Small Things With Great Love
“Not all of us can do great things. But we can all do small things with great love.”
— Mother Theresa
We’re moving into our third week of students on the ground in Philly, and though it feels like we’ve only just begun, so much has already happened. Last week was the first full week students were at their internships, and they wasted no time getting to work. The Southwark crew kept on their toes assembling more than a dozen brand new school tables, moving countless supply boxes in non-airconditioned hallways, and welcoming nearly 600 students to their first day of school last Wednesday (though they got the honor of working primarily with the Pre-K youngin's leaving their families for the first time). Because many of you are likely unfamiliar with Southwark School, you should know that it’s a local elementary and middle school with approximately 400 immigrant and refugee students from over two dozen countries (about 600 students total), and has received the prestigious honor of becoming one of the first Philadelphia Community Schools — a privilege that comes with a small increase in funding, a few additional staff, and an enormous increase in local community partnerships, like the partnership with Taproot. It will be exciting to see how the students working with Southwark will continue to fill in the gaps and find their way at such an up-and-coming school with so much going on and so much more to come. Please keep them in your prayers especially these first few weeks of school as they are often the most stressful and filled with surprises for Southwark staff and volunteers.
As for the students working with the Nationalities Service Center (NSC), they were surprised to find their responsibilities and tasks quickly growing last week as they tried to keep up with helping to welcome 100’s of refugees and their families move in and adjust to life in Philadelphia; a task they have only recently begun to understand better themselves. No better way to learn something than to teach it yourself! Also, important to note here is that interns are not often trusted with significant responsibilities or a lot of face time with clients within the first two weeks of working, especially in highly sensitive environments like NSC. The Taproot team is very proud knowing that in such a short amount of time the students have proven themselves to be hard and trustworthy workers; a fact we are happy to say represents both Taproot and Kivu very well to our partners at NSC. In addition, as staff, every time we hear about all that the students are exposed to and get to help out with, we are taken back by this unique opportunity and occasionally find ourselves jealous of what’s in store for their semester. Please pray that as students continue their time at NSC they would deepen and expand their understanding of migration into the United States and press into the complex and challenging world so many new Philadelphian residents are facing.
Also, as students move into their third week of living with their host families, the color and richness of their time appears to only be getting stronger. From volleyball games three times a week, pig and beef intestines for dinner, basement renovation projects, helping write resume’s for the first time ever, Call of Duty as a "language learning” program, 30+ people over for Laotian bible studies, and riveting conversations about escaping the Indonesian Race Riots over handfuls of stale french fries, there are too many “couldn’t make up if you tried” stories to share. So be sure to stay tuned and follow the student blogs for updates about interesting, tasty, tasteless, and challenging to the core experiences students have been having on their home stay journeys so far. Also, please pray that as these next few weeks roll around, students will be ready for a steady increase in culture stress as the romance, newness, and novelty begins to grow more familiar, annoying, and frustrating to deal with. Of course, this doesn’t always kick in the same way for each student, but it does tend to affect most at some capacity if it hasn’t already, so keep the prayers coming.
To wrap up this posting, it seems only appropriate to share with you some takeaways from a profound and thought-provoking conversation we had with a friend and well known "ordinary radical,” Shane Claiborne. Shane is most well known as the author of Irresistible Revolution and Jesus for President (amongst other great books), and his role in founding The Simple Way — an intentional Christian community and non-profit serving in the Kensington neighborhood of Philadelphia. Shane shared with our group about his 20-year journey of planting himself in the heart of one Philadelphia’s highest need neighborhoods, and how a simple yet profoundly radical belief that Jesus calls us to "move into places where resurrection can take place” has led him down a wonderful and surprising path. After discussing God’s call for us to fundamentally shift our placement of hope and our way of thinking about economics, religion, and politics (all the dinner friendly topics), Shane encouraged us to consider what it means to live vocationally; challenging us to consider not as much whether we want to be a doctor, a lawyer, or school teacher, but more so what kind of doctor, lawyer, and school teacher will we choose to be. For a group of students trekking through a year of adventure, vocation exploration, and faith discovery, Shane reminded us of Mother Theresa’s words that life is less about us accomplishing great things or becoming great leaders and change makers, and more about remaining faithful in the small things with great love. As you pray for the students in Philly this week, please ask that they may more clearly see the small things that surround them every day where they can display a greater and greater love.
Peace be with you, and may God also continue to reveal the small things in your life.