Monday, October 19, 2009

Serving in Sacramento

One of the things (out of the many) that I love about the Navigator Sunland Region is our heart to serve and the willingness to go on a road trip to do so. This weekend, 54 students from Long Beach joined staff and friends from 8 Southern California schools on a trip to Sacramento. We partnered with a group called Shoulder to Shoulder who has been laboring to reach fatherless inner city youth for the past few years.

Why drive 7+ hours to reach people in a city we DON'T call home? Simply because someone else calls it home and we can bless them.

We were able to accomplish 34 different beautification projects around 4 schools in ONE day. Parents, teachers, principals and school board members were completely amazed by this service weekend. The transformations were incredible. It was mind blowing to see such a tangible impact and an immediate result of hard work.

What goes unseen is the impact that we've had on the hearts of those we served. There was one teacher who stopped by our garden project and fought back tears. The overgrown garden had once served a purpose to teach students and gave them a place to plant good things in order to watch them grow. As she stood and watched the unbearable garden become rich and ready for planting, she mentioned that she had never seen this area of campus look so beautiful. She recalled stories of another teacher who had loved to plant flowers and teach her students about them. The garden had fallen into incredible disrepair and without help, was never going to be useful. Now these young students had a place to plant again. They could actually have a hands on experience in causing life to happen and watch it grow.

I like to think of the encouragement planted in the teachers around the schools this weekend. They will hopefully feel revived and inspired to encourage their students; to give them hopes for a life different from what they've been exposed to. Many of these kids turn to gangs in a last resort effort to receive the love, acceptance and protection they can't get from home. Drugs and violence run rampant throughout these neighborhoods where we were serving. What was most impactful for me was learning that these kids just need is someone to believe in them. So if cleaning their school, planting new trees, painting railings and doing other projects helps them feel loved and encouraged, then this trip was completely worth it.

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