So What's Next?

Welp. That was fast. The school year is over.

Summer is here. Cut up that watermelon and cover yourself in Banana Boat, it’s time to embrace all that summer has for us.

The 2016-2017 school year was big for Forerunner. God did a lot here in Lake Highlands.

Personally, it’s hard for me to look back and appreciate all that the Lord has done through Forerunner Mentoring Program. Since I am in the thick of it day-in-and-day-out, I take for granted all that the Lord is doing.

So here are some of the things the Lord did through Forerunner in 2016-2017:

  • Added Kimo Aleman to our full-time staff
  • Doubled the size of our Northlake Equipping Program
  • Grew our budget from $123,000 to $236,000
  • Added Mac Macfarlan to our Board of Directors
  • Faithfully provided our entire budget
  • Helped one of our moms get a new job
  • Gave us vision and a plan to grow our Forerunner Family Ministry to serve our mothers
  • One Forerunner confessed Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior
  • Sent another one of our Forerunners to college
  • Helped one of our moms get her GED
  • Added Tre’ Crume and Isaac Harris to our part-time staff
  • Gave us vision and a plan for two new Equipping Programs
  • Gave us the opportunity to be on WFAA Channel 8
  • Helped our Forerunners improve academically and behaviorally
  • Helped one of our Forerunners transfer to Lake Highlands Junior High so he could continue to participate in Forerunner
  • Started new relationships with the principals of Skyview Elementary and Lake Highlands Junior High

I’m sure I am missing a few things.

Honestly people, this is amazing! Praise the Lord! 

Lord, thank you for providing for Forerunner. Thank you for looking after us and guiding us. We praise Your Name and are grateful the we have the opportunity to join You as You transform lives here in our Lake Highlands neighborhood. More of You Lord. Less of us.

So what’s next?

Allow me to take the time to tell you exactly what we believe the Lord has called Forerunner Mentoring Program to for the 2017-2018 school year.

Here we go.


K-2nd Grade Foundations Program

We are starting our Foundations Program next fall at Skyview Elementary. The vision behind this program is to equip our Forerunners with a strong academic foundation so they can fulfill their potential academically. We will focus primarily on literacy, as we believe that reading is the foundation of a quality education. This is important because we believe a good education is the best way to give our Forerunners opportunities to provide themselves and their future families with a way to escape poverty. We can all agree that being poor is hard. We want to give our students the opportunity for their children to not be poor.

Why is reading important? Well…

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, only 53 percent of children aged 3 to 5 were read to daily by a family member. Children in families with incomes below the poverty line are less likely to be read aloud to everyday than are children in families with incomes at or above the poverty line.

According to the Department of Justice, 21 million Americans can't read at all, 45 million are marginally illiterate and one-fifth of high school graduates can't read their diplomas. 

According to the National Adult Literacy Survey, nearly half of America's adults are poor readers, or "functionally illiterate." They can't carry out simply tasks like balancing check books, reading drug labels or writing essays for a job. 

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, it is estimated that more than $2 billion is spent each year on students who repeat a grade because they have reading problems. 

We believe reading is important because it gives our Forerunners new opportunities through education and helps them fulfill their God-given potential.


7th-8th Grade Development Program

We are starting our Forerunner Development Program next fall at Lake Highlands Junior High. The vision behind this program is to equip our Forerunners through a program that will help develop them into Godly men who will have the opportunity to lead themselves, their peers, and their family. We believe that transition is hard and the transition from elementary school to junior high school is no different. We want to be there to help our Forerunners figure out how to attend 7 classes, go to tutoring, stay organized, study in advance, prioritize, and deal with all that comes with turning into a teenager. We also believe that junior high is a formative period where most kids pick which path they are going to follow. We are excited about the opportunity to guide our Forerunners and help them choose a path that is going to lead to life and life to the fullest.


