WHEW! So much has happened in just a few months, so as it seems. I started this gig as the Director/Pastor of Monroe Circle Community Center, a.k.a. MC3, just over 9 months ago. And WOW! What a run it has been. I love my job. I get to sit on the front row and witness first hand God’s grace, mercy, and love. I get to see a despairing gaze turn to eyes full of hope. I get to experience, from my seat, the feelings of worthlessness give way to purpose. But, what I see up close doesn’t always show in the data. The data is still alarming. The data, whenever it moves, tends to move opposite of the intended direction. I’m exhausted whenever I look at the data… wondering… “Will it ever get better? Are the problems oppressing this community beyond our reach, beyond the scope of our abilities?” Honestly, sometimes I don’t know.
But there is another story developing, appearing to oppose the story the current data is screaming. This other story often do not get the press but brings renew vigor to the wearied soul. Like the rumbling of a distant thunderstorm, this seemingly hidden story is gaining ground and if you are looking, can be found in the heart and eyes of one child, one mom, one dad, one grandma or grandpa, one… after one… after one… It is this story that gives us hope, strength, and courage to continue… It is my purpose that this post will help you feel “the rumbling” underneath the chaos…God in the midst of His story being played out at Monroe Circle and Edison Gardens.
Most of the children who participates in many of the Son City Kids programs at MC3 attend Madison Primary Center in South Bend, In. The Principal of the school, commenting on the impact the community center is having on the kids and families living in Monroe Circle, stated “Expectation has been the one piece that had been missing.” She further claimed that Parents, who did not expect that there kids would or could go to college, now believe it is possible. They now expect that their children can go to college.” But the
“expectation” piece was not limited to just their kids. The Principal told us the story of one of the mothers who had recently obtained her GED who asked her, “Mrs. Buysee, do you think I’m to old to go to college?” 125 adults were enrolled in the MC3 GED program in the spring semester of 2010. Rumble… rumble. The MC3 Afterschool program and the MC3 GED classes are provided through the collaborations and partnership we have through the South Bend Community School Corporation.
Phil Thorton lives in the Monroe Circle community. For the last 3 years he has been on dialysis. Phil is a high capacity individual who has many abilities. Because of his health, he is living in public housing. He goes in for his treatments 3 times per week, He is currently waiting for a kidney. In spite of his condition, he is one of the most encouraging people I know and always wears a smile.
He writes poetry and has a poetry website. He recently has been named an Author for poetry in the Library of Congress. Phil continues to look for ways to give back to the community. He volunteers during the weekly “MC3 Gathering” event by reciting his poetry and he also helps with the clean up after the event. Rumble… rumble
JOBS – JOBS – JOBS
Salvation Army was awarded a HUNK OF CHANGE when Joan Kroc, the widow of the hamburger mogul who owned McDonalds, died. And South Bend was selected to be be one of the sites for the state-of-the-art community center. The construction project will take 18 months and will create job opportunities. Salvation army has set in order an initiative to ensure that people from the community would have an opportunity to get these jobs. Because the construction is near the Monroe Circle community, we were asked if we could partner with them to facilitate job screenings for this project. I was asked how many people I could get from our community to attend an orientation meeting. I said I could get approximately 30 people. I WAS WRONG! To date, after 6 orientation meetings (and more are scheduled), we have processed over 320 men and women. Although there are only 80 jobs available, we will use this project to help create other job opportunities. Rumble…rumble.
The Son City Kids sports program has been a tremendous success this year. The program provided the team with invaluable opportunities to mentor young men and women as well as engage their parents. We began with the basketball camp during the winter (Please see previous postings). This summer we also conducted a soccer camp. The soccer camp were put on by Bruno and Lisa DeJesus. Approximately 15-20 kids were involved. Two of the kids received a scholarship to attend Bethel College soccer camp. The season ended with a banquet where the young men and women received trophies and new soccer balls.
Here we are. Half way through August already. Where did the summer go? This was a busy summer for the Son City Kids’ programs. The Sport camps, Springhill Day Camp, Carnival, Son City Kids weekend, Fun Fridays, Boot Camp, and Jump Start sprinkled in with an outing here and there provided productive and quality time to love, challenge, and direct the kids, whether they were at Edison Gardens or Monroe Circle Community Center. It has been a summer, heck, it has been 9 months well spent… “Bringing up there, down here.”
Finally, I must give credit where it is due. The “unsung heroes,” the volunteers who unselfishly sacrifice themselves continuously to love “up close,” whether it was carrying food boxes for an elderly Food Pantry patron, or coaching and mentoring men and women transitioning out of prison and overcoming addictions. I could not do anything without them. Honestly, I’m just not that smart. Many of them are doing double and triple duties. Why? For these volunteers, MC3 and Edison Gardens isn’t a place they go serve, its a place where they are doing life with their friends… with Jesus’ friends.