Hello to everyone from St.Louis!
My summer internship has at last come to an end. So, I wanted to tell you all about what I’ve been learning and doing the the past 50 days here in St. Louis. While it is so hard to fully describe all of the lessons learned and the experiences that I’ve had here, I’ll do my very best!
Let me give you the rundown, this summer I was apart of an intern team under City Lights Ministries/ Restore St. Louis through New City Fellowship Church in University City, Missouri. It was our privilege to be teachers to over 50 inner city and immigrant children, most of whom come from francophone African countries. Along with another teacher, I taught the Umoja (swahili for Unity) class that is comprised of 4 year olds to 7 year olds. Each day of this program the kids come for breakfast, play hard at recess, have a time of worship where our kids sing,dance and pray, move into our academic classes where we have be covering the theme of African American history post civil war, eat lunch together, play hard again, then conclude with our afternoon classes in which I help with art and nature. Additionally, we had high school teams who are on mission trips that come through each week to help tutor our kids.
Overall, my kiddos were extremely sweet, intelligent, and well behaved. I have been blown away by the presence of the Holy Spirit in some of our young kids who are already beginning to grasp the Gospel. However, it was a huge struggle with some of our kids who show clear signs of abandonment and are facing traumatic situations. Even there I have seen God at work. One of our five year olds really struggles with managing his emotions and will escalate very quickly. In previous weeks, this happens several times a day. Yet, praise be to God, due to a consistent tutor, intervention strategies, and learned recentering techniques, this child only had one major meltdown in a week! It was a blessing to be able to see a calmer, more peaceful side, allowing us to get to know him more fully.
Although we worked as teachers here, we were also being discipled by mentors within the church on a regular basis. Each Wednesday, my intern team met for Sonship class in which the Gospel is shared with us. It was reiterated to us that we are adopted as God’s children and it is not through our own efforts that we have been saved. We have been reconciled through God’s willingness and grace towards us, even in spite of us. It is healing me, a recovering perfectionist, who often does not see the grace given for me or others. God is gently removing my false sense of self-righteousness and is freeing me with the truth of His grace. He is showing me that I don’t have to prove a thing or preform to a high standard. I am loved and accepted every moment of every day.
As a team, we were able to discover the beautiful parts of St.Louis. Our director, Chris Lemmons, has helped us fall in love with the city as we also witness the extreme brokenness here. You might be aware that St.Louis is rated as one of the top places for violent crime in the United States. God has protected us and we ourselves not witnessed any of this. I have felt very safe here. However, it is still a reality that most people here know someone or have witnessed someone being shot. It is still a reality that they’re a great deal of people who do not feel safe in their neighborhoods.
Another huge part of my time in St.Louis was centered on reconciliation- reconciliation to God, to others, and to creation. Within all of that, racial reconciliation has been a continuing conversation in which I am continuing to learn so much. To be honest, when I was told I would be living in an impoverished area of St.Louis in a primarily African American neighborhood, I felt fear. God has gently over the course of several years been removing my own personal ingrained biases that I have held toward this community. He has confronted me with my own judgements that I hold up and has allowed me the chance to learn from their experiences firsthand. Through my time there, I have seen God soften my heart with the reminder of how human we all are. I am so blessed to be apart of a church that celebrates diversity and recognizes that God has called all men unto himself,across racial lines, across age, across gender, across language, across nationality.
Speaking of nationalities, I had the chance to speak French here! To be honest, I believed my ability to speak French was practically useless unless I was in France. Yet, I have been able to talk with some students and their families. I have even helped teach some of my fellow interns how to say things like, “J’aime Jesus! (I love Jesus!). For one Sunday my team attended the French service. In that setting, it really came to life God’s love for the nations. That His love and salvation are for all, regardless of where we come from.
Each Thursday, my intern team hosted a Bible club at the refugee housing complex. What a beautifully chaotic experience! We loved becoming “human jungle gyms” for the kids who freely trust us and love us so well. We loved playing frisbee, soccer, and tag with them. This past week, a beautiful Syrian girl did my hair and painted my nails. I truly felt pampered! Honestly, it is the best part of my week being surrounded with little bity kids who most of the time can’t speak English but hold onto me so tightly and smile so much.
I was blessed to spend time with a widow from the church each Tuesday who continually convicts me of my own ungratefulness. Although she lives in poverty, she testified to the goodness of God in her life and her gratefulness for the smallest of things. As an illiterate woman who is not even capable of reading the Bible, I would argue that she trusts God far more than I!
I apologize for the length of this letter. It is hard to cram seven weeks of experiences in a couple of pages! Thanks for taking the time to pray for me, support me, and read about my time in St. Louis.
If you are interested, would you be willing to pray for these things?
- I would continue to experience God’s grace for myself and others
- Our students who are facing trauma would be healed and comforted by their Heavenly Father
- That the love of Christ would continue to be portrayed to the refugee children
- For decisions regarding the future as I graduate in the fall.
If you would like to hear more about what God is doing in St.Louis, feel free to reach out to me. I’d love to tell even more to a listening ear!
Many blessings to all of you,