This photo is from the first day of school. We're speechless as we consider all that has happened in a few short months.
I haven’t written in awhile. Well I have, but all the words seem to fall short of what I intend to say and end up in the draft folder. It feels daunting to attempt to find words to describe the past 8 months. Words seem to do a terrible job of painting a picture of how God is at work and how deeply I believe I am spending my days with 13 kids I truly believe can change the world around them. It’s hard to articulate the overwhelming joy I feel in God’s faithful and timely provision. A blog feels like too small a stage to tell the story of Jesus at work. I wish there was a way words could fully invite you in to experience the goose bump moments. I want you to feel our tears of passion rolling down your face and I want you to have a deep hardy laugh at the silliness of 5 year old logic the way we have laughed so deeply. I want you to feel that ache in your heart that propels you to dream bigger the way we have. I guess the truest reality is I haven’t written because I don’t know how to capture this story. It’s the most beautiful story I’ve ever told. Not because UCA is the most beautiful but because it’s presence is dragging so many of us to the foot of the cross where true beauty captivates us. The blood stained dirt cries out the story of the greatest love. And when we follow it’s trail, it leads us to an empty tomb that proclaims that love wins. The darkness has been pierced by a glorious light. And it’s there where the UCA story intersects with the greatest story ever told. It’s an invitation to be active participates in the grand story of God making all things new. And every word spoken on the bus, each five-year-old prayer that is prayed, every act of kinder compassion, every heart hug that snuggles up to the weakest of hearts…they demand more than an “awwww.” In fact they deserve knee bending awe of the God of creation at work. His fingerprints are everywhere. He is whispering HIs story. For much of my life I overlooked His handiwork and my ears failed to hear the whisper. But this year I feel like Jesus has spit in the dirt and rubbed it in my eyes. His hands have healed my failing ears. And words don’t feel sufficient in trying to proclaim the power and beauty of that story.
Oh I can tell you stories, like how Kistin so proudly exclaimed on the bus that she was, “just so excited to lose weight.” How she, with great delight, explained how her Papa is getting a big belly so he said he needed to lose some weight so she advised him to eat some chili. They ate the chili together and magically she started to lose weight. Sadly, the magic chili had no effect on his weight so she suggested next time they try McDonald’s. I can tell you how academically kids are showing gains I didn’t dream were possible. We have scholars working on double digit addition and reading 1st grade books. I can tell you about faithful donors and volunteers who are championing the cause and changing lives. Like a friend at church who several years ago went through a terrible illness that caused her to lose most of her mobility. In her rehab she got a big white stuffed bear who’s fur calmed her aching hands. It was a deep source of comfort in the most terrifying time in her life. She just donated that bear to UCA. Her hands are feeling better now and she wanted to pass on that source of hope to someone else who’s heart and hands might be feeling weak. I can tell you about answered prayers, like checks being written to the penny for things we have had to purchase. I can tell you about the beauty of being a private school that allows us to take the time to track down students when they are placed in foster care so that they can continue school despite all the disruption in their world. I can tell you about all types of things that would melt your heart, things that would remind you of the brokenness of our world, things that would cause you to question our sanity, things that would make you have a silly little grin, things that would break your heart. You see it’s not stories we lack, we are rich in those, as rich as I could have ever hoped to be.
I think we are often times too overwhelmed for words to paint a picture of what’s happening. Like try finding words to adequately explain this story. The other day we got a check in the mail from an anonymous donor. Our intern Eunbee opened it and handed it back to me and said she didn’t know the number (she is from South Korea and is taking a 3 month vacation to serve alongside us…she is amazing) so she handed the check back to me. I looked at it. Mer looked at me and could tell by my face that this check mattered. Suddenly I lost all ability to communicate and just handed the check to her. She didn’t say anything either. That was a holy surreal moment. We had no words to capture the excitement and relief and deep gratitude we felt. After a few very long seconds we started saying things like “I can’t believe this.” I asked Eunbee and Mer what proper celebration was for receiving a gift like this. We made some phone calls and sent some text messages. You see the check was for $100,000. Yes, you read that number right, one hundred thousand dollars. Those six digits have countless implications for us and our scholars. That means that next school year is fully funded. And that means we can raise money not just to open our doors again next year, not just to survive but to dream about a thriving school and neighborhood. We can make kitchen updates and hire some people to help us grow and we can start dreaming about the future and raising money to add additional grades. The dream is growing. And as it grows, it’s wildly inviting others in. It’s throwing open the doors and beckoning people to come and see and join the dance. The power of community is beautiful. So many people are making this dream come alive. Young scholars are counting on us to join hands and declare that their futures are worth fighting for, and we’re doing it. Together, we’re really sustaining Urban Christian Academy. Whatever role you play in this fight it’s noticed and appreciated. We are keenly aware of your prayers, when you “like” our social media posts you remind us that we aren’t fighting alone, your generosity is overwhelming, and your presence is a constant encouragement. We are 1 semester in and it has been more wonderful than we ever could have dreamed. We are so incredibly grateful to the God who has reminded us consistently that He provides. We are speechless in expressing our gratitude to the community of people God is using to remind us we are not alone. Thank you.