Summer can be "Soul Crushing"

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This past weekend we partnered with our our kingdom department and held a "Summer Sports Camp" for Kids Hope and neighborhood kids. Kids learned basic soccer and basketball teams from amazing coaches and had a blast. 

A few mentors came to reconnect with their kids during the summer break. As they were saying goodbye, one of the mentors relayed to me the following story:

"The boys mom said they could play in the playground for a little while before they headed home. A and K said goodbye to me and their mentor and ran into the playground (well actually they climbed over the fence and K got stuck and yelled "my penis, my penis" before he made it over successfully!) But L stayed behind and asked for a group hug, so we did and he said "not seeing you guys every week is soul crushing."  I couldn't believe he would use a phrase like that. We walked off and left them, but that phrase stuck with me. I saw L's mentor at church on Sunday morning and told him about it.

Just had to pass that along -- if not seeing us every week is soul crushing, I guess the flip side of that is that Kids Hope time is soul-nourishing! I think it's a long summer for these kids, but I notice they never complain...they seem to understand that their mom is doing her best. But I can see how just one year of being involved in Kids Hope means to the whole family."

Just Be Here

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"Just Be Here":  This was a note from the Daily Progress Report a mentor turned into me last week: 

X's father was waiting for her after school. I found out that her parents are going to court today (it may involve her mother's custody). I asked her if she was worried and she said yes. I asked X how I could help her during this tough time and she leaned into me and said, "Just be here". 

I think that sums up our ministry right there :)...."just be here"...that is TRULY what your child desires, more than anything else - that you be there. A Super Sub is ok, but it's YOU that they look forward to seeing, you that they trust, and you that look forward to being with. Thanks for your commitment to showing up each week! 

Closing out a decade!

 Program participants, End of Year Awards Ceremony 2008

Program participants, End of Year Awards Ceremony 2008

“… not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted” -William Bruce Cameron

On January 30th, 2008 our first mentor (Budd Christopher) met our first Kids Hope child and a journey began for both the church community and the families in our neighborhood. It's a journey that has had so many unexpected twists and turns, and one that has allowed us to see God's "kingdom heart" on display. As we close out a full decade of learning and serving at Eagle Rock Elementary, we wanted to try and quantify some of what has happened. (To see some thoughts from our director at the start of this big year click here).

STUDENTS SERVED: We know numbers don't paint the whole picture, to simply add the number of students in the program each year, we would land at 642 kids. But because so many students come back year after year, even among our transient "at-risk" population, that's not an accurate number. Accounting for kids who have returned year after year, over the past 10 years there are 231 students who have participated in Kids Hope at Eagle Rock Elementary!!

LONGEVITY IS KEY: The average student participates in the program just shy of 4 years. (Of course there are students who are added in 6th grade or who leave the school midway through their first year.) We've had 20 students participate K-6th grade/1st-6th grade with the same mentor, and one student that spent 8 years meeting with her mentor! That type of long-term investment is life-changing (to both the mentor and the child).   

“Because duration tends to imply close relationships and strong programs, match length is considered one of the best benchmarks of overall program effectiveness.” -Jean E. Rhodes, Ph.D., University of Massachusetts, Boston

  • 91% of mentoring relationships that could have continued after one academic year continued meeting the next year.
  • Of those relationships that ended, 7% were due to student transiency and 2% for other reasons.

We are proud of our mentors willingness to stay the course, even in the midst of difficult circumstances and matches! They demonstrate the faithfulness of God by their faithfulness to their child. There is no Kids Hope without each mentor deciding to show up for their child every week. 

IMPACT AT SCHOOL: After a single year of mentoring (based on teacher end of year surveys):

  • 79% of kids improved in social/emotional competency
  • 65% improved in educational success
  • 56% improved in attitude toward risky behaviors
  • We started out meeting in the hallways at the school, but over the years as our program grew the school gave us a classroom. Kids Hope has made a home in rooms 16, 54, 34 and room 7 over the years! 

IMPACT IN CALIFORNIA: We were the first program in Los Angeles, and have helped 9 other churches start 9 other programs locally (helping to bring the total of programs in CA from 1 to 15 over the last 10 years!) Including our program, that's one program a year that we've helped launch! 

IMPACT AT CHURCH: 80% of volunteers report that their faith strengthened or they feel more committed to the church.

