Crime…and Receiving Hope (Part 1)
Returning to the Scene of the Crime…and Receiving Hope (Part 2)
A Piece of Broken Pottery (One Year Later)