Over the last 3 weeks New City Phoenix has had 2 groups from outside of South Phoenix help do a neighborhood Vacation Bible School. We did this in our painting neighborhood where we have painted 7 homes in the last 5 months that are within a block of each other. Over the last 3 months I have been visiting with these grandmas and their adult children and their grandkids on a weekly basis taking donuts and just talking. I got permission from one of these families to use their front yard for our VBS. We handed out flyers a couple of times in the neighborhood. This is mostly an African American neighborhood with some Hispanic families a block over. We did go door-to-door and talked to a few people.
I didn’t have any idea as to whether any kids would come. I knew that some of the grandkids and parents might show up. We did the typical VBS program, i.e. lots of crafts, story, singing and of course snacks. We ended up with 15 kids that came during both sessions. We took the kids to a ‘cool’ pool to swim each time and then the grand finale was taking around 35 of these kids to the Grand Canyon with the last group.
While we were doing this VBS program in our painting neighborhood we were also doing a summer program with our South Ranch Habitat Youth. We did a Thursday night VBS with the little kids and a group study with the teens. We also did a Saturday event each week that ranged from doing car washes, (raise money for our events) go swimming and skating. A handful of these teens helped out with our VBS in our other neighborhood.
Many lessons have been learned through this first summer in South Phoenix with doing strategic activities. It is obvious that it doesn’t take much to get someone to come to something at least once. The key is how do you sustain something that not only is fun, but also has substance for these inner city youth and their parents. We have obviously won over the trust of these parents after doing the tutoring club this last school year. The youth now understand more fully that we are here to see the gospel impact their lives, their families and their neighborhoods. Yes, working in a multi-ethnic neighborhood does present it challenges. The VBS neighborhood, which was mostly Black families, saw only one Hispanic family come and because of a language barrier it was difficult to connect with the mom. The daughter and her little brother did enjoy what we were doing and participated. It isn’t easy to build trust and form relationships with different people regardless of your socio-economic background. The clear message is to keep trying and doing it and in time, God’s time, everyone can see their place and sense their acceptance and importance.
Yeah most people think I am just as hyperactive as my ‘kids’, which is probably true to a certain extent. God has given me a heart to be with these kids and teens to love on them with the gospel and be available to listen and walk with them through lives ups and downs. Many come out of difficult home situations, unemployed fathers, no fathers, always moving and seldom having the things that other kids have. I know at times I error by trying to make sure they have little treats or surprises that make them sense that they are special in God’s eyes. The journey before New City is to learn how to form partnerships with the families in our neighborhoods to help them help themselves and have developed gospel centered values. I know that it is easy to feel like there is no hope in life and that you have been forgotten by most. So pray with me as I seek to build a church and network of partners to love on these kids and their families and see transformation happen in their lives.