Forerunner Family

We have a logo. It's official. We are changing the name of our Single Mother’s Ministry to Forerunner Family. After all, we are a family here at Forerunner. The vision behind this program is to help our mothers flourish. The word flourish means to grow or develop in a healthy or vigorous way, especially as the result of a particularly favorable environment. That is exactly what Forerunner wants to see from our single mothers. We want them to grow. We want them to be the best versions of themselves so they can best serve their families. We will do this by doing three things:

  • Building relationships through our Forerunner Family Dinners.
  • Showing our mothers worth and value through our Mom Getaway Days. This is where our Forerunner moms take the morning to rest and relax while Forerunner takes the kids on a fun adventure.
  • Equipping our mothers through our Forerunner classes. We will have two classes, one in the fall and one in the spring, where we give our moms the opportunity to learn something new. 

So those are the things that are next for Forerunner Mentoring in 2017-2018.

I look back at what the Lord has done through Forerunner and I am amazed. I look forward at the plans that are in place for next year and I am excited, nervous, and terrified all at the same time.

Lord, you’ve brought us this far. Please continue to be faithful and let your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

Being a defender to the fatherless.

Serving the modern-day widow

Putting the lonely in families

Lord, that’s what you’re about. That’s what we are about too.

We want lives to be transformed. We want our young boys to grow up to be Godly husbands, fathers, and leaders in their community. I think the plans above will allow the Lord to do that. 

We are thankful. Thankful to the Lord. Thankful to our supporters and our volunteers. Thankful for you reading this and, most of all, thankful to have an opportunity to help bring his Kingdom to Lake Highlands.  

We’re in this together. Forerunner Family.

Let’s see what happens next…

 

Is What You're Doing Even Working?

Does it work?.jpeg

I was talking to someone the other day and they asked me “What does it look like for Forerunner Mentoring Program to be successful?”

 

Valid question. Simple, yet powerful. I was taken back a bit and searched my mind for all the right answers. 

 

I stumbled around and said “What do you mean?”

 

He replied “I mean, is what you’re doing even working?”

 

Well, just come out and say it bud.

 

As I fumbled around, a slew of phrases ran through my mind:

 

Attend college. Hugs not drugs. No cussing. Follow Jesus. Good grades. Wait until marriage. Job. Leader. Respectful. 

 

I’m not sure how I answered the question, but I’m sure I said something vague and politically correct.

 

But the question sure got me thinking.

 

So what does success look like for Forerunner Mentoring Program?

 

I am all about doing whatever we have to do to put the best product out there to serve our families. I am down for surveys and reports and all the quantitative and qualitative data you can find. I want to measure everything and do our due diligence when it comes to tracking improvements and finding areas where we fall short.

 

Report cards? Teacher interviews? Comparing our kids to the rest of the kids in the district? Yes. Sign me up. I want all of that.

 

All of that stuff that you just read matters a ton. We all want to know if what we are doing is working, and Forerunner is no different. I spend a lot of time here at Forerunner and you better believe I want to see some fruit from my labor.

 

So what does success look like for Forerunner Mentoring Program?

 

This question still has me thinking. As I sit here,  I can’t help but to think about my own kids. I have two little ones at home that I love more than life itself. I think about myself as a father. What does it look like for me as I shepherd my little Garza flock? What does success look like for me and my family?

 

  • I want my kids to grow up in a safe and loving environment.

 

  • I want my kids to have every opportunity in the world to be the best that they can be.

 

  • I want my kids to feel supported and loved for who they are, not what they do.

 

  • I want my kids to be able to be a kid. I want them to be able to run around wild and do some “boy stuff”. I want them to get into just a little bit of mischief from time to time and it not be a scarlet letter for them. I want people to look at them running around with no-shirt-on and one shoe missing and think “those crazy Garza boys…”

 

  • I want my kids to have a refuge to run to when times get tough. I want them to know without a doubt that they can come to me when they are scared and mad and unsure and misunderstood.

