Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Off to Kalavai!

MC3 inspires KC3

Next week a team of 10 volunteers will be headed to India to begin construction of the Kalavai Colony Community Center.

The colony of Kalavai is a small village where 65 low Irala caste families live - they have been outcast and most times overlooked until a team arrived to help rebuild the village last January.

Kalavai is located in the southern most state of Tamil Nadu, India in the district of Vellore and is approximately 150 miles west of Chennai, India.

It will take the team 3 hours to drive to Chicago (O'Hare Airport), 21 hours flying from Chicago to Bangalore with a stop over in London and a 5 hour bus ride from Bangalore to Kalavai. Since housing is extremely limited the team will be living in tents and bathing in a well with a water level 40' below grade level. The first step is always the most difficult!

Team members include Dan Blacketor, Chad Anderson, Daniel Scott, Les & Velma Rassi, Nancy Leist, Todd Hollingworth, Nancy Tucker, Denise Walsh and Kevin Maggert.

The idea for a community center was birthed when Raj and I were talking how we could help the community break free - education, micro-business and literacy are essential to having any chance of hope for a better life. Raj, our director of Life Mission India has seen and visited MC3. He has seen the transformation and wanted to see if that was possible for a people group 9,500 miles away from the famlies of Monroe Circle. If it worked in Indiana could it possibly work in India?

During our stay we will also be offering conversational English classes, literacy training and micro business development. We probably won't call the afternoon program SonCity Kids but I like the way "Pasangal Kadavul" (Children of God) sounds!

You can follow along on the GCC India Team Blogsite

Volunteers Needed for After-School Program

SCK Expands After-school Efforts

We have the opportunity to make huge strides in our SCK After-school program that will begin later this fall. For the last couple of years we have been helping kids from the community with their homework, reading skills and investing into their lives.

We will be partnering with the South Bend Community School Corporation to install the Compass Learning software and the Madison School LEAP program to Mc3. Watch for more details but we need volunteers that would be willing to work with primary school aged kids (6 to 12) once a week for two hours. You don't need to be a certified teacher because the school corporation is providing several teachers to oversee and instruct.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Food Pantry Volunteers

On the first and third Tuesday mornings (as well as on the 2nd Saturday) of each month the cafe and food pantry at the community center comes alive with activity. Volunteers begin arriving at 7:00 am to begin to set up and turn on the coffee pot. Donated pastries from Panera Bread begin to arrive and by 8:30 there is a small line in front of the door.

Shannon Papp or Jen Adams informs the volunteers of upcoming events or anything special that is going to happen at the pantry that day and Mark Swartz prays us in.

Unlike the early days when guests would rush in do to the fear that there just might not be enough they now come on their own schedule and almost everyone sits down and enjoys a cup of coffee and a little bit of conversation. Today, like most days there is much laughter and joy.

Fred Tschida who ran Ko-op 65 before MC3 renovated the building still shows up early. He and a few others stood in the gap for years many times using their social security and retirement to help buy food for hungry people. Even though he is not feeling 100% as he fights an illness he still engages in friendly banter with many of the guests (and volunteers) before he helps them check out.

Hardie Blake and James Summers from Project Impact stopped by to visit. They were sharing of the exciting things they are doing on the far west side with vocational training and job placement.

On his way out the door at the end of the day, Mike Swartz was sharing how much it means to him to be able to serve at MC3.
"I always leave with more joy, happiness and contentment when I leave than when I arrive - no matter how much I try to give away God always seems to give more back. This place, these people mean so much to me!"

We've been talking about what it would take to open the cafe to the public each day for a few hours. Guests could enjoy a cup of coffee or cold drink, a pastry, engage he conversation with business people and city employees on their way to work, maybe login to the internet or have a small group study.

Better days are ahead because good people stepped in and we serve a great God!

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Kingdom Breakthru Sighting!

Yesterday afternoon Amy Kring, Jo (Blacketor) and I had the chance to meet with the superintendent of public schools for South Bend, James Kapsa, Al Large, Mary Chris Adams and Madison School principal, Mrs. Buysee. We have been dreaming and praying how we better equip the Monroe Circle kids that participate in the after-school program. How do we help them become some of the "best and brightest" in their school? How do we use our time to not only build essential and meaningful relationships with these kids but how do we help remediate and then excel their learning abilities?

So, I got to sit back and watch Amy passionately share what her team is doing and the impact they are having on the lives of these kids at Monroe Circle. You can hear in her voice - you can see it in her actions. I watch as Mr. Kapsa listens and smiles.

Then, it is his turn and here is what is says. "What you are doing here is remarkable and we want to do whatever we can to be a part of it! We want to bring Compass Learning to the kids at Monroe Circle." (Price tag = $15,000 to $20,000, our cost = 0, value = priceless).

Then, Principal Buysee jumps in. "We want to bring our LEAP program (after-school remediation) to MC3. I think we can also find two to three teachers that will not only work with these kids but train your volunteers." (Price tag = $7500 to $10,000, our cost = 0). "I can identify the kids that participate at MC3 - they are more engaged, attentive and respectful when they come to school - why wouldn't we want to be a part of that!"

I truly believe almost everyone is attracted to what God's Kingdom brings. They may be a government official, a school administrator or a principal. Just like the Hindu business man that wants to donate property in Kalavai because he can see with his own eyes the change, people want to be a part of God's "goodness and greatness." I think it is our job as followers of Jesus is to attempt to identify where that might be and bring our friends to the party.

Let's get this party started!