Three years ago, I met cousins Robert (8)* and Phillip (5)* while participating in the Juntos tutoring program. Robert and Phillip had a special relationship, relying on each other for support and encouragement. Over the course of time, I would learn why.
During the “get-acquainted” portion of the program, Robert told me that he lived with his mom and some men whose names he didn't know. At this time, Robert was very much on edge and obviously nervous about almost everything. My heart broke for him.
Over the next several months, during weekly study-halls, I found that simply keeping Robert's focus on anything nondestructive was a success. He was constantly acting up, misbehaving, and being destructive. Eventually, I learned that both boys were routinely pulled out of their home in the middle of the night by child protective services. Yet, I would see them the next day and they would act as if nothing had happened. One foster family told me how the boys would sleep with the lights on, their dog at their sides, their lives filled with fear and uncertainty.
But my time with them was special. I would play ball with them, read to them, and help out with Phillip’s art interests. Tutoring of school subjects became secondary to building a trusting, healthy relationship. In reality, I may have been the only adult male they knew who treated them with respect, love, and encouragement.
Eventually, we began to discuss things of significance: like what they might do with their lives and how to deal with hard times, like when an older school friend was killed on the street. The weight of the issues these children deal with is staggering! Robert, though, still had challenges. He was kicked out of one school for fighting. Still, I always tried to let them know they were loved.
It was often with the simplest gestures that real relationship was formed. When I brought his favorite pineapple-and-bacon pizza to our meeting, Phillip was amazed that I had listened to what he told me.
Fast forward three years. Robert and Phillip are still involved with Juntos. There have been some improvements in their family life, but times are still tough. After a recent meeting, though, I reflected on the remarkable transformation in their lives. Robert is more controlled, shows less anger, and seems like a genuinely happy soul. Phillip, always a smiler, now has a focus to his activities and is excited to be learning and growing. I believe the love and care these boys received at Juntos changed the paths of their lives. They still have hard times ahead (as do we all), but they can take heart in the promise of Jesus: that through Him we can overcome this world.
How can you be part of this miracle-making program? You can volunteer your time and show a child he or she really is loved. And, after 12 years of stories like this, Juntos is finally able to work toward purchasing a permanent facility in the target neighborhood! With suitable buildings becoming available, the funding needs are significant, but certainly achievable. A new facility negates costly van transportation and increases access. Click here to donate to the building fund.
(Individual photo taken by Jasmine Mostrom)
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The Women’s Serving Team is hosting a Mugs & Muffins event August 10th from 9:00 – 11:00am in the Fellowship Hall. Christine Leggett will be leading us in a discussion about the spiritual battle we each have with the desires of our heart. It will be a morning of fellowship, rich discussion and encouragement as we come together to study God’s Word. Praying you can join us. Don’t forget your favorite coffee mug! Please RSVP to Christine if you need childcare.
You can go on a mission trip and never leave Albuquerque. International Students Incorporated (ISI) helps international students when they arrive in the U.S. ISI has a chapter at UNM helping pick up students as they arrive at the airport, providing temporary home stays, helping find housing, English as a second language training and friendship partners. A new school year is getting started with hundreds of international students arriving at UNM. Please consider helping in one of the ways noted above. Alternatively, we will be providing lunch for students and volunteers on Wednesday, August 7 (signup sheets will be in the foyer). If you are interested in helping or just want more information please contact Vince Tidwell.
MCC’s Shine Partnership is hosting a dessert night Wednesday, August 14 at 7:00pm at Ashley Procter’s house! Current Shine volunteers, anyone curious about what Shine is, or those interested in becoming a Shine volunteer are invited! Contact Ashley if you have questions or need directions.
Save the Date: MCC Elders are hosting a 4-week Foundations Class starting September 15 and running through the first week in October. This class is designed to better help you get to know MCC - who we are, what we believe and why, and how to get connected. Please sign up with Sarah.