 

  • I want my kids to learn from failing. I want them to know that it’s ok to mess up and it’s ok to ask for help. I want them to have someone to pick them up when they fall down.

 

  • I want my kids to know Jesus Christ and the unmerited love and acceptance that he offers.

 

  • I want my kids to dream.

 

  • I want my kids to be covered in prayer.

 

  • I want my kids to be self-confident and I want them to be secure in their identity.

 

  • I want my kids to be a part of a healthy family. I want them to see me love my wife well and to see me serve her with a smile on my face. I want them to see a servant leader putting others before himself. I want them to see me work hard and I want them to want to be like dad when they grow up.

 

  • I want my kids to tell others that “my dad can beat up your dad.”

 

  • I want my kids to know that real men don't fight. 

 

  • I want my kids to hear someone say “I’m proud of you.”

 

  • I want my kids to walk down the street without people giving them bad looks and moving over to the other side of the street..

 

  • I want my kids to get the benefit of the doubt. 

 

  • I want my kids to have options.

 

  • I want my kids to hold the door open for strangers and for them to say "yessir" and "yes m’am."

 

  • I want my kids to get used to older people saying "Aren't you respectful? But really. You don't have to call me mister anymore. Call me by my first name."

 

  • I want my kids to be proud when someone says “Aren’t you Zach Garza’s boy?”

 

That’s what I want for my kids. And I bet if you have kids, you want those same things for your kids.

 

Well, what I want for my kids and what you want for you kids, that’s what I want for my Forerunners. I want every last one of those things for every kid that is in our program.

 

  • I want our Forerunners to be loved and to feel safe.

 

  • I want our Forerunners to have hope and to be able to dream.

 

  • I want our Forerunners to be a part of something bigger than themselves and I want them to feel valued and important.

 

  • I want our Forerunners to have a consistent, Godly man in their life to tell them things like “I’m proud of you” and “You have what it takes to be a good man.”

 

  • I want our Forerunners to have every opportunity in the world and I want them to become a better man than me.

 

Is that too much to ask? Lord, please make it happen. 

 

So what does success look like for Forerunner Mentoring Program?

 

Yes. Success looks like better grades and better STAAR scores and better behavior. It looks like growth in a bunch of areas that most would deem “key areas”.

 

But success also looks like the things that you can’t measure. It looks like a smile on the face of a kid who feels loved. It looks like a self-confident kid who is proud of who he is. It looks like a kid calling up his mentor and asking “Can I ask you something?” It looks like hope in the eyes of one of our boys. 

 

 

That’s what success looks like to me.


And if that happens in one kid, just ONE KID, then Forerunner Mentoring Program has been successful.

 

 

We all have been given an incredible opportunity to build a relationship with our Forerunners through mentoring and tutoring.  I encourage you to pray about if the Lord is calling you to join our program. This is the time of year that Forerunner is looking for new mentors and we need as many men as we can get.

 

 

There are a ton of kids in Lake Highlands that have no one praying for them. Not one person. They don’t have a man teaching them how to act like a man. They don’t have anyone speaking encouragement and hope to their souls. They don’t have anyone asking them what they learned in school today or giving them a high five when they do well on a test.

 

 

Come and find out what we are about. Come and join us as we give our kids the opportunity to be the best they can be. Come and partner with us as we love our neighbors.

 

 

Come and help us be successful.

 

The One Who Got Away

We have a saying here at Forerunner that I think is pretty catchy. Out of all the slogans that are tossed on coffee cups and t-shirts, I think this one takes the cake. It is short. It is powerful. It is gold.

Here it is.

 

Invest. Love. Transform.

 

Pow.

 

Well, what do you think? Do you like it?

 

I’m not going to lie, I love it. I think it is the best. 

This whole mentoring thing isn’t that hard. In fact, it’s pretty easy.

 

Invest. Invest time and energy.

Love. Love these kids no matter what.