  • Our mentors have invested a total of 631 YEARS at Eagle Rock Elementary
  • 230 mentors from our congregation have been screened and trained to serve at the school (39 of them have served 5 or more years)
  • 246 people from our congregation have served as prayer partners (41 of of them served praying 5 years or more!) 
  • 69 people have been screened and trained and served as "Super Subs". When mentors are sick or need to miss a session these Super Subs step in and help us honor our commitment to the child.  
  • 18 people have served on our Leadership Team over the last decade, offering their vision and tangible support to the program as a while. 
  • That means 563 people from Christian Assembly church (almost 1/5th of our congregation!) have completed our paperwork and training programs in order to volunteer with Kids Hope
  • This does not include the myriad of volunteers that have helped out with our events over the years! 

To say we are incredibly grateful for all those who have given the resources of their time and love and care to serve this past decade, would be a huge understatement. Our program truly would not be possible without them, and without the support of our church. 

The Gospel speaks of “tikkun olam” the “repairing of the world”, which we call our “Kingdom Value” here at CA. And while charity connotes a single act of giving, justice speaks to a right way of living, of aligning oneself with the world in a way that sustains rather than exploits…the one that invests, relationally, for the long haul.  Kids Hope has allowed us to practice both “charity” –those single acts of service (LoveLA & Day of Hope service days), as well as “justice” --a right way of living out our faith over the long haul. Sometimes it’s a simple small act, like the parable of the Mustard Seed that Jesus mentions in Matthew 13:31-32

“The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed,which a man took and planted in his field. Though it is the smallest of all seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds come and perch in its branches.”

God keeps us humble as we plant these seeds of faith and hope, trusting that God will water them and cause them to bear fruit in His time.

Former mentors were asked to reflect on their time serving with Kids Hope and what God taught them. The following 10 blog entries feature a man and a woman from each year of the program. Their stories don't capture everything, but paint a picture of how God shapes us as we step out in faith to serve Him. 

 

 Program Participants and Event Attendees 2016

Program Participants and Event Attendees 2016

What I've learned as a mentor #10 - Blanca, Doug

AS WE APPROACH THE END OF OUR 10TH FULL SCHOOL YEAR, I'VE ASKED MENTORS TO SHARE SOME OF WHAT GOD HAS TAUGHT THEM AS THEY'VE SERVED WITH US. THIS SERIES OF BLOG POSTS FEATURES 10 MEN AND 10 WOMEN WHO HAVE SERVED IN KIDS HOPE OVER THE LAST DECADE. I WANT TO SHARE SOME OF THEIR RESPONSES, AS I THINK THEY'LL ENCOURAGE YOU! HAVE A STORY TO SHARE? EMAIL KIDSHOPE@CACHURCH.COM

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Seeing excitement in a seven-year-old's eyes each Monday as he bursts out of his classroom, I am reminded to take nothing for granted.

I read with him, do science demonstrations with him, and challenge him with math for little more than an hour a week—and we're always the last ones out of the room.

He doesn't care if I bring snacks, and he isn't eager to get outside to play, he just wants to read and go on with the work till his mother comes.  Without Kids' Hope USA, none of this would be possible.

We borrow youth from these kids. Working in company with kids keeps us young. it's a privilege to be in their presence. I don't understand why everyone doesn't sign up to do this.- Doug

         By mentoring a Kid’s hope little boy for five years, I’ve learned about the vulnerability of God’s love towards all of us, his children. I’ve felt that vulnerability in my wanting with all my heart the best for him but having to witness some pretty tough situations in his life that I can’t do anything about.  I’ve tried to learn over and over again that God loves this little boy even more than I do and that my attempts at trying to change situations for him by controlling and cajoling are more about me wanting to be God for him, but that God’s love sees beyond this life and towards the growth that is truly in Him beyond the demarcations of our earthly life. - Blanca

What I've learned as a mentor #9 - Barry, Chris

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My time taking part in Kids Hope has been priceless.  It changes the heart of the mentor and the child.  It teaches me patience, while it shows the child that he is important.  It teaches me what matters, while it shows the child that he matters.  By  showing my child grace it makes me realize the grace I have been shown.  My heart has been thawed by hanging out, playing handball, building with Lego’s and reading with my Kids Hope kid. - Barry

The first time I heard Sarah speak regarding Kid’s Hope, I knew. In admitted disobedience, I sat. I sat the next time and the next. I finally stepped into the place I was to be used by God. 

Having been what would have been classified as an “at risk” child, I knew the heaviness a little one is capable of carrying. I know that for many, much of childhood can be stolen. There are fun times but often those times are undergirded with uncertainty and fear and chaos. Looking back, I remember certain people who were pointers to hope.

