Last Monday was the parent orientation for One Hope Academy’s 5th and 6th grade class. I drove the big red van (the one Sarah and I not-so-affectionately nicknamed “Bertha”) out north to pick up parents. Watching the streaks of orange and pink sunset, I prayed for the new school year. And I was suddenly struck with the realization that–this is actually happening.
Last winter, Miriam and I read and read books about education. (We still do, I suppose.) But one of the things we saw as a reoccurring theme was that the teachers who had marvelous success with inner-city classrooms taught, for a large part, in 5th grade classrooms. We dreamed of teaching younger kids, kids who hadn’t yet given up on themselves. I wrote a long list of ideas in my journal, and we spent sunny afternoons at McClure Park dreaming about what we could do.
And so we had the first week of One Hope Academy’s 5th & 6th grade class. It wasn’t perfect. But I thought it was all the more beautiful for that. Twelve God-provided students sat in God-provided desks wearing God-provided uniforms and I was in awe.
(First day picture stolen from onehopeblog.wordpress.com)
These twelve–five girls, seven boys–are all students we met in our tutoring ministry. One I’ve known since she was tiny and crying every day because her mom was in jail. Now her mom I count a friend and sister.
One has come since the first summer of getAHEAD, and now she texts me on the weekends and I talk to her about ex-boyfriends (hers of course) and tell her not to date boys and to love Jesus more instead. At 11, I’m certain that’s the advice she needs to hear.
One I met for the first time this summer on the day I was the discipline manager of getAHEAD. He didn’t know me at all and cussed me out for that and for me not letting him go to game time until he let me talk to him about what he had done. His dad came up to the church and told me through an interpreter that his son would not be coming any more. And then he came the next week and it took courage for me to smile at him when we passed in the hallways, not knowing if another curse word would come my way in the next second. I didn’t know where we stood. I did know, as I told him multiple times that day, that I loved him. Then on graduation night, he wrote me a note asking my forgiveness. He’s been my friend ever since.
As I drove him and three other boys home Wednesday and Thursday, we talked about how this is the best school they’ve ever been to, about how they want to play football, about Harry Potter and other books of possible interest, and about how they never want to abuse women the way they have seen men abuse some of their moms. I thought of that verse in Deuteronomy about teaching as you walk in the way.
On the way back, Bertha and I drove in silence. I thought about how this school is kind of like parenting. I thought about how, at 23, I’m not ready to parent twelve 11 to 13 year olds. I thought about how my heart is going to get broken. And I renewed my commitment to pray.
We add the high school on Tuesday. Last week the freshly-sharpened pencils and new slight chill (if 80 degrees can be called that) and answered prayer at every turn filled me with my general fall optimism. But tonight I’m feeling more like the man in Mark, crying out, “I believe; help Thou my unbelief!” It seems like more than I can do, more wisdom and patience than I have to give. But this I call to mind and therefore I hope: the steadfast love of the Lord never ceases. And it is better than life. His mercies never come to an end. Therefore, having this ministry by mercy, we do not lose heart.