When we signed the contract with Queens for use of their Sports Complex we were notified that 9-25 they would have an event and we would have to relocate. For months the oversight team, Brad and Carrie wrestled with what should we do? Should we join with a local church for worship? Should we return to Myers Park for one Sunday? Should we try to use Symphony Park? The team then decided, let’s all go over to the area elementary school that is a Title 1 school and see how we could serve them.
Little did we know how God’s perfect timing would align for us, the school and our city.
With the shooting of Keith Lamott Scott, the stress on the police department, the descension of CNN into our community, the escalation of anger, and the opportunistic rioters, our city spent a long week leading up to September 25th. However, as the first person who arrived at Pinewood stated beautiful: “I woke up this morning realizing I could go listen to a preacher implore us to serve our community, or I could come roll up my sleeves and serve the community with Waypoint.”
As the morning unfolded, and the stories emerged it was powerful to hear God at work. We arrived with a vague plan, but God used the principal and the reading specialist to make small tasks seem like Kingdom work.
1) Counting Books: Pinewood had asked us to count boxes of books. It seemed inconsequential, but as the staff explained the monotony of counting these books was something very time consuming for the teachers and took them away from their primary task. By our team counting the books, not only did we free up the staff of that burden, but we also opened up new space for Math Heart Tutoring, directed by Emily Elliott, to have space to invest in the lives of students. So, the counting of books cleared the way for others to help build relationships with these students.
2) Building Bookcases: Another team assembled bookcases the church had purchased. This tedious task (they were Ikea bookcases) was one of the biggest asks of Pinewood, because–though they receive federal funding as a Title 1 school–if their students do not directly touch the items then the school cannot use the funds. Also, without an active PTA, Pinewood does not have in place a natural community to help fund the needs that arise. Therefore, these bookcases not only helped hold books, but also symbolize a community willing to respond to the needs of the school.
3) Sorting Clothes: As one mother mentioned as she sorted and counted clothes: “This is great, I get to use the skills I have been perfecting at home three times a week.” By sorting these clothes, we were able help students in very real and practical ways. Many students either arrive with inadequate clothing or inevitably tear or soil their clothes. Often the families struggle to afford clothing for their children, or struggle to find the time to go shopping. This clothing closet is a space were a teacher can help a student get some clean clothes and in doing so cloaks them. It may help to cover an embarrassing mishap, or bring warmth on a cold day. In particular, there was a beautiful pink dress hanging in the closet. When I saw that dress, I said a quick prayer and my heart realized that one day, one little girl in the school will get to wear that to, perhaps, one of the most special occasions of her life. Doing a very normal task like sorting clothes will allow a child to feel cared for at some point.
4) Weeding the Garden: When the reading specialist first pointed to the garden, I thought it was behind a berm of wild grass. I did not realize the garden was the berm of wild grass! What had happened was the regular gardener had become ill and was no longer able to tend to the garden. So the weeds took over. However, God orchestrated this in His perfect timing. Two days after our team pulled every weed and prepared the beds, a group of “master gardeners” were arriving to plant vegetables. Each classroom has their own gardening bed to care for. These seeds and gardening beds would become their science classroom. Then as the vegetables grew the school would donate the vegetables to the senior center across the parking lot from our normal worship space. Symbolically, these gardens are a beautiful example of the community caring for one another, and as Paul says: some plant, some water, some weed, some tend, and some toil, but it is the Lord we serve.
5) Teacher Thank You: The students of Waypoint bought and put together a small thank you note and gift for the teachers of Pinewood. We realize that these teachers could have just had a fight with a spouse over the weekend, had a sick family member, may have gotten into a car wreck, or just had a bad day. Hopefully through this small token of gratitude, it may change the heart of a teacher for a day. And in doing so, that teacher then could change the heart of 29 students. The week following our serve day, the art teacher of Pinewood sent a quick note of thanks. From that email opened up a dialogue with Wes, where Wes realized that his elementary art teacher was one of the most influential people in his life teaching him the phrase that “There are no mistakes in Art.”
That line captures the essence of the gospel–God, our creator artist, has the ability to incorporate our sins, mishaps, and blunders into his beautiful masterpiece. In doing so, He frees us up through grace to live like there are no mistakes.
This simple day of service, which grew out of necessity, was a powerful reminder for Waypoint of that promise of grace. It was no mistake that on such a difficult week in Charlotte’s history, Waypoint was not gathering up inside a building wondering what we should, but was feebly striking out one step further into our community doing rather small, mundane, messy tasks that God incorporated into His bigger plan for our community.