When working with kids, it’s not often that we get to see the fruits of our hard work, and that can be deeply discouraging. I often hope for the day when a child understands why he should use his words and not his fists, or a little girl understands her worth and value. I’ve been working in the Children's department at Lower Lights Ministries for almost four years now, and every day I hope to see the life-change, transformation, and restoration we know deep down is happening.
God knew how important it would be to give me glimpses of fruit from the seeds I was planting. Some examples of the fruit that God is showing me; kids taking responsibility for their actions by talking out their problems, instead of punching them out in rage; they're happily going to school, singing worship songs, and laughing more.
It’s beautiful to see how open they’ve become to accepting love and how willing they are to give it back.
For the sake of this story, let’s call our little friend Jake. I’ve known Jake since he was 7, and he just turned 10 this July. He’s hated school and has not been interested in being a part of the Bright Lights Kids program. Though he would rarely speak to me, I’ve often invited him to play kickball or have a snack, but there's been no interest. He and his cousins finally became a part of our program, and I was so excited! Initially, Jake started off great by showing up and participating well, but throughout the year he began to lose interest and he fell even further behind in school.
At this already low point, COVID-19 hit. Online schooling drained even more motivation from Jake and stunted his academic growth immensely. Eventually, he stopped showing up altogether. It broke my heart to watch this and I was at a loss of what to do. I began walking to his house in the morning to pick him up and bring him to mentoring at BLK. I planned fun things to do on breaks to persuade him to come. I began to realize that I cared more about his education than he did, and I had to let him make his own choices. So I stopped, and it hurt my heart so deeply to have to let him suffer through school.
One day in August, Jake came to see me with his cousin and we got to talking about upcoming tutoring for the year. Very abruptly he says “Who signed me up for this?” I told him that his mom did, and he replied “That’s dumb. I’m not coming.”
Though I felt a pain in my chest knowing we were going to have another rough school year, I had to let him go.
In November, my cousin started as a volunteer tutor for the Bright Lights Kids program. He and the student I first matched him with hit it off great, but he then asked if there were any other kids that he could additionally work with. I jokingly mentioned Jake, but I knew it was unlikely to happen. My cousin insisted, so I asked Jake about it and he was thrilled, wanting to start the next week! I was very taken aback but hurried to match them and keep the momentum. Their first week was fantastic, and for the first time, Jake did academic work for the full hour. He powered through working on sentence structure, sight words, reading, and spelling. This continued for weeks! I later got a message from his school counselor telling me how much Jake had changed in school. She said he was happily coming each day, and asked me if he was still coming to Lower Lights. I could not believe it, and began to cry.
She says he’s making so many friends, participating in class, acting kind and caringly, and he even won "Student of the Week!"
In order to win that award, the child has to be present for the entire week, follow classroom philosophies, and be voted by their peers. How amazing! I just kept saying “Jesus, this is ONLY you!”, and it is. At times, this job breaks your heart and makes you question everything good in the world, even Jesus. It’s easy to become doubtful and wonder if anything you are doing matters. But then there are times where God gives you glimpses of light through all the shattered pieces of your heart. He allows for you to see the fruits of the seeds you’ve planted and experience joy with the little ones you’ve so willingly invested in. He’s shown me the bigger picture and reminded me that what I get to do does have an impact. He transforms, brings beauty out of despair, and deeply restores our hope. I’m so thankful to see that exemplified through little Jake.
- Alex, Bright Lights Kids Director