Pathfinders Mentoring Program: End of the year article
by Martell Hixson, Oasis Youth Developer
“[Our] heroes didn’t leap tall buildings or stop bullets with an outstretched hand; they didn’t wear boots and capes…their superpowers were as simple as listening, or loving. [Our] heroes were ordinary people who knew that even if their own lives were impossibly knotted, they could [still] untangle someone else’s. And maybe that one act could lead someone to rescue you right back.” ― Jodi Picoult
The Birth of a Mentoring Program
At the beginning of the 2013-14 school year, the Oasis of Hope Youth Staff begin to reflect on Jesus’ love for young people. We concluded that Jesus’ concern for them gave validity to our efforts as youth workers. As we discussed how we might best serve the kids in the North Memphis community (an at-risk, under-resourced part of town), we made an amazing discovery: we began to see that Jesus taught the importance of not only making disciples out of young people, but also learning from them! This made us shift from simply preaching to them to something a little more dignifying. We had to find a way to walk more intimately with the kids. As we talked about the changes that needed to be made, it became clear that our Pathfinders Middle School Bible Study needed to evolve into something more. This gave way to the birth to the newly formed Middle School Mentoring Program.
Embracing the mess!
We planned the details for the first year of our mentoring program and fanaticized about kids coming to Jesus and becoming great leaders! We reflected on their needs, hurts, and struggles, knowing that God could use us to change their lives! But the one thing we overlooked as we planned was that life’s not that neat…it’s messy!!
Each week of our Pathfinders Mentoring Program we endured organized chaos. The kids didn’t answer our questions in “the right way.” They complained about the food and activities. Some kids didn’t know if they could trust Jesus because their lives were so hard. In all this, we kept moving forward. We were shocked that the more we worked to make a mess-free program, the harder it became to see what God was doing. We mentors thought that the kids needed us, but we found out that actually we needed them too. And more importantly, that we all needed God! The more we were honest about out brokenness, the more the kids admired our leadership in their lives. God was creating a sense of community that crossed age, racial, and socio-economic backgrounds. He was teaching us to love one another despite our differences!
Looking back over the year
When the Mentoring Program ended this year, we asked the kids and volunteer mentors for feedback concerning the program. We found out that the kids felt blessed to have older men and women spend time with them. They wanted more of the activities they complained about! They wanted more encouraging conversion about life and Jesus! One student in the program even said they wished there was a nearby church they could attend to spend more time with their mentors and friends from the program! The kids desired to be a part of community, to be loved, and to be challenged!
Of course none of this would have happened without our amazing volunteers who were willing to give away the most cherished gifts of all: their time and love. Many of them made small but significant sacrifices to be involved in the kids’ lives. One of the mentors, an Anatomic Pathology Specialist, asked her employer to rearrange her work schedule so that she could be a small part in the lives of the girls she mentored. She said connecting with the kids in simple ways gave her confidence that God could use her to impact people for Jesus! Wow. These guys made a DIFFERENCE!
So here we already are, at the end of another year and will soon be planning to kick off another school year in the Fall. If you are interested in joining us to make a simple, but deep impact in the lives of our middle schoolers, please considering joining our team!
“But Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” – Matthew 19:14
If you would like more information regarding this ministry, email Martell. Stay up-to-date by liking us on Facebook, following us on Twitter and checking our website for pictures, videos and current information.