Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Little Green T-Shirt Prayers

Another Tuesday in Mr. Christensen's science class. I whispered a prayer for super natural "science pizazz", knowing the little, if any, of my 9th grade biology has most likely dissolved in the deep recesses of my brain.
As the students trickle in one by one,( not as late this week), I winced and tried to call them each by name by collecting the notecards from last week. Jeffery, check! Sidney, check! Javier,check! Jonathan, Check! Eric, check! Somehow I just couldn't get Diedrich and Diandre straight. O well, there was still time.
As the teacher shouted out the day's tedious and daunting assignment, I had already assigned myself the mission of "cracking" Ingrid, the "mute", as well as helping the students understand their text books. Class went on. As I made my way through the students I eventually made me way to Ingrid's desk. I smiled at her and sat down. It became clear I wasn't going anywhere soon, so eventually she paid me some attention. "What do you like to do Ingrid? What do you like?"...
A few of her classmates looked over.
I asked again.
"Shopping." She breathed.
"Gasp! Shopping? Me too. Where do you like to go shopping?" I countered.
"The Mall."
"What is your favorite thing to buy?"
Smiling a little on the outside but WAY BIG on the inside I asked one more question.
"What's your favorite color?"
Ingrid spoke! Her classmates looked at me like I had just discovered sliced bread. She even let me in on a tiny tidbit of her likes. She was surprised and probably slightly annoyed at all the questions, but for today I was satisfied. Heck, I almost got a smile out of her. I was floating.
Class wrapped up and I passed out the notecards again, this time a different question. As I collected them I scribbled on the back of Ingrid's card "green t-shirt". Who knew when this info would come in handy? I high fived the class goodbye and walked out knowing Jesus had been in the class with me. As I shut the door behind me I smirked and asked the Lord for a little green t-shirt,forgetting about the request a second later. Little did I know that someone else had not.

That following day I was in a small group with some high school girls telling them about my classroom the previous day. I was trying to encourage them to ask God for stuff, even silly stuff that can make people's day better and maybe even lead them to a relationship with HIM. I remembered the silly request of a green t-shirt, that I could surly buy, but it was just more fun to ask God for it. Sure enough one of the girls, Riley piped up," I have a green t-shirt I picked out of my closet today for some reason. I was going to throw it away...want it?!"
I looked around at the silly smiles slapped on each girl in my small group. We gave God His glory. God even hears us when we don't hear ourselves, even when we say things that we don't expect to happen. He is a ear that is always attentive and he has a heart that never forgets our desires.

The next Tuesday I took the t-shirt in my bag and waited until everyone had been dismissed after class to pull Ingrid aside. I reached inside and pulled out the beautiful bright green t-shirt. She shot a smile that was so innocent and happy I could barely stand it. I explained that I took her interest to heart and found her a t-shirt. Her gaze finally left the shirt and she looked at me with her big brown eyes and gave me a quick "thank you so much", hug, and just like that was off. It was a short and sweet encounter, but it made every second in that class more than worth it to see the look of hope in her face. I believe one day she will know the One who provided that shirt.
So there you have it. There's nothing too small or too big you can ask Jesus for. He just wants to be a part of your LIFE. Everyday, informal, crazy, up and down life. If you don't pray a lot you might as well start somewhere. Try "little green t-shirt prayers." You never know who may be listening...

How abundant are the good things that you have stored up for those who fear you, that you bestow in the sight of all, on those who take refuge in you. Psalm 31:19

...because He loves you.

