Okay, so maybe not a storm... but it sure is quiet around here compared to days with our program in full swing. The picture above shows our new reading area background! We will have some fun beach chairs and blankets to add to it! After an incredibly fun and busy July, our staff was able to take a sabbath. For me, that meant getting to go home and spend a lot of time staying home! In years past, I've tried to pack as much of Texas as possible into my visit. This time, I was pretty content to hang out at home and spend time with my fam. It was a much needed time of rest! Take a look at the gallery below to see some of our summer camp fun!
This Monday, we had our official debrief of summer program and are ready to jump into fall! There will be some changes around G2 and we are all very excited about them! One of the changes I am most excited about is that I will be working with both G2 Kids and G.S.A.L.T. during out afters school program. This summer gave us a great trial run and as you can see from the pictures above, they did so well together. Our G.S.A.L.T. students (6th- 12th grade) did an amazing job of working with our G2 Kids (1st-5th grade). I look forward to seeing them continue to pour into them this school year! The plan is to enroll 15 G2 Kids and 10 G.S.A.L.T. students. Please pray for our families as they enroll their students. For the next couple of weeks, our staff will be preparing for the start of our fall programs. In addition to after school, we have a new ESL class beginning soon. Please pray for Kerri as she leads that class. There have been several individuals come to sign up and are very excited about the class. By meeting this great need, the door is opened for these individuals to see and hear the Gospel!
As I shared in a previous post, I am in the process of being certified to be a foster mom! I began classes in June, but had to put them on pause for July and August. The goal is to complete the classes in October. Please pray for the Lord's guidance in this process. I know that He has a plan and it is perfect!
Week 1 of summer camp
Because of construction at our regular location, we moved our camp to a new location. Actually, it was the original location of sports camp way before my time at Graffiti 2. While there were some differences in the set up, it was 100% fun! My friend in the shades and hat pictured above and his twin brother showed up announcing that they had been walking the neighborhood trying to find us! They knew we had moved, but didn't know where. They kept walking until they saw our signs on the fences! It is always exciting to have new faces, but there is certainly a joy that comes with returning faces.
So I recently shared about our summer theme, Beloved! We want our families to know they are dearly loved by the Almighty. They are also loved by yours truly. The video above makes me smile because these babies have just stolen my heart! Last week, I had a moment while waiting to cross a busy street in the South Bronx where I realized... this is my home. I live here. I live in the Bronx. I'm a part of Graffiti 2. This is certainly not the first time I've had this feeling and they happened more frequently when I first moved to New York. While the moments are few and far between, they serve to remind me of how faithful God is.
Not too long ago I was having dinner with a group from church. They were all young adults from G2 that were a part of program as children and youth. Soon they began to reminisce and it was not long before they were pulling up videos. The video above was one that was shown. They all laughed at how young they looked but I had a completely different realization. This video was used as a part of Lifeway's Big Apple Adventure, the VBS I learned where I learned and taught about Graffiti 2. While Proof was the star of the show, the kids in this video stole my heart back then just as my kids in the video have done. I knew G2 was where the Lord was calling me to be. This was in 2011. Fast forward to 2019 and I am looking around Andrew's apartment at the group of young adults that were some of the kids in these videos. Talk about full circle! Not only has the Lord allowed me to serve in the place I fell in love with, but also to be able to share His love with crew I already loved many moons ago!
19 Go, therefore, and make disciples of[f] all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you. And remember,[g] I am with you always,[h] to the end of the age.” Matthew 29:19-20
Meet our summer interns, Will and Zach! A summer in NYC sounds like any college student's dream, these guys, however, are here on a mission! While many college students are sleeping in and lounging around this summer, Will and Zach are using their gifts to join our G2 staff in ministering to families in Mott Haven. Don't get me wrong. If there is anyone who can appreciate a summer filled with lounging and recouping from a long school year, its this former teacher! It just makes me appreciate these young men that much more. June is planning and prep month. They have gotten a glimpse of what it takes to get ready for summer sports camp and day camp and while they have heard stories of summers past, they will soon get to experience a G2 summer for themselves! Please pray our guys as they build relationships and share God's love in the Bronx!
Graffiti 2 summer activities are around the corner! July 9th will kick off our annual sports camp and our first ever day long camp! Tuesday through Friday, 9:00AM-12:00, G2 will hold sports camp at People's Park in the South Bronx. We will get to serve along side amazing mission teams from partner churches. Each morning will begin with our morning rally where our dedicated interns will pump up the group of up to 100 kids and leaders with energy filled songs and help teach our summer verse, 1 John 4:7-8. We want our kids, students, and families to leave each day knowing that because they are dearly loved by God they can love others dearly!