Transform. Watch these kids lives be transformed because you invested and you loved.

 

Like I said, simple right?

 

Wrong.

 

I have told you many times that the Lord has taught us here at Forerunner so much through adversity. He has taught us so much from our perfect plans turning out the exact opposite of perfect.

When we started this program years ago, we thought that changing a kid’s life really was as simple as showing up and loving them. We thought we had this perfect plan and formula that would change every kid into a perfect little angel. Just follow the plan and change a life.

Boy, were we wrong. We learned that we are only a part of the equation. We learned that there is something going on that is so much bigger than us.

 

Yes, it is our job to invest into our young men. We show up. We take time out of our schedule to show this young man that he is important and that he matters. We talk to him. We guide him. We are with him through the good times and the bad.

We love no matter what. It doesn’t matter if he is a straight-A student or if he is failing every class including PE. It doesn’t matter if he is starting Running Back or if he is starting Left Out. It doesn’t matter if he is clean cut and good looking or if he makes Quasimodo look like Tom Cruise. We love the kid. We love him because Jesus first loved us. He loved us no matter what. He loved us and he didn’t look at things like accomplishments, accolades, or appearance.

Now this is where it gets tricky. The first two things are part of the job description of following Jesus.

 

Invest.

Phillipians 2:3 says we should consider others more important than yourself

Galatians 5:13 says we should serve one another humbly

Romans 12:1 says we should be living sacrifices

 

Love.

John 13:34-35 tells is to love one another

Matt. 22-37-39 tells is to love your neighbor

John 15:12-13 tells is to Love as Jesus loved

 

Transform.

Here comes the curveball. Are you ready for it?

 

It's not our job to transform. 

 

Let’s look at The Parable of the Sower in Matthew 13:3-9 and 18-23 for more insight.

 
“A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop—a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown. Whoever has ears, let them hear.”

 

Let me explain. We are the farmer. We are tossing out seeds whenever we show up. We are tossing out seeds every time take our Forerunner out to eat or every time we help them with their homework.

We are tossing seeds when we love them no matter what. When they are rude, we are kind. When they are impatient, we are patient. When they come with anger, we come with peace.

But what happens to those seeds is not up to us.

That’s up to God.

Only God can take those seeds that we toss and turn those into crops. Only he can turn a person’s heart from stone into flesh. We toss the seed, but it is He controls where the seed lands.

 

“Listen then to what the parable of the sower means: When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in their heart. This is the seed sown along the path.The seed falling on rocky ground refers to someone who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away. The seed falling among the thorns refers to someone who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, making it unfruitful. But the seed falling on good soil refers to someone who hears the word and understands it. This is the one who produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.”

 

And this is the thing about God, sometimes He does things in mysterious ways. His Kingdom seems like an upside-down Kingdom from time to time. It is so contrary to the ways of this world.

Think about it.

Love our enemies.

The first will be last.

Servant King.

Don't retaliate. Turn the other cheek.  

Those things don’t make sense! But that’s God. He does things His own way. And sometimes He does that to grow our faith in Him and to help us trust in Him alone.

If we toss 100 seeds over 8 years, the first 99 might land on rock or get choked out by the world. We might be tossing the seeds exactly like He told us to and not be receiving the results we think we should get.

But what about that last seed?

What about the 100th seed?

That 100th seed could turn into a mighty Oak tree that changes everything around them.

He calls us to be faithful to keep tossing seeds. He calls us to trust in Him. We trust that he is in control and He will transform lives whenever he is good and ready. We trust that he will save in His own timing.

I’ll close with a story.

One of my good friends and his wife were serving with Lake Highlands Young Life in the 1980’s. They were newly married and wanted to serve the community by pouring into ten kids who were just like the young men that we serve through Forerunner. Ten kids who had a life that most would consider an uphill climb.

My friends invited those young men over to their house every Sunday night for pizza for years and years. They ate together. They stayed up late and joked around together. They talked about Jesus together.

