Community Highlight:

July 20th, 2017

Holding On to Hope

Working at the Bethlehem Center has allowed me to meet some pretty amazing kids. For some reason, children from the neighborhood like to visit the Marketing Department. They stroll in, plop down on a chair, and freely share their day with us. Some of their stories are good, some bad, but each time I’m grateful that they choose to visit with us when they could be enjoying their summer elsewhere. Our most frequent visitor is a kid named Marcus. He is tall, kind, and soft spoken with a goofy side.  A few of our staff members know that he doesn’t have the best home life and  occasionally allow him to help with little odd jobs as a means of escape. This particular visit with Marcus allowed my coworker and I to see a side of him full of wisdom.

When my coworker asked him to name one thing he learned this week, he responded by saying,“ I’ve learned that I wasn’t made to give up.” Marcus went on to say that through the death of a sibling, friends who turned their back on him, and other personal issues, he's become determined to focus on the good in life.  Marcus has experienced more in his 15 years than most people ever will.  Yet, he chooses to remain hopeful. 

 Marcus also mentioned a scene from his favorite anime show, Naruto, where one of the Kings had asked his followers when did they forsake themselves. My coworker and I listened as Marcus explained how this scene reminded him of some of his friends who had started hanging with the wrong crowd, fighting, and getting into trouble. I was impressed to hear how Marcus made a connection between the show and his own friends who had forsaken themselves as well. He sees the importance of not following the crowd and being his own person.  

Marcus’ determination to remain positive has encouraged me to do the same. He believes that he has a future and is taking the necessary steps to secure college scholarships by running track. He is also a part of our B.L.U. program and participated in the What If video series. This series was a project our students created with  Causeway to help bring awareness to the issues our community faces on a regular basis.  I look forward to see the young man Marcus will become and how he continues to grow into a leader. 

Shari J. Watson

Shari is a recent UTC graduate with a background in music and writing and is currently the Marketing Assistant at the Bethlehem Center.  
She enjoys being out in nature, laughing with friends, eating Chinese food, and traveling as much as she can. 

Posted by The Beth | Topic: Community

Program Highlight: B.L.U.

July 5th, 2017

Our Trip to Chicago 

The B.L.U. (Bethlehem Leadership Unit) students recently visited Chicago to take part in the Bridge Builders program run by Sunshine Gospel Ministries. Our students served in community projects through local churches, schools, and non-profits. Local instructors also gave lessons in the evening on poverty, community development, the theological concept of shalom, and inner-city issues like police relations and gang violence. The Beth has taken students on more traditional short term mission trips before, but a program like this was new to our kids. It took a little getting used to.

While our kids loved helping a local church renovate some living space in their building and were happy to interact with the local teens and pastor, going to class in the evening was a struggle. Whether they had headphones in their ears or sunglasses on indoors, it seemed they were determined to appear uninterested. But on Wednesday evening, our last night with the Bridge Builders program, something wild happened right after dinner! Three of our students walked up to Mr. Reggie and said, “We’re gonna try something new. Would you hold our phones for us until we’re done with this class tonight?” About fifteen minutes later three more students handed their phones over. 

When the last student lightly protested, the kids started teasing him that it’s required if you’re in B.L.U. Mr. Reggie asked the boy to state his case for keeping the phone, and before we knew it we had an impromptu court set up! With the participation of some Bridge Builders interns as the jury, our Beth kids set up a defendant, attorneys, and witnesses. All the kids laughed and argued in a mock court. Eventually, because of the precedent set by other B.L.U. kids, the court ruled that phones must indeed be forfeited during class. With a reluctant smile the young man slid over his phone in a bright yellow, pineapple case.

 I saw a distinct change from the sullen teens who had come into the week thinking it was cool to complain about class. I was proud to see how thoughtfully our students engaged by cleaning up after dinner without prompting, embracing the Bridge Builders interns as their own, and discussing with grace and sincerity the complex issues that face inner-city neighborhoods. I hope this trip to Chicago will become an annual event for our B.L.U. students for years to come. 

Aubrianna Pennington

Aubrianna Pennington is the Development and Projects assistant at the Beth. She graduated from Covenant College with an English Literature degree. She enjoys Zumba, reading, appreciates sitcoms, and is a sunshine enthusiast.

Posted by The Beth

Watching a Heart Change

Earlier this year I watched kids in our Morning Manna program grow in their willingness to be open and receive God’s word. Many came into the program with hard exteriors, wearing heavy shoulders and cold expressions. Every morning before the bus came I witnessed a piece of this hard shell fall. Smiles formed and laughter rose from mouths that were once silent. It was a joy to watch these middle-schoolers open up and show their personalities. One child in particular showed a lot of change. In the beginning Connie distanced herself from most of her peers except for two or three girls. Most days she would sit on the bleachers while the others engaged in games with my co-worker and I. I could tell it was difficult for her to show emotions. If she began to smile she would quickly straighten her face. If I tried to hold a conversation with her, she would respond with one word answers or nod her head. During our daily devotion time she was one of the kids who would get up and leave.

My coworker and I believed the best thing we could do was continue to help her and the other kids feel welcome. Slowly Connie began to stop hiding her smiles. She began to laugh aloud. What really touched me is when she arrived one morning and greeted me with a hug. I was cheerfully taken off guard.  From then on, Connie wanted to play volleyball and kickball with the other kids. She would willfully tell us about her day and even ask us about ours. She started staying for devotion time and reciting our weekly bible verses. As Morning Manna came to an end for the summer, Connie had grown into a bright and cheerful person ready to take on her freshman year of high school. She is now a student worker for the summer program and is excited about being a part of the Beth team. It’s encouraging to witness such a transformation. I look forward to watching Connie grow into a more confident and capable young lady.

Shari J. Watson

Shari is a recent UTC graduate with a background in music and writing and is currently the Marketing Assistant at the Bethlehem Center. 

She enjoys being out in nature, laughing with friends, eating Chinese food, and traveling as much as she can.


Posted by The Beth

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