Humble Beginnings - by Lynn Brown
For over 15 years I was an administrator at a local Title 1 campus. I remember how obvious the needs in the community were. You see, in order to be a Title 1 school, a large percentage of families must live at or below the poverty line, and that was certainly accurate at my school. Families often struggled to make ends meet despite hard work. Sometimes children went to bed hungry. The hardships made academic success difficult. Spelling seems pretty irrelevant to a child who hasn’t eaten since their lunch at school the day before.
Those days came flooding back to memory when I toured the Bridging for Tomorrow facilities a few weeks ago. It was my first visit to the Richey Rd. location and it is beautiful! There are spaces for classes for adults and children, children’s play and study activities, counseling, offices, and an amazing food pantry offering non-perishables, frozen food, and fresh produce! It was actually quite thrilling for me - you see, I was there when Bridging for Tomorrow was just a twinkle in God’s eye!!
As a member of a local church, when I saw the need at my school and in the community I wondered how the church could show God’s love? How we could help?
There were so many concerns about churches getting involved in schools back in those days. The concept of a faith-based initiative (although it had been written about by people in other areas of the country) was not prominent in this area. People thought that a church would “invade” the school to preach, proselytize, and evangelize a captive and needy audience. Naturally, this would be in opposition to the separation of church and state mandate, and many school administrators were wary.
I was a member of Faithbridge. And in those early days, an amazing group of Faithbridgers emerged - ready to jump in and help. I am still thankful for all those who let me “bend their ears” in small groups and Bible studies about the challenges my students faced and the resources they lacked. Observations became discussions; discussions became dreams, and God facilitated those dreams - over and over again.
Faithbridgers and their families transported and crammed the hallways to pack hundreds of pounds of non-perishables into green cloth bags for holiday dinners. I fondly remember my students lugging bags out the door with expressions of GLEE, “Wow! No one will be hungry at our house!” “Is all of this for ME?!” I remember parents accepting the food with tears and exuberant thanks. God’s favor was with us, and we could feel it.
We gathered clothing for the children. Then the student ministry hosted holiday parties for the children. In addition to physical gifts, they gave the gift of their time and attention. This was so meaningful. The children at my school frequently commented that having someone to play with them, read with them, and listen intently to them made them feel loved.
And then Faithbridgers began to mentor the students. These amazing relationships resulted in huge academic gains for the students, a bond of trust between the students, families, and mentors, and many long-lasting friendships.
I have so many fond memories and stories of these early days - the very beginning of the partnerships that would become Bridging for Tomorrow. I remember the tears of a grandmother who was excited that she got to keep the plastic clothes basket in which her grandchildren’s new/used clothing was given. I remember a husband and wife who accompanied their children to a holiday party and when we found out that they had never once had an anniversary celebration, we created one for them on the spot! I remember visiting the home of a 5th-grade student who was missing school in order to babysit her younger siblings. She stared at the floor, apologizing for the lack of bedding on the couch where she slept. Two evenings later she won a bedding set at a Faithbridge raffle. She cried. So did I.
As all of this transpired, we were being watched carefully. Was this the church “invasion” that the schools had feared? I am so proud to say that Faithbridgers came to serve and love and not to conquer or invade. And the community felt that love! Not only did the students and families benefit, but ALL those involved - the faculty, staff, and volunteers - did as well.
Ephesians 3:20 says, “Not to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us…” God provided far more than we could have imagined. Today Bridging for Tomorrow is led by a fantastic group of servant-hearted people who continue to reach out. God is so faithful. He has continued to guide and bless the work that began all those years ago. I believe that Bridging for Tomorrow IS His blessing - His Love in action!