Eventually, my friend and his wife came to build an amazing friendship with these boys. They came along side these young men as they dealt with the ups and downs of life. Over the years, they began to see fruit in all the boys. Life was good.

Well. They saw fruit in nine of the boys. The other one… well, not so much.

Nine of the boys opened up and trusted my friends. One did not.

Nine of the boys were grateful and put their trust in my friends. One did not.

Nine of the boys hugged my friends and laughed with them. One did not.

You get the picture. My friend and his wife called him “the One that got away”.

Fast forward to today.

My friend is currently in his 50’s and is long past his days of eating pizza and staying up late with teenagers. He has a family of his own with three adult children. He has a successful business and is a Godly man in our community.

One day he was filling up with gas at the Tom Thumb off Skillman and Royal. He was leaned up against the side of his car minding his own business when a grown man started to approach him.

My friend isn’t the biggest of fellows and became a little uncomfortable when he saw the 6’6, 300 pound man coming straight for him. He put his head down and prayed to the Lord for protection. 

My friend was trying to get into his car when the man said “Excuse me Sir... Sir... Hey you!” His voice kept getting louder and louder. 

My friend turned around, somewhat paralyzed with fear.

“Uh yes..." he stammered.  "Can I help you?”

The big man said:

"You don’t remember me, but I wanted you to know that you changed my life. Not a day goes by that I don’t think of what you and your wife did for me. I am now a father myself and I learned a lot from watching you those Sunday nights when I was in high school. I just wanted to say thank you."

The man gave my friend a big hug and he was on his way.

That man was “the One that got away”.

He was the one who did not.

He did not say thanks. He did not open up. He did not show any signs of change.

Well, I guess I should say “He did not…. in our timing."

It took a while, but he did say thanks.

It took a while, but he did open up.

You see, on the outside, that one kid seemed as if he wasn’t receiving anything at all. But on the inside, God was doing something. The change wasn’t fast and the change wasn’t obvious at the time, but God knew what He was doing.

He transforms in his own way. He transforms in his own timing. He transforms the one who got away.

Give us a heart to believe that Lord.  

Give us a heart to invest into others. Give us a heart to love the unlovable. Give us a heart to trust you as you work behind the scenes.

Thank you Jesus

Thank you Lord that no situation is too much for you. Thank you that it is not up to us. Thank you that we get to join you as you transform the lives of our Forerunners.

Invest. Love. Transform.

We invest. We love. God transforms.

It Starts With The Why

Do you know how Forerunner started? Well, let me tell you. We started as a college scholarship program. We thought that if we could get our kids to college, they’d be good to go. Their lives would be fixed and all would turn out great.

 

We quickly found out that sending a kid to college without the tools needed to succeed in college is like putting a band-aid over a gunshot wound. Yeah, it might help a little bit, but eventually it’s not going to help at all. If you can’t control your emotions, build healthy relationships or deal with authority, then an education is not going to help as much as you think.

 

So we asked the question “Why aren’t our young men prepared to succeed in college?”

 

Great question. That brought us to mentoring. We thought “Yes, mentoring is the solution to that question!” We decided to start mentoring in 8th grade. “If we can start teaching these kids in junior high how to have positive character and how to succeed in education, then we’d be able to send them to college and all would be good!”

 

We quickly found out that these kids needed a little bit more than a lesson on honesty and a math worksheet. We realized that by the time most of our young men reached junior high school, the world had already had its way with them. Most were not as far educationally as we thought and they had built up relational walls to protect themselves from being hurt again. They were more focused on being cool than doing their school work and they were stuck in some negative mindsets in regards to education, their future, and manhood.

 

We knew that mentoring worked, but our mentoring program wasn’t working as well as we thought it would. Where were we going wrong? Were we doing something wrong?

 

That led us to the questions: “Why are these young men so walled off to help from their mentor?” and “Why are we having such a hard time making an impact in the lives of these young men?”

