By Maddy Kramer
A year and a half ago I was presented with the opportunity to be a mentor at The Net’s after school program for children who have been displaced from their home countries and resettled in Fort Worth, Texas. Ladera Kids aims to “create a healthy community of kids while building real relationships that empower and inspire them”. That’s a powerful mission statement–one I would claim to be close to my heart.
But I said “no” to the opportunity.
I used the excuse that I had just begun my career working with children with disabilities, and I would, no doubt, burn out if I hung out with more children after school. However, my husband–in the thick of med school–said yes to the opportunity. I stayed home, relaxed, cooked dinner and had Wednesday nights to myself.
Six months later, my friend Ty Bowden posted about an opportunity to coordinate/lead the “little girls group” at Ladera Kids. The job would require five hours a week, a minimum two-year commitment, and strong classroom management skills. Well, I could easily devote five hours each week, was not planning on going anywhere anytime soon, and had been daily managing the behaviors and delicate needs of children ages 3 -11 years old with a range of disabilities.
In seeing the minimal requirements to fill a great need, I was hit with my hypocrisy.
“My reason for not wanting to volunteer as a mentor should have been my exact reason for signing up.“
God had blessed and equipped me for this position through the natural course of my life and career. My reason for not wanting to volunteer as a mentor (that I work with children all day) should have been my exact reason for signing up. I realized that I talked about loving and welcoming refugees a lot, but I didn’t personally know a single one. I talked about safety as a human right, yet was unwilling to give up a bit of my comfort to consistently invest in the lives of children whose families had been displaced by war and persecution.
I signed up that day, and just finished a year of loving and encouraging young girls while teaching them biblical truth. This past year I’ve seen them gain a deep understanding of their need for Jesus. My time at Ladera cannot be quantified by a two-hour commitment. Instead, it has brimmed with familiar faces who I look forward to seeing, cultures I have shared and celebrated, and opportunities I have to affirm the human dignity of all peoples.
Most of these children have endured extremely difficult trials in their short lives, yet they share their stories sincerely and freely. Playing a small role in fostering an environment where kids can thrive and experience authentic, consistent love and friendship is the grandest joy.
“Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me.”Matthew 18: 4-5
Sometimes showing up on a Wednesday night after a long day at work–and two more long days on the horizon–can be tough. There are days that I wish I could stay home and relax. However, God whispers fiercely into my heart, “Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me.” – Matthew 18: 4-5
Register for the Justice Conference to learn more about opportunities to serve the foreigners and refugees in our city.