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Christian Community Development Association: Tory's Response

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IMG_5254God = Unity in Diversity The most valuable takeaway for me from this year’s CCDA (Christian Community Development Association) “Cultivate” conference was the importance of diversity in the Christian community. Over the course of the conference, I saw great diversity unified by a passion for some good news to reach broken places and people (the uncorrupted definition of evangelism).

This was most strongly felt during the worship sessions, performed by multi-ethnic musicians: African American, Latino, Asian, etc., in addition to the usually solo Caucasian worship team members. To hear songs sung in many languages made my soul aware of the true nature of God: In Isaiah 66:18, God says “I will gather all nations and tongues; and they shall come, and see my glory.” I got to get a glimpse of that.

Do we think of the church as being diverse? How does the church handle diversity? Does diversity divide your church? What a blessing to see diversity reveal the true nature of God instead of causing hatred and bitterness. How is it possible for such extremely diverse people to be unified together in such an intimate practice as worship? The only answer is the power of the Holy Spirit. The same Spirit working in each member brings the body together into a whole and functioning Person, aka, “the Church.”

 

Go and do,

Tory

 

Remembering Jaylin

Remembering Jaylin

[vimeo]http://vimeo.com/72576301[/vimeo] 

With huge and heavy sadness, the community of Hope for Opelousas celebrates the life of Jaylin Levier, and grieves his loss. Also known around our tutoring tables and basketball courts as “Pop,” Jaylin was the kid everybody loved—the staff clowned along with his humor, and his competitive spirit sparked everyone on to better work, better play. It feels too soon to say goodbye, and to be honest, we don’t want to.  It is difficult to try to remember Jaylin’s presence, his spunkiness and sensitivity, when we still feel like we will see his huge smile and soft eyes around HFO.

While it is easy to think of fun times—Jaylin dancing with his cousins, racing to define vocabulary words, cheering on the Tigers—HFO also wants to share some different and very special moments. Times when Jaylin joined in Bible studies and thought deeply about his faith and community that we will treasure, knowing his heart was being pulled toward heaven and he was listening. Just this summer, Jaylin traveled with us to a Christian sports camp, and responded to the gospel message with great intensity. How precious to witness that hunger, joy, and tenderness. Scripture affirms this time of grief, telling us “precious are the deaths of saints;” we are deeply grieving the loss of this incredible life and lift the Levier family up in our prayers. But with equally deep gratitude we celebrate the privilege of knowing Jaylin, loving him, being loved by him, and trusting that he is now laughing and clowning with our Father.

 

Love Changes Everything!

You've been left out-

But no longer! We were sadly remiss last semester on taking some time to introduce you to a few of our favorite employees. The ‘Agents of Hope’ interns have quickly become vital members of the yellow house family, and we hope you have not forgotten about them! If you are unsure about what this program is, check it out here.

So today, I am very pleased to shine a little light on the spring 2012 ‘Agents of Hope’. . .

We all get to have a hand in working with these interns—Kristina plans the tutoring expectations and schedules, Loren provides feedback and accountability for the work accomplished, and I (an intern-of-sorts myself) have the great privilege to befriend, mentor, and challenge these incredible young adults in a weekly discussion time. We research college scholarships, learn how to construct resumes, and talk about the truths of growing up. This semester we are also reading a book together, and I encourage you to look into it!  The Kai'Ro Project

 

Briah Mayo:

Last semester we hired Briah’s twin sister, and we are doubly blessed in our “discovery” of the Mayo girls! Briah is a self-titled nerd who also manages to play basketball and stand up to our feisty middle-school boys. I love the gentleness and warmth that Briah shares with us.  Whether she decides to go into nursing or business, I know peers and clients alike will find her a treasure. Next to her tendency for quiet and tidiness, Briah’s dream to try bungee jumping is impressive . . . but I think that field trip will have to wait for a more adventurous chaperone . . .