 

After a lot of brainstorming, we came to the conclusion that the problem was we were not getting as much time with our Forerunners as we needed. A good mentor spends 4 hours a month with his Forerunner, however the world gets him the other 670+ hours a month. We needed more time. We also decided we needed to start earlier. As terrible as it sounds, 8th grade just seemed too late for some of our young men.

 

That brought us to start earlier and to focus on fulfilling potential in work ethic through education, character through emulating Jesus Christ, and leadership through the teachings of basic manhood principles.

 

We started in 4th grade and we spent 3 hours a day, 4 days a week focusing on giving our young men the best opportunity to succeed. We are getting 48 hours of face-to-face time a month. That’s a ton. We are seeing great improvement in grades and behavior. We are also seeing our boys grow in self-worth and self-confidence. They believe they have what it takes to succeed.

 

The only issue we had was that, despite the academic improvements, the majority of our boys were still behind in their educational progress. They didn’t read as well as their peers, which we believe caused an issue in every subject they took. You have a hard time doing a word problem in math if you can’t comprehend the question. You can’t really work the Scientific Method if you can’t read what the experiment or hypothesis are.

 

So now we are faced with this question: “Why are our students so far behind educationally?” and “Why are some kids doing better than others If they are in the same classes learning the same subjects from the same teachers?

 

We know intelligence matters, but it’s not like our kids are dumb. That couldn’t be the main reason why.

 

We came to the conclusion that educational success first starts at home. The stats prove it. Let’s take a glance into our kid’s home lives.

 

The moms in our program are incredible. They are the main providers for their household and they work more than 40 hours a week. They cook dinner, do the dishes, take their kids to practice, take their kids to school, help them with their homework, and the list goes on and on and on. However, they are human and there are only 24 hours in a day.

 

Taking care of kids is hard. Working a job is hard. When my wife leaves me alone with the kids for 2 hours, I feel like I am going to die. I can’t imagine trying to raise kids and take care of a family all by myself.

 

It only makes sense that the kids in our program would lack the educational foundation that two-parent households have. It’s hard to tell one of our mom’s to stop working to make ends meet to read to her kid. Putting food on the table is a little more important than story time. Mazlow’s Heirachy of Needs tells us that basic needs come first.

 

That’s where we come in. We will enter into your son’s life in kindergarten and we will focus on reading for 3 hours a day, 4 days a week.

 

Mom, while you are off providing for your family, we will be investing into your son’s education and making whatever dream you have for him a reality. Our goal is to catch them up to the rest of their peers as soon as possible. We desire to instill a love of learning and of reading in our little ones so they can become the best that they can be.

 

We hope our mentors are there to guide our young men through adolescence and beyond. We hope that our young men feel like they don’t have to go at life alone. We want them to learn how a Godly man carries himself by giving him an example of a Godly man. We want them to know that there is a man in his life who loves him no matter what.

 

We hope the literacy tutoring they receive in our K-2nd grade Foundations Program will get caught up educationally so they can keep along-side and, one day, surpass their peers in school. We want them to fall in love with school, gain confidence in their abilities, and know that if they work hard in school that it will one day pay off.

 

We hope the character and educational lessons they learn in our 3-6th grade Equipping Program will help them become productive members of society who can succeed life outside of high school. We want our young men to learn how to control their emotions, how to work hard and how to treat others. We want to give them a safe place to excel in school.

 

Those are our programs. That’s our history.

 

Some people ask what keeps us going. My answer is “We just keep on trying to solve the ‘why?’”

 

And we won’t stop. We’re not going anywhere. We are changing our generations and transforming Lake Highlands one relationship at a time.

 

We need mentors, volunteer tutors, and supporters to make this happen. We all need as much help as we can get to answer the question “why?”

 

Won’t you join us?