God uses this program to undergird heavy little hearts with prayer, hope and love. The opportunity to step into a hard place and point to hope is an honor and a blessing. God has mended me. Taking parts of me that were so weighted down as an elementary school child and redeemed that time. Seeing the big picture in this season of life helps to remind me of the immensity of the God we serve. -Chris

What I've learned as a mentor #8 - Diane, Jaime

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Research shows that supporting a child during the early years of life (before age 8) is critical for determining academic success. It is a privilege to meet with my student weekly with a plan to read and work on academic skills together. But, also, it is so rewarding to talk, share, eat a snack, and play together, too! My prayer for him is that he will not only grow in his intrinsic motivation for academic success, but also grow in confidence, self-esteem, and building positive relationships with others. I've noticed that in this past one and one-half years, he is off to great start! Praying for my student and working with him is a perfect fit and a huge blessing. It is a joy for me to serve in CA's thriving Kids Hope ministry! -Diane

How do I even begin to describe the impact that being a Kids Hope mentor has had on my life?

First and foremost, it gave a face, a name, and a practical way to live out Jesus' words that we are to "love our neighbor as ourselves." I got a first row view to the life of a young boy who came from a single parent home; where mom was working her tail off to try to provide for her kids. I got to be a part of that boy's life without knowing the full extent of whatever impact I might have (or not!) been making. I'll never know. And I just had to learn to be OK with that. I carry Brian in my heart even 7 years later. 

The other significant impact that Kids Hope has had on my life is that it gave me a bird's eye view to the world of at-risk kids, especially children in the foster care system. As a result of Kids Hope and a few other ways that God opened my eyes to at-risk kids, I now get to lead a movement of people and churches dedicated to ending child abuse in Greater Los Angeles. Thank you, Kids Hope, for refining my focus and life purpose!

-Jaime

What I learned as a mentor #7- JC, Roxana

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The five years I've been able to participate in the Kids Hope program have been very enjoyable.

It seems to do me as much if not more good than it does the kids! It's a great opportunity to become "other centered" as opposed to self centered. I have had the privilege to raise two children of my own and when they were past high school I knew I would miss the wonderful anchor taking care of kids can bring, so KH helped ease me through that. (It's definitely a joy to be able to get to know children in their precious early years.)

And God has shown me that by stepping out in the faith,  my schedule not been too terribly impacted.  I have been able to see my commitment to the child through and not quit for any personal schedule conflict. That has been easier to do than my fears would have had me believe. I've been fortunate to have two truly wonderful kids to mentor. 

And getting to know the other mentors is also a good way of feeling more connected at CA, and developing relationships there. - JC

God has really blessed me by being a mentor of CA Kids Hope.  I retired from teaching five years ago, and I knew that my life was changing. I was feeling the uncertainty of not continuing anymore what God graciously had assigned me to do.  When I became a mentor, I felt that once more I could help and be part of something. 

My experience has being very rewarding.  I truly enjoy the one day a week time with my mentee.  I feel that God encourages me to be part of his life and at the same time builds a bond based in trust under his guardianship. 

I’m very thankful to CA and Kids Hope for this opportunity. - Roxana 

What I learned as a mentor #6 - Christopher, Lori

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“A couple of years ago, I was in a season where God was desiring to teach me about fatherhood. As a single guy, I was curious as to what lessons He wanted to teach me and how He was going to bring that about. What transpired was me getting involved in four different, intentional relationships with four guys of varying ages. The oldest guy was 59 while the youngest was my 2nd grade Kids Hope kid of eight years old. 

Though it would be silly to think that spending an hour a week is a strong comparison to the rigors of being a full-time dad, what I did gain in a practical way was the experience of giving sacrificial love. To choose to show up and give your heart, time, and attention to someone regardless of how you’re feeling, what else is going on in life, or how the person you’re loving is responding, receiving, or reciprocating that love is both a rewarding and a humbling experience.

Seeing - especially through the stories/testimonies of others shared via email and church services - the impact Kids Hope makes in the lives of not only the kids but those in contact with them, is powerful and sticks with you. In fact, I was just visiting with two teachers from out of state who were commiserating about their lack of help with emotionally & behaviorally challenged children at their elementary school and immediately knew that establishing Kids Hope there could help to alleviate their problem. One had heard about Kids Hope USA before and both were intrigued and glad for the information I provided. They are now looking into having the program at their own school!” -Christopher

I had listened week after week last school year about all the fun and sheer joy my husband had experienced while mentored a third grader last year.  I'd ask myself "Why am I not mentoring too?"  I had reached a place in my life where God was calling me to serve and I couldn't ignore His call.

So I arranged my schedule to have a day where I serve Him as a mentor to an adorable kindergartner who always, always meets me with laughter, silliness, sharing and learning. Whatever struggle or bad attitude I might have had before seeing her was wiped away after meeting with this sweet little girl.  Kids Hope is not just a blessing to these children, but to us mentors too! -Lori