McKenzie Brown:

I have learned that McKenzie has the gift of curiosity . . . in abundance. I am so impressed by her thoughtfulness and uninhabited questions, which will serve her well as she works to become an electrical engineer. McKenzie describes herself as mystical and quiet, but I will also tell you that she is a great conversationalist with a ready laugh. A member of the OHS dance team, a fan of competition and a hopeful LSU freshman this fall, McKenzie tutors one of our 8th graders with commendable patience!

 Bryan Tyler:

Bryan is a generous young man who shares his thoughts easily and gives great suggestions for local restaurants. While Bryan plans to go to LSUE to be certified in fire safety, he dreams of owning a coffee shop to host jazz musicians and poetry slams. A true high school student, Bryan loves eating pizza and hanging out with his friends in his down time, but Bryan also has a great work ethic. He always seems to be opening doors for me or asking Loren how to do a new task.

 Karlotta Fruge’:

An Opelousas debutante, Karlotta would say that her heart still belongs to her home state of Texas. Karlotta loves her English class and sharing book suggestions with me—a girl after my own heart! She hopes to live in Baton Rouge after finishing college as a “classy” paralegal. It’s no surprise to hear week after week about new school activities Karlotta is involved in, and projects she’s checking off her list. The students she works with have a great example in her organization and studying techniques, which I am sure they are thrilled to try!

Wilbert Rosette:

Wilbert pronounced himself “very loyal” this past week, which does not shock me at all. He takes a beating from our elementary students—answering demands for games of “gotcha,” “Jenga,” and flashcard competitions. The truth is that Wilbert’s willingness and generosity are a wonderful example to our kids. He owns the OHS band family as one of his favorite parts of his home town; it’s no wonder since he plays several instruments and travels competitively as a leader in the brass section. Wilbert hopes to support a family of his own someday by working in non-destructive testing.

Each of these students has a real heart to contribute to the people around them, and a maturity we greatly appreciate. We hope you enjoy getting to know them as much as we have.

-Hannah

The Orange Jumpsuit

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 Okay, I know this looks bad. Let me explain. . .

This picture was taken yesterday at a DARE program where I had the opportunity to speak to the 5th grade class of South Street Elementary. No, I was not arrested yesterday. But the fact is, 11 years ago I was arrested. Those shackles were the grand crescendo, the “EPIC FAIL” of my young 18-year-old life.

Yesterday's program let me share my story in a way I haven't before. It was surreal. I distinctly remember in junior high a DARE presentation was made at my school where an inmate in an orange jumpsuit shared his own "epic fail" story about drugs ruining his life, and ultimately landing him in jail. That junior high version of me thought I was so different from that inmate, and that I would never go to jail.

Yesterday it all came full circle.

I was the one standing up in an orange jumpsuit, pleading with these young people for their futures. I feel like I am a lifetime away from my experience with drugs. The spell of deception has been broken and all I see is the reality of the death it carries! With stories of friends' funerals and images of families broken to pieces in my head, my passion to fight the war for the hearts of these young people is fueled by everything I know is at stake.

As I look around Opelousas, I see a deep oppression the dope game has had on the people that live here. A self-inflicted slavery, it is championed by music, culture, and especially those trapped in it. Misery loves company.

I'm praying for the liberation of souls in this city. I am ready to go to war for it, my brothers and sisters.

Would you pray and fight with me?

 

 

-Loren

One Friday morning...

 

There is nothing quite like an early morning, a cup of coffee in your hand, and thirty teenage girls standing on your lawn. On such a day, we began to chip away at the list of projects attached to our recent property purchase. Before bids for roofing could be compared, before the handicap access ramp could be poured, and even before we could repaint the big empty rooms, some dirty chores were calling across the lot.

And so it was that one fateful Friday, three staff members, one teacher, and a whole crew of high school girls went to town . . .

“The feeling of getting something done to help people in a way that they needed without expecting anything in return impacted me the most.”