 

His Kingdom Come Here in Lake Highlands

This past month, the Lord has placed a burden on my heart for my community. Actually, I don’t even know if burden is the right word. I don’t think I can sum up the feelings of my heart in just one word.  I am feeling many words to describe the state of my heart.

 

My heart hurts for the 15 year old shot during a break-in about 100 ft. away from our Northlake Elementary after-school program. It hurts for the young man who resorted to such a crime. It hurts for the boy's mother as I think about the phone call she received from the hospital letting her know that her son had been shot. It hurts for the people whose house got broken in to and the violation of their safety. It hurts as I think that we live in a community where it is completely justified to protect ourselves with weapons. My heart hurts as I think of the young man and wonder “Son, why?”

 

My heart is angry for the shooting at Forest and Audelia in broad daylight. It is angry because the grim reality is that our neighbors live in a neighborhood that is void of safety and peace. It is angry for the mothers who worry about letting their children out to play after school. It is angry for the children who do not have any options for green space, parks, community centers, or gymnasiums and are forced to either stay inside or risk being outside. My heart is angry that life is not fair.  

 

My heart is fearful when I read about a murder less than 3 miles away from my house. It is fearful when I think about the act of taking another person's life in cold blood. It is fearful when I read about the violence and drugs that have found their way into our Lake Highlands community. It is fearful when I think about what this means for my kids who are being raised in our community. My heart is fearful that someone I love could be next.   

 

My heart mourns that Alvin Joseph is dead. It mourns for his daughters that no longer have a father to call when they want to feel loved. It mourns to think that he received something that he did not deserve. It mourns to think that justice still has not been served. My heart mourns that a mother had to bury a son. No mother should have to do that.

 

My heart is sad as I hear about violence on the Skillman Street.  It is sad that I drive by this intersection almost every day as I take our Forerunners home after our program. It is sad that one more of our African-American young men has passed. My heart is sad that this seems to be “just another day”. I pray to the Lord that we are not getting used to this. And this. And this. And this.

 

My heart is heavy. And I know that the Lord’s heart is heavy too. He is sad. He is angry. He is mourning alongside with us. He hates that those that He loves are living in fear. This is not how it is supposed to be.

 

So my prayer is this: Lord, let your Kingdom come. King Jesus come and comfort those who mourn. Come and replace fear with hope. Overcome this evil with your goodness.

 

Psalm 30:11 says “In your Kingdom, you turn mourning into dancing.”

 

Isaiah 1:17 says “In your Kingdom, you defend the oppressed.”

 

Psalm 34:4 says “In your Kingdom, you deliver me from my fears.”

 

Romans 15:13 says “In your Kingdom, there is hope, joy, and peace.”

 

I write you this piece not to try to manipulate you into taking action. It is not to say “Look at all of this bad stuff that is happening in our backyard! You should care about it!” That wouldn’t be very Godly of me. That’s not what this is about.

 

I write you this peace to tell you that we serve a God who wants to do something about all of this evil in our community. He wants to show us that He has won the battle. He wants his Kingdom to reign here in Lake Highlands.

 

I write you this piece to tell you that He wants to use us to do something about it. Yes. You and me. 

 

You see, if you believe in Jesus then He lives inside of you. And if He lives inside of you, then He wants to use you to do His will. He wants to use you to turn people’s sorrow into gladness. He wants to use you to defend the oppressed. He wants to use you to deliver people from hear and to give your neighbors hope, joy, and peace.

 

What an amazing opportunity we have to be the hands and the feet of Jesus to our neighbors in Lake Highlands. What an opportunity we have to bring Him glory in the midst of this evil. It's not about us. It's all about Him. 

 

Murder. Gangs. Shootings. Fear. Insecurity. Robberies. Hate. Evil. Those are not the things of God.

 

Love. Peace. Comfort. Unity. Hope. Joy. Restoration. Service. Those are the things of God.

