Previous Challenge Entry (Level 1 – Beginner)
Topic: Fulfillment (04/06/06)
TITLE: Other People's Children
By April Bailey
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We worked with youth at the inner-city church plant on occasion, so when a mom asked if we knew anyone who could tutor her daughter, we jumped at the opportunity. Within months of that brief conversation, we’d moved into the troubled inner-city neighborhood and began tutoring eight-year-old Brandy after school.
God sorted out a few work issues and allowed us to offer our services to other children. We called our place Starfish Learning Center (it was really our living room) and, in the second month, we added three more students. By the fourth month, our group had grown to 45! The center had spilled over into nearly every room in our apartment at this point, so we decided to relocate.
God provided again and, with unexpected funding, we moved Starfish to a nearby storefront. In addition to giving youth homework help, recreation, art, and tutoring, we were able to introduce them to the love and hope of Jesus in daily Bible studies. We have seen children come to Christ through this program and have provided a safe haven for at-risk youth for nearly 10 years now. Our fatigue these days comes from endless youth activities and bone-crushing hugs from pre-teens. Jerry and I feel blessed to have been chosen for such a work. I need only hear six-year-old Andrea say, “I love you, April” to understand Jesus’ words in Matthew 18:3 … And he said: "I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. …”
While building our ministry in such a turbulent community, I was amazed by the resiliency of youth. Every few months there is word of another fatal shooting, typically a relative of someone we know. Lost teens and gang members brave arctic temperatures to ensure supply for the flourishing drug trade. With grandma’s kiss still moist on their cheeks, children walk to school, sometimes passing their moms who work the streets for the day’s fix. This is real life for these kids. Day in and day out. I have come to realize it is by God’s magnificent grace that they remain such loving, fun and amazing children. Their very faces reflect the glory of God and their smiles reveal glimpses of heaven.
In more than 13 years of marriage, Jerry and I have not had kids of our own. We handed this over to the Lord some time ago, and are quite at peace about our “empty nest.” In fact, we’re thankful; we probably couldn’t have started Starfish with the demands of a growing family. I am truly content, and I never imagined the fulfillment I could receive from working with other people’s children. Many of them call Jerry and me their spiritual parents and they know they are loved. In my heart, they are my children. Oh, and yes, mediocrity has long since fled.
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