Ingrid is the girl farthest to the right.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

White Girl

I walked into the high school as an unfamiliar feeling as a minority. Feeling sure of myself, but a little unsure of how others were mentally responding to my presence. I silently prayed for the students and the teacher that I was about to meet for the first time. I felt the thrill of courage and anticipation as I strode into Mr. Richardson's 4th block science class.
Where was everyone?
I saw what I was positive was my teacher, a lean, tall, "bigger than life" smiled, black man...Mr.Richardson. He was thrilled and a bit surprised as he quickly, an unsure sized me up, that he would have another set of hands and ears to help him out.
Little did I know that I would need much more than "hands and 20/20 vision" to be of any good to this classroom.
This was a routine every Tuesday last semester in the ministry school I'm attending. Woodlawn High School is located in Birmingham in the little town of about 14,000 residents. Over half of its population is unemployed, 40% of high schoolers drop out, half of the buildings in Woodlawn are burnt out and teen pregnancies are out the roof.
There is no where else I'd rather be.
Me and a handful of other students spent time weekly in this neighborhood based out of a place called The Dream Center, a hub of all outreach to the Woodlawn, conveniently right across the street from the high school. I can appreciate a comfortable bed and even a good paying job. Ultimately however, there's something in me that wants to bring hope and healing to generations of brokenness. Dirt and excess garbage attract me, the sight of a crumbling building looks more like a gleaming opportunity than a pile of rocks. I no longer see with natural eyes but superatural, 'beyond this world' vision, because I believe in and serve an 'out of the box', creative,loving, powerful God.
That's also why Woodlawn High School where the reading level average is at a modest 4-5th grade, beckons me as a golden potential, not a bunch of failed youth.
So back to my first day, 10 minutes after the bell passed the students trickled in. I sat an observed them observe me while Mr.Richardson introduced me. I saw "what the heck are you doing here" written all over their faces. What was this white girl doing here and what did she possibly want? I just smiled inside with an unexplainable love for each one of them. The lesson for the day was jotted on the board and instructions were told, however I could barley hear myself think over all the shouting back and forth. I quickly went to make friends with the clearly "most outspoken" students. "Might as well gain their respect first since the whole class follows their lead." I thought. James was clearly the loud mouth of the group spitting out words I'm sure my mom has never even heard before, contrasted by Ingrid, a sweet Hispanic girl who when was asked her name bowed her head as her classmates answered for her,"she doesn't talk." I promptly went to her side and put my hand on her shoulder, "good to meet you Ingrid." She broke my heart as I saw such a look of hopelessness of her face, if I only knew her story..
The hour and a half was going by quickly especially considering the mass chaos and lack of anything productive getting done. There were five minutes left. I asked Mr. Christensen if I could have the class attention. He gave me a look of "YES. Why didn't you ask me this an hour ago?"
I got the classes attention and introduced myself and explained my reasoning for being there. To help them, but more importantly to be a good friend. I went around the room and wrote down every name as they told me so I could remember them next week. Next I handed them each a notecard, and asked (okay maybe begged) if they would write something down for me. I asked them to write down a dream, life goal,or something about their life. A BIG DREAM! If they had all the money in the world, what would they do. Because something told me that growing up in a place where half the people are unemployed didn't encourage a lot of dreaming. But I believe when a place is dreary, a light shines more brightly. I was honored and their teacher was shocked to see every student fill out a card despite almost non filled out their worksheet due at the end of class RINGGGG! School's out.
I thanked them and gave everyone a handshake or high five as they rushed out of class. And I followed anxious to read what they wrote.
I went back to the Dream Center and read the note cards. Here are a few:

Javier: Dream, 'Pilot or Ace'
Sydney: Dream, 'I would support my momma all of her life'
Trey: Dream, 'To be a pharensic scientist and travel the world'
Aderion: Dream, 'is to succeed in life open my own small nation-wide buisiness"
James: Dream, 'To go to the NBA and help out my mom and her life' Life, 'Make it threw highschool'
Joe: Dream, 'To become a milionare' Life, 'Ex girlfriends are iratating and they suck' (haha!)
Ingrid: (who doesn't talk...but boy she writes!) 'Im good at Art,music and been quite,mean,playful and traveling around the world. If I would get a million dollars get a house and buy lots of stuff'

I bet that's more information than their teacher would ever know about them, and I knew after my first day meeting them. It didn't matter the color of my skin, all that mattered was that I was myself, and I cared about each one. I knew their names. I knew their dreams. I had no idea that these kids would teach me so much.
More stories to come...

These are a few of the students from the class. Check out the swag.