Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Sweet 16

We celebrated Laniecha's 16th birthday this weekend. Andrew and I and Laniecha and Ja'Marion went out to Applebee's to acknowledge this milestone. Both of us were struck with how much she's grown up these past three years. We are praying that the growth will begin to focus more on spiritual development now that she is gaining some stability in the classroom and at home with her son. We also purchased some safety gates for the stairs in their house, as Ja'Marion is almost 9 months and crawling everywhere! Andrew is going to install them tonight. The purchase of those gates were made possible by the support of dear friends and fellow believers who have so graciously taken up Laniecha and Ja'Marion's cause. I am so grateful for their support. Here are a few fun pictures from the day.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Movie Night

Friday night we had a Middle School Movie Night, and despite the fact that it was cold, dark, and rainy we had 7 kids show up. In our current youth group meetings we've been talking a lot about Jesus and our need for salvation, so we watched the movie Narnia with the intention of discussing its parallels to the Gospel message.

Every time I watch that movie through that lens I glean more from it. It is a powerful story (it doesn't hurt that I'm a huge C.S. Lewis fan) and one thing that really stood out to me watching it this time was the theme of "The Body." Peter, Susan, Edmond, and Lucy all want to belong to the epic battle between good and evil. They join a fight that is so much bigger than themselves. And then, throughout, there is a bond of loyalty that runs through those fighting for Aslan. I couldn't help but think about the battle that we as Christians are fighting, a battle that seems almost impossible at times. Often it takes a fellow believer taking a stand beside us and promising to fight with us until the end to bring courage to the fight. And then there are the gifts that Peter, Susan, and Lucy are given: Peter the sword and shield, Susan the bow and arrows and horn, and Lucy the dagger and healing potion. These gifts were used to advance the battle and to care for those they fought with. Likewise, the gifts God gives each of us are to be used in the great Kingdom battle and to care for our fellow believers, the Body of Christ. I don't know if Lewis wrote all of that into the story or not, but one thing I love about literature is that you can interpret different things from the different lenses you view it through...in that way a story never grows old because we are constantly growing and seeing life through different eyes.

It was fun to draw out some of the symbolism from the movie with the kids. They were a little slow catching on at first but then they started to see the parallel between Aslan and Jesus and Edmond and our sinful natures. One of our boys, who is smart and funny, but who rarely seems to be listening with his class-clown ways and disruptive behavior bowled us over with an insight. He said, someone who could represent Edmond is Paul. Andrew asked him how that was, and he answered that Paul used to be a really bad person who hated Christians until he got saved and started doing good. All three of us leaders looked at each other with acknowledgement of the hard battles we have fought with one another to lead these wonderfully, difficult children: he had been listening all summer long when we had talked about Paul several times! And even more, he remembered the story enough to accurately apply it to the interpretation of Narnia!

It was a good night.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

What's in an Index?

Who's Columbus? What's an index? Where is Portugal? These questions are ordinary enough, but they are ones that 6th through 8th graders should have the answers to. Or they should at least be able to find the answer if they don't know them. I am continually horrified by the inadequacy of these children's education.

There is no one person to blame for this, but the devestating fact is that there are thousands of children in our inner-city schools who are being systematically trampled under our mandated standardized testing and poor funding management. The fact is that there are a plethora of reasons for this injustice; it is complicated and messy and it is an issue that when people aren't expereincing it first hand they would rather not be bothered by it.

We don't have the staff or the funds to run a full-scale tutoring program and the fact is that a once-a-week tutoring program is merely a drop in the bucket. So, I decided to try something else instead. Our kids' reading comprehension is dismal, their exposure to the world is limited. I can't teach them everything but perhaps I can help them learn how to learn?

Last week we talked about Ferdinand Magellan and his voyage around the world. I split the kids into two groups and sent them on a scavanger hunt of sorts for information about him and his accomplishments. As we sat around helping them pick out the important details and teaching them how to use an index I saw real excitement on their faces. They all scrambled to pick up their notes and share what they had discovered when the time came. And they even looked fairly interested when I went over the Word of the Day: expedition. I couldn't believe it. One of our young girls who is 15 in the 8th grade and has serious emotional and learning struggles and who often falls into extreme mood swings came through the door and I cringed thinking she would not be able to keep up and cause problems...her face was alight with the victory of learning. She stood proud with her notes during the oral presentation with the rest.

This week we talked a little about Vincent Van Gogh. After a short powerpoint presentation, to which they were mostly paying attention we painted our own Van Gogh paintings. I want to open a little of the world to these kids and give them a few more tools with which they can fight for their future. So far it's been a lot of work for a total of 3 hours, but seeing those kids standing in front of the group eagerly sharing their historical discoveries, or having a good time painting a classic post-impressionist piece of art makes it all worth it.

Please pray for our youth as they struggle with so many things. Pray that first and foremost God will grab hold of their hearts as we share the gospel with them. And secondly, pray for their school and family situations, as the majority of both are leaving them without the tools they need to be succesful in life.

Monday, November 3, 2008

November Update

November 1, 2008

Dear Family and Friends,

An often bantered about cliché is that “Children are our future!” This is of course in many ways very true, but children are not held separate and suspended above the natural progression of time, which builds future experiences upon the past. History, particularly family history, plays an integral part in the determination of how children will live out their future. I would change the emphasis and say “Parents are our future” for it is from parents that children develop a vision of the future, and it is from parents that children inherit the tools with which to create it.

One of the tragic things I have witnessed here in the city is the dominance and cycle of destructive behaviors passed from generation to generation. It has made me all the more aware of the blessings that Godly family and Godly community have been to my life. Without the saving work of Christ, so many of the children Andrew and I work with are destined to failure as they try to scrape out a future with the broken experiences of their lives. Because of this I have become passionate about the need for parents in our community, particularly the mothers, to be given godly and constructive tools for parenting.

It is this passion that led me to approach another missionary on staff, Nancy Phelps, about starting a women’s outreach centered on equipping mothers with these tools. Amazingly, since the birth of her first daughter, Ella, last October she has been feeling many of the same things. And so, in mid September we began our Just For Moms (and me) group. In a few weeks our first session will be over and we will be evaluating where to take the program from there.

The women involved have been so excited for this outlet and we have been able to really wrestle with both universal and cultural parenting issues. It continues to challenge me in ministry and open up new doors in relationships. Please pray for the women in our Just For Moms group, and pray that we are able to reach out to more mothers in the community. Pray also for Nancy and I to have wisdom in the guidance of this group.

Thank you all for your support; your continued prayers and encouragement are greatly felt in our lives. Thank you for allowing us to see first hand the results of your partnership.

Happy Thanksgiving!

For His Kingdom, Andrew & Adria Medlen