Friday, September 28, 2012

Trying to Keep Up With a Move of God

Wednesday Night Tutoring Program Gets a New Name, New Structure
Every Wednesday night we're pleased to welcome to Zion nearly 200 children who are either refugees or the children of refugees.  Many are reading at grade level and speak English well and they are incorporating themselves into WOW, our “regular” Wednesday night program for kids, or the junior high or high school groups.  For the others, we try to work on homework or English reading.  This is our third year.  We've been blessed with tremendous growth, we started 3 years ago with 4 kids, and that fast growth has always been an organizational challenge.  Over the summer a group of committed people met to revamp the program.  Out of those meetings, which continue even now, came the new name.   We continue to try and "organize" in a human way what the Holy Spirit is doing.  

Instead of calling the tutoring program, Whiz Kidz, the new name is STARs.  
Whiz Kidz came out of our beginnings as the first church based manifestation of the tutoring and discipling program of Freedom for Youth.  We’ve never been able to keep up with the student/tutor ratio of that very good program, so we’ve decided that we have to go our own way.  

STAR is an acronym which stands for the four purposes of the program:  
S - Serve.   We serve these children as if we are serving Christ himself.  Jesus wanted us to welcome the little children and in his name we do.  Many have needs for the basics of life and we try to meet those needs: food, clothing, shoes, coats, etc.  Many simply need a friend or role model and we try to be that as well.  

T - Teach.  Thanks to an influx of tutors from many different churches and a great number of Des Moines Christian High School students, we are now able to offer better opportunities to do homework with the kids and help them read.  Our content continues to be in the hands of a professional educator and we work closely with Samuelson School to discuss needs and techniques as many of the kids are in the ELL program there.  

A - Advocate.  Many of the parents of these kids don't know how things work in our country.  So we advocate for the kids in order that they might have the best opportunity to acclimate to our society and thrive in this good land.

R - Reach.  Everything we do is motivated by the love of Christ for us that pushes us beyond ourselves and into the lives of others.  We desire more than anything else to see these kids in the kingdom of God and so through song and drama and teaching, we seek to invite them to follow Jesus.  Our evangelism techniques are sometimes subtle and sometimes very overt.  We try to match the approach to the activity and to the kids.  Some are Muslim and some are Buddhist and some are Animist and some attend other churches and some now attend Zion and many have no faith background whatever.  It is a mission field ripe for harvest.  

Here is what a typical evening looks like:
Vans leave to begin collecting kids at 4 p.m.  We have 2 full vans from an apartment complex about 20 minutes away.  By 5 p.m we are collecting kids from local complexes.  The kids play outside or, when it's cold or inclement, watch a movie inside.  At 5:45 everyone lines up for dinner.  At 6:20 we go to the sanctuary for our opening worship as a church together.  Afterwards, WOW kids go off to their activities and STAR kids stay for a presentation.  Then it's time to break into small groups and begin the learning phase.  We usually finish about 7:45 and start the buses running back home.  The last vans are back at Zion about 9 p.m. It is a day full of joy for those of us who volunteer.  

Would you like to help?  
We can always use help as the number of kids continues to grow.  Would you like to work as a homework or reading helper?  A group leader of six or seven kids?  A van driver? (We especially need help in the late afternoon, 4-5:30 p.m.).  We need your help in the kitchen - there are many mouths to feed and many plates to wash.  We need your financial support as well.  It costs money to pay for the gas for the vans, for the food bill (about $1 per plate - amazing!)  We also need your prayers.  Please pray for the continued safety, success and salvation of these priceless children and that they may see Jesus in us.  Thanks for reading.  God bless you.  PJ 

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