UCA has received eight grants over the past two years. Seven of those eight grants came because the foundation approached us about applying. It’s been a pretty simple process, people invite us to apply, we give them some info, they send us a check. However, when we talk to others and read fundraising blogs we realized that this approach to fundraising is probably pretty unusual and unsustainable and so we’re working on building new partnerships where we do the proposing. A great UCA champion is helping us with this endeavor and found a new grant that seemed to line up perfectly with our values and vision. The first requirement for the grant was to make a phone call to the foundation to make an introduction. I have a small phobia of talking on the phone, but I mustered up the courage to call. I was met with a warm greeting and began the conversation.
Talking comes pretty easy for me, so once I got over the intro I really felt like I was hitting my stride. I can talk about UCA in my sleep so when she asked why we were seeking funding for learning expeditions I lost all fear and jumped in confidently with our vision. We want to foster a deep love for learning and we believe that happens most fully when scholars have the opportunity to touch and experience the things they are learning about in the classroom. We are also passionate about empowering indigenous leaders who will be equipped with a high-quality education to be agents of change in this community, so we want to expose them to the beauty found right here in our own city. I was nailing it, I was giving myself goosebumps as I spoke of this grand vision of a changing community. And then the laughter started.
At first I gave her the benefit of the doubt that a co-worker just walked into the office dressed in a banana costume or she got a text about a silly thing her three-year-old said at day care. So I pressed on with my monologue about UCA scholars changing the city. The laughter continued. I lost confidence in my initial theory and checked my zipper thinking maybe it was down. Her voice reminded me that we were on the phone and she couldn’t see my zipper and her words reminded me that sometimes life is complicated.
“You have NO idea what those kids will be doing in 15-20 years,” she declared with a feisty, demeaning tone. She said it twice for added emphasis. Her voice was filled with enough doubt and energy that I started to think maybe she was right. I politely accepted her input and we mutually agreed that UCA might not be a good fit for this particular grant.
Her words haunted me the rest of the day. Then I ran across this article. In essence it talks about the damaging effects of living in poverty. It paints a pretty clear picture of what the odds are for the kids growing up in this type of environment. The odds that in 15-20 years their situation won't change much.
I wanted to call that lady back. I wanted to tell her that she is absolutely right. I don’t have any idea what these UCA scholars will be doing in 20 years. I also wanted her to know that we aren’t afraid to dream big about what they might be doing. We aren’t afraid to bet against the odds. We are chasing after a God who has performed miracle after miracle even when the odds were stacked against Him. I mean what were Noah’s odds of surviving that 40 day boat ride with a zoo on board? What were Jonah’s odds when he was thrown overboard? What were Daniel’s odds against those lions? What were David’s odds against Goliath? What were Mary’s odds of getting pregnant as a virgin? What were Lazurus’ odds of taking off those grave clothes? What are the odds that a Holy God would reach down and pick up broken humans like us to be a part of His family?
For us, the bigger risk is not taking one.
In life there are always two options when the odds are stacked again you. Give up or fight. If we aren’t willing to fight, we can’t expect kids to fight…and if they don’t fight, nothing changes. And if nothing changes that effects all of us.
And that’s the key. Urban Christian Academy doesn’t exist to “save” some kids from a bad situation for their sake, the truth is it’s much bigger than that. The truth is our wholeness is wrapped up in the wholeness and wellness of the city. In Isaiah 58 there are a slew of commands of how we are to fight for the broken and oppressed because in it we will find our healing. Taking no action to stand up to injustice means we’re compromising God’s fullness in our lives and that’s a risk we’re not willing to take. Wholeness doesn’t happen in isolation, it happens in community…we can only find our wholeness, together. And when one in our community is hungry none of us can truly be whole. When one of us is robbed of our innocence, we all lose something sacred. When it happens to one it effects us all.
All I can think of it that cliché starfish analogy…you know how there are thousands dying on the beach and someone walks along and one at a time throws them back. Their efforts seem to make no notable difference on the landscape of the beach and people laugh saying their efforts are so small and that it doesn’t even matter. Then the one throwing the starfish back in replies, “it mattered for that one.”