I want to start this blog off simply with a prayer; a prayer said by a young child that is a part of the Summer Hope program. But what I find funny, is the outline of the prayer. Before the prayer, you hear a loud, “OKAY LISTEN!” Then, as the child gains the focus of the other children, she begins, “Bow yah heads. Dear Lord, I want to say thank you to everyone here who came out today, and grandma please be healed. Amen.” The part you did not hear me say yet, is that I simply asked the student to bless our snack time. Now during the past year every snack that the child has prayed for has been the same prayer. It’s memories and people like this that make me want to get up every morning and put a smile on their faces. Because just like that student, they put a smile on mine.
I was born in Tuscaloosa and have been attending Calvary Baptist Church for a total of nineteen years. I am a sophomore at the University of Alabama, majoring in Public Relations. Growing up I loved to help people but never thought about missions or let alone serving in my own community. In my years in the youth group, we went on many mission trips. But I never considered or even thought about poverty in my own backyard. That was until I went on a mission trip to the Dominican Republic. This trip taught me multiple things; but the most important thing I learned was when I got back to America. I began to ask myself, “Why do I always go on the mission trips and never bring anything back? Why do I go do missions in another city, state, or country on a mission trip; when there are people who haven’t had a bed in years (or have never had one at all) that go to my school or live just a couple of miles from me? Or more important than that, why do I go to all these places spreading the Gospel when they’re multiple people who haven’t heard or understand Jesus dying on the cross for them here in Tuscaloosa?” I found out more about SD Allen and Tuscaloosa Urban Mission, and I slowly began to volunteer and work for these organizations.
The summer of 2016 is when I became more involved with the kids at McKenzie court. I began to foster relationships with the children, and I knew one day that I would want to be an SD Allen Student Missionary. After the summer was over I still wanted to be involved in the kid’s lives, so I helped lead a Tuesday night Bible study with Tuscaloosa Urban Missions. This Bible study was all year long and will be again next year. Sometimes it may seem like the kids can get out of hand and act like they don’t like you or they hate what we are doing. But deep down they really do care about you being there.
During training for this summer, my team and I went to McKenzie Court to hand out flyers about our Summer Hope program. As we entered the gym, we saw multiple kids that attend Kids Club and Bible study, that we had not seen since May. As I was spotted by a student he simply yelled “JACOB!!” I soon was grabbed and hugged on by all the children. The children do not want us to leave every time we see them. The children who some days I had to get on to. The children that say they “hate bible study.” Each and every single one of them hugged me, telling me they’ve missed me and they can’t wait to see me again. That’s when I knew my life is about to be changed this summer.
This first week of Summer Hope exceeded my expectations. The first and second day we had around 20-30 kids come and by the end of the week we had 40. The best part about those numbers is that more than 60% of those children are faces I had not met in the past. They are all new to what we are doing and I’m excited to get to know them. Most of the regulars are in summer school, so for the month of July we could be looking at close to 60 children attending. I know God has a plan for us at McKenzie Court, and I cannot wait to see how He uses us this summer!
- Jacob Rawson