 

Let me know what you think. Let’s grab coffee. Let’s connect via email. This isn’t just a “Forerunner Mentoring” thing. It’s a “people of God” thing. Sure, you can mentor or tutor through Forerunner, but there are many ways to help out and serve. It could be as easy as grabbing lunch with a kiddo once a week at school in LH or helping out with a PTA drive for a school whose PTA has less then 10 members. Our kids need some help. Our community needs some help.

 

If you feel called to be used by the Lord to do His work, let's do something about it. Take some time. Pray about it. Talk it over with your friends and family. 

 

We have a tremendous opportunity here to be used to usher God’s kingdom into our community of Lake Highlands. After all, it is our community.

 

I’m in. And I got a few friends who are in too.

 

Will you join me?

My Mentor Isn't Just My Friend...

One thing that we try to instill into our kiddos is the love of reading. To say that reading is important would be a huge understatement. In order to get our kiddos to read a book, Forerunner has created a program so eloquently called “Read a chapter book more than 70 pages long and we’ll bring you whatever you want for lunch.”  I know. It really flows off the tongue.

One of our 5th grade Forerunners finished this book called Elkadorfia in late December and has been so pumped about his accomplishment. What was his reward lunch? You guessed it, Taco Bell’s famous Supreme Nachos. He could have anything he wanted and he decided to Make a Run for the Border, Taco Bell style. I love this kid.

One thing that I love to do when getting some one-on-one time with our Forerunners is to ask a ton of questions. They love it. Of course, one of the main benefits is for me to get to know him, but it also gives me a heads up into what he really thinks of our program. How is your mentor? Is he showing up? What do you like about him? How is our staff doing? You get the point. 

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While I was bombarding our Forerunner with questions and getting mostly one word answers, my dude threw me a curveball. He said “You know, my mentor really isn’t just like my friend.” I sat there, trying not to panic. I probably started to sweat, and I might have even choked on my Double Decker taco. I replied as calmly as I could “Oh yeah? Why do you say that? Has he not been treating you right?”

He started laughing and said “No Coach. My mentor isn’t just like a friend. He is like my dad. He’s always there for me and my friends are always asking me if that’s my dad. I tell them no, but I say that he is like my dad.” 

I almost started to cry. Our mentor has been doing an incredible job. Of course He has been friendly with his Forerunner and they have a lot of fun together, but obviously our kiddo puts the connection that he has with his mentor in a different category than just "friendship". Let me try to break this down.

I believe the heart of every boy yearns for a positive male to encourage him, love him and accept him no matter what. I don’t care who you are, all kids desire that. It is innate. For most kids, that is their father. But what if you don’t have a father around? What do you do then?

 

That’s where we come in. We don’t try to “be” this kid’s father; we simply try to step in the gap and provide support through relationships. We do this by showing up. This young man’s mentor comes to eat lunch with him almost every week. He shows up on the weekends and invites his Forerunner to be a part of his family activities. When he takes his daughter to Chuck E. Cheese, his Forerunner comes along. Heck, our Forerunner and his mentor’s 5 year old daughter have come to love each other. It really is a beautiful thing. 

Our young men have a lot of friends. they don't need anymore of those. But what they do need is an older man filled with the heart of Jesus to show them how to navigate through life. 

So when he says that his mentor is like his dad, he simply means he is providing him encouragement, love, and acceptance no matter what. Our Forerunner knows in his heart that his mentor values him. That he likes to be with him. That he is a part of his family. 

 

Come to think of it. That sounds a lot like someone else I know. There was a guy named Jesus who lived and encouraged, loved, and accepted people just as they were 2,000 years ago. I hear that he loves you as you are, not as you should be. I hear that he loves to put the lonely in families and stand up for the oppressed. In fact, he loves it so much he gave his life for it. 

So when our Forerunner says “My mentor is not just my friend”, he’s right. He is so much more than that. He is loving. He is accepting. He is encouraging. He is inviting you to be a part of a family. He is there for you. He is being just like Jesus.