We will have 10 G2 Kids and 10 G.S.A.L.T. stay with us for our day long camp. We will head back to the church with us for a delicious lunch and our afternoon activities. In addition to recreation, writing centers, math centers, and field trips our group will continue to dive into God's Word. Check out what we will be learning:
One Thing: I am dearly loved by God
Memory Verse: God showed how much he loved us by sending his one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him. 1 John 4:9 (NLT)
Bible Story: The Prodigal Son- Luke 15:11-32
I can trust that: Though I act unlovable, and a sinner, God sent Jesus to sacrifice his life for my sins, whether I choose to follow him or not.
One Thing: God invites me to trust in His love by following Jesus
Memory Verse: All who declare that Jesus is the Son of God have God living in them, and they live in God. We know how much God loves us, and we have put our trust in his love. 1 John 4:15-16
Bible Story: The Samaritan Woman- John 4:4-26
I can trust that: Nothing else in which I put my trust can save me from my sins. Jesus can be trusted because He IS the son of God. He rose from the dead and is with God in heaven. He can live in my life by me simply sharing with others that “I believe he is who he said he is.”
One Thing: By following Jesus, I learn to love like He loved.
Memory Verse: God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them. And as we live in God, our love grows more perfect. 1 John 4:16-17
Bible Story: Saul/Paul Acts 9:1-18, 26-31
I can trust that: Loving others is hard when they do unlikable things. Jesus not only teaches me valuable lessons, but his Spirit lives inside me helping me to love through all the struggles.
One Thing: By loving like Jesus loved, I can show others how dearly loved they are to God.
Memory Verse: No one has ever seen God. But if we love each other, God lives in us, and his love is brought to full expression in us. 1 John 4:12
Bible Story: The Conversion of the Ethiopian Official Acts 8:26-40
I can trust that: With Jesus’ Spirit in my life, helping me to love others, I show the world that they are dearly loved by God when I tell them about Jesus and love them like Jesus.
Please join Graffiti 2 in praying for our students and families as they learn about God's love for them and the gift of salvation we have been given through Jesus Christ!
You can also use this prayer calendar to help us pray this summer!
June 30-July 6—Pray for Graffiti 2 in our search to find an individual to serve as Youth Director.
July 7-13—Pray for Clearview Baptist Church (Franklin, TN) who is helping us host a basketball camp.
July 14-20—Pray for First Baptist Church (Dothan, AL) who is helping us host a backyard Bible club.
July 21-27—Pray for Forest Baptist Church (Forest, MS) who is helping us host tennis camp.
July 28-August 2— Pray for Colorado Christian University and First Baptist Church (Kingsport, TN) who are helping us host a soccer camp.
I've mentioned before that living in New York is a lot like living in another world! Things like running to buy groceries, doing laundry, and even getting to school take a lot more effort than they ever did in Texas. One thing that growing up in Cleburne made easy was choosing my high school. There was one option, CHS. We all attended the same school. At least, we all went into the same building. Looking back, I know that there were so many different educational experiences going on within the same walls. After leaving home to teach in Grand Prairie and Duncanville, I was thrilled to see students had options to apply to specialized high schools. For a moment, I thought about how wonderful it would have been to have those same options. Then, as I took a step back, I saw how even with all those options, many students did not have the preparation to be able to qualify for any of the specialized schools they might be interested in. I would have been one of those kids. I wouldn't have known how to apply. I could not be more grateful for my parents and their amazing hearts. There was never a moment they did not give everything they had and more to provide anything I needed (and more often than not anything I wanted). However, they would not have had the information needed to help me prepare to apply for a specialized school.
For several years I've been able to watch as Josh, our youth director, works with our students to apply for high schools. It is very common for families to choose the school that is closest to home. There is a phonebook sized catalog with all of the high schools available to choose from. It takes months of research, preparation, and planning to apply to these schools. Just as my loving parents would have been overwhelmed by this process, many of our students' families find themselves at a loss as to where to begin. This year, Ana and her mom walked through this process with Josh's help. It was awesome to see them get much needed guidance and feel empowered to dream big. After months of hard work, Josh was able to be a part of the big reveal! Ana found out that she was selected to attend her number 2 choice! This was such a win! Her school has a great graduation rate and offers extra curricular programs that she is so excited about in addition to being an easy commute! Thank you for praying for our families and our staff as we continue to work with families in the South Bronx.
