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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 1 – Beginner)
Topic: Fulfillment (04/06/06)

TITLE: Other People's Children
By April Bailey


Mediocre. It’s a fun word to say, not a fun word to be. But mediocre is exactly what I’d become and definitely how I felt about my life. My husband Jerry and I lived a virtual routine. Weeks were filled with days of work/home/eat/bed or, worse yet, work/home/eat-in-bed. Saturdays were a boring blur but, thankfully, Sunday followed. Fellowship and Bible study at church gave us the only taste of a richer existence.

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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This article has been read 792 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Lynda Schultz 04/13/06
Nicely done. At first glance, others might consider that you had sacrificed yourselves to carry out this ministry. But, just like Jesus promised, He gave back to you a hundred times what He asked you to give up. Inspiring story.
Carol Shaffron04/14/06
Thank you for telling your story! WOW!
dub W04/14/06
This deserves a reprint. There are a number of Christian parenting magazines who would love to have this article, and possibly a series built around the same. Thank you for sharing this piece with us.
Virginia Gorg04/14/06
This is not only well-written, but contains a message of strength and encouragement. Good writing and could be published elsewhere, too.
Amy Michelle Wiley 04/16/06
Thank you for sharing this wonderful story!
Crista Darr04/16/06
Excellent, heart warming, and wonderful. Take Dub's advice and submit this, please.
Marilyn Schnepp 04/17/06
A delightful and heart warming story of true fulfillment...with other People's Children. Your story makes my life seem "hum drum"...or as you call it, "mediocre". God bless you in your work for others!
Birdie Courtright04/17/06
A winning story for sure! You have a wonderful up-lifting testimony that I hope will encourage others to trust God as they step out to fulfill His plan for their lives. Awesome job writing this, and a more awesome job living it! Thanks!
Linda Germain 04/18/06
Total agreement with all the above comments. Wonderful job.
Carla Feagans04/19/06
This is a wonderful story and an amazing inspiration. Thank you for sharing it. What a wonderful legacy you are leaving to these children.

One note: I'm not sure I liked the first paragraph as is. I was not drawn in right away, and this is such an amazing story I think there might be a better place to start. Like maybe something like, "We couldn't have known then that such a brief conversation would change our lives." or "It was Brandy who started it." or any number of sentences, but something that piques the curiousity and draws the reader in a little more. And then go back and cover what your life was like before...

Overall, though, GREAT job.
Valora Otis04/22/06
April, I felt blessed to read your story. I agree with Dub. I also pray that others may learn from your example. I know that I have today.