Last week we had a group from Fort Worth, Texas come help out at Cross & Crown. Like most groups they had a plan. They had been in contact with Ron for some time and were assigned a list of tasks, projects and duties to complete while they were here.
We welcomed them into Oklahoma City on Sunday afternoon and gave them a run-down of Cross & Crown, Rock Island and the neighborhood. They were going to need to be well informed because they planned on staying inside the facilities overnight for the week. They were told the ins and outs of each of the buildings and given an overview of what their week would look like while helping out at the each location.
Each day the group had additional activities for the neighborhood youth following their full schedule of projects throughout the day. Devotionals, times of worship and reflection, small group discussions, meals and games, this group did it all. They came. They saw. They conquered.
The group was tremendous but none of their scheduled, pre-planned projects were what impacted me the most. A scenario came about while their group was here that would not have fully developed had their youth and leaders not been intentionally relational during their time in OKC. Completed projects, devotionals, sleeping in a rough neighborhood in hot, uncomfortable conditions is great and makes for really cool stories when you get home but building a relationship with a neighborhood kid who has little to no family and making a measurable impact in his real life circumstances is what’s really helpful.
If you live in OKC or have school aged children that attend OKCPS you are aware that school started last week. Well, we had a student that just moved back to OKC after living in Michigan for several years. Again, like he did when he was in elementary school, some 6 years ago, he lives with his grandparents who live 4 houses down from Cross & Crown. His mom died when he was barely old enough to remember her. His dad is no where to be found. He has some extended family members who love and care for him but most times are unable to do a whole lot because they have children and families of their own and/or live in different cities.
Moving back to OKC the week before school started wasn’t necessarily the most timely plan but it was, likely, the only plan because of dwindling opportunities in Michigan. So, here we are. The unlikely match of a eager, young man back from Michigan teamed up with a willing, available youth group from Texas.
The group began work early each morning and continued throughout the day until the evening hours. Meanwhile, our Michigan-migrant continued to be truant. His plan with some family members from another city to help him enroll in school didn’t work out so I began piecing together as much information as I could to get him enrolled.
Tracking down immunization records from Michigan, faxes left and right, phone calls to advisers and counselors and a couple trips to the school with grandpa was all apart of the plan. I got the ball rolling on the process but I was quickly finding out that I wasn’t going to be able to juggle this scenario on top of some other things that were going on that week.
In steps the available, observant Texan (I know, hard to imagine that Texans can be helpful). She told me she had been wondering, thinking and praying about this particular student all week. She told me she had talked to him a couple times about being “truant” but was never really confident that he understood the urgency concerning his status.
She had stayed up the night before praying and weeping over this student and his situation. A deceased mother. A non-existent father.
Thursday morning I set aside some responsibilities I had committed to for that morning and got ready to take the young man to enroll at school. As we were loading up to leave the Texan inquired what we were doing. I informed her that we were headed to enroll in school and she communicated an interest in tagging along. Turns out, I was just tagging along.
Quickly after arriving at the school with the young man and his spanish-speaking grandfather the helpful Texan and I noticed the rising anxiousness of the student. We both verbalized some observations we had made and tried our best to relieve as much stress as we could.
Flash-back 10-15 years ago when I was enrolling at school. It was me and mom. Or, it was me and dad. What happened was the two of us would go to school. I would sit there and answer ‘yes’ and ‘no’ when questions were directed at me. Mom would tell me what I needed to do, when I needed to do it. She filled out the paperwork. She answered all the tough questions. She calmed my nerves.
This is when availability meets opportunity…
After being bounced back and forth from a few different people at the school I was quickly coming to realize that my time and place in this scenario was over. I had done my part. My had completed my function in this particular situation. It was time for mom to take over. And, she did. And, it was awesome.
Five hours later, after lots of waiting in lines, talking with counselors and answering questions temporary mom and child had done it. He was now an official OKC student. She hugged, encouraged, taught and loved him. Just like good moms do. Her time was limited in OKC with this student but her investment is timeless.
Thanks, available, willing, observant, relational, mom.
“Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many…Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.”
– 1 Corinthians 12:12-14, 27
By Luke Whitmire