These girls just brightened my day! I usually ask our older kiddos to help with putting our Bibles away, they are a little heavy and bulky for our littles. These girls asked to help and I couldn't help but give them a shot. I told them to grab two Bibles at a time. As you can see, they decided to aim a little higher. They got such a kick out of themselves! Those sweet giggles just made my heart sing!
A mountain of paperwork? Yes, please! Last week, I visited St. Dominic's Children's Agency to find out what next steps would be in applying to become a foster parent. I met with the parent recruiter, Mr. Smith, and he was so kind and informative. I had questions regarding my ability to serve as a foster parent given my travel to Texas and out of town so often and he assured me that they are happy to help work through any travel issues that may arise. We talked about why I wanted to foster and the road map to getting there. The first step is completing a very thorough application process. After returning the paperwork I will begin the 30 hours of required training. In the meantime, I have been thinking through rearranging furniture and finding new and creative storage options! My prayer continues to be that the Lord would guide me every step of the way!
If you are reading this, you know me well enough to know I love spending time with kids. I enjoy their silliness. I am energized by their imagination. I am inspired by their bravery. I've shared with many that my first prompting from the Lord to work with children was when I was 11-12 years old. I was in children's church and saw a need for preschoolers to have a lesson specified for them. I begged our children's church teacher to let me lead that class; in fact, at my college going away party she gave me the letter I wrote to her explaining why I felt that class was needed! I continue to be so thankful for Maria Vizcaino and the time she gave to help me. She allowed me to pull the preschoolers aside in her class and begin my journey of working with children. Those preschoolers are now married and some have babies of their own! Yikes! While I have continued to work in children's ministry and was blessed to work with amazing colleagues in the public school system, I am sure that it no surprise to many that I've had a longing in my heart for children of my own.
I can remember playing house with my cousins and having dolls that were our babies. Mine were always adopted. As I grew up, the Lord continued to place a love for orphaned children on my heart. I had the amazing opportunity to travel to Guatemala and Peru with Buckner International and serve in orphanages. My desire to provide a home for children without a home only grew stronger. This school year we've had a very special group of siblings that are currently in foster care. The Lord has used them to show me that it is time for me to move forward. Ahhh!!! I can't explain to you how exciting and scary it is to share this! Today I took a very small step, but is is a step! I reached out to the foster mom of the siblings in our program and asked for the phone number to the agency she is working with. I know, it doesn't sound like a big deal.. but you should have seen me! I stared at my phone and finally typed out the text then I just waited. Why? I have NO idea! Maybe because it felt like no matter how small the step... it was forward motion! I sent the text! Then I waited... and waited!!! It was thrilling to see the response pop up! What did she reply? "Who is this? I don't recognize the number" Ugh! lol! After explaining who I was she gladly shared the number to the agency. The goal for tomorrow... make the call. Please pray with me as the Lord continues to show me the next steps!
How long has it been? Long enough for me to forget how to log in to my Weebly account! Thankfully, Google was there for me. There certainly has been a lot going on and many times I have stopped to write an update only to convince myself that what I was going to share really wasn't that interesting. It was a full on pity party. Who really cares? Does anyone really read these updates?
This year, our staff began incorporating a book to our weekly staff meeting. We are currently reading Louie Giglio's Goliath Must Fall. In his book, Giglio states that we often read the story of David and Goliath and see ourselves as David. He goes on to state that David was not a picture of us. He was a foreshadowing of what Christ would one day do for us. Christ has beaten the "giants" in our lives. I stopped writing because I was focused on me. Who really cares (about me?) Does anyone really read these updates (about me?) While I truly felt (at the time) as if I was sharing what the Lord was doing, I was seeing myself as David and failing. I was failing because I am not David the story. Jesus has won the battle and I can rejoice in that daily!
Another take-away from the book came from the retelling of David's story. He speaks of an "emboldened Israel" surging forward after David's victory. We are to be the "emboldened Israel" surging forward! Sharing our struggles and how Jesus leads us to victory helps us to continue to surge forward!
Stay tuned for regular updates on what the Lord is doing in me personally, in my family, and in the South Bronx!
I'm JoAnn. I am a God worshipping, Jesus following, child teaching, puppy petting, daughter of the King of Kings, who is grateful for daily grace and forgiveness!