HFO has been experiencing the development of a rich friendship this year between the Academy of Sacred Heart and our tutoring program. Every week, Miss Ali Purpera brings several of her students to volunteer—to sit on the steps and talk with our interns, to keep up on the basketball court, and to coax 7th graders into studying for impending biology tests.

“… not really knowing what it was or who was involved. Now I see how much soul there is in this project and helping out that day made me want to do more.”

Ali teaches, along with several other religion classes, a course in social problems. Amid discussions on poverty and economical struggles, Ali includes a day dedicated to working in the community in hopes of connecting her students with some of the topics on a more personal level.

“The thing that impacted me the most was about halfway through the day, I realized that while I usually have a strong aversion to manual labor, I did not have one thing to complain about. Also, at the end of the work, to see that not one girl had anything to complain about either, even though they all had just spent the day working and getting dirty.”

This year, HFO gratefully hosted the work day. For about four hours we cleaned floors, scraped paint, pulled carpet, hacked at bushes, and wrenched old nails, doors, and fences out of stubborn holds.  Who knew that 11th grade girls carry such a penchant for destruction?!

“I had so much fun, probably the most fun I'll ever have ripping up old pieces of a house. Everyone just came together for this big movement, it was amazing.”

In the afternoon, the girls were treated to a lunch hosted by the Opelousas Lighthouse Mission. There we heard about the unexpected situations that lead to poverty, spoke to some heavy demographics in our country, and shared the gospel truth of caring for our neighbors.

“They really opened my eyes to the fact that poverty can happen to anyone no matter the background.”

It is always hard to relate one short-term experience to the reality of another person’s life, but I think that those conversations proved compelling.

“…it helped me realize stability is fragile…”

This day proved to be surprisingly sweet, and not just because we were set upon by a reckoning workforce! We shared our hearts and made new friends. HFO is so grateful for the blessings of that day, and for the chance to work alongside such giving young women.

 “I really hope we do this again soon.”

So do we!

 

 “…the Good Samaritan parable taught me not to judge the men who did nothing because I probably would have responded similarly. It also taught me that service is one of the most central requirements of being a Catholic Christian. Having a lot of faith isn't enough, and service without faith isn't enough either.”

 

 

Year in Review: The 2011 De-Brief

Friends, We hope this post finds you refreshed and grateful at the close of another year! HFO experienced some incredible growth in 2011--in the depth of our programming, scope of fundraising, and student relationships. As you may know, each blessing brings more responsibility, challenges, and hope along with it. Thankful for these opportunities, we would like to re-cap some of the highlights—

• HFO excitedly received our first and second grants from the Pugh Family Foundation to fund the ‘Agents of Hope’ high school internship program, which launched with the hiring of five seniors from OHS to work with our after-school program.

• Spring Break mission teams visited Opelousas once again! We played host to thirty college students for a week, serving all over Opelousas in the name of Christ. This work included helping to raise $13,000 with ‘A Night on the Town’ homelessness awareness event, with more than 600 attendees.

• Two interns helped support us this year—the ‘2011 Summer Internship’ program brought Nadine Lundgren to HFO to serve as our summer intern. HFO also hired our first ‘Grace Corps’ member, Hannah McBride, to have our dream for a year-long internship position realized.

• HFO brought twenty-three kids to the ‘KAA Summer Camp,’ a week long Christian sports camp, instigating a new summer tradition. What a blast!

• Eight students traveled with us to the 9th Ward in New Orleans for the first ‘HFO Mission Trip’ to work, pray, and play with new friends.

• ‘Adventure Crew 2011’ canoed the Buffalo River and Heber Springs in Arkansas for forty miles of cliff diving and fishing adventures.

• And last, but not at all least, HFO purchased a second home next door to our current property to expand our after-school program, looking to double the amount of students we serve by 2013.

We share our joy with you—our supporters, mentors, and family—in these milestones and the restoration they bring. We are thankful to all of you who have walked with us these last four years and we are trusting to God’s loving provision to overwhelm our family, and yours, in 2012.

Peace!