Opportunity Knocking

Mississippi is on my mind. It’s spring break, the season of Habitat trips to the Delta, where the seeds of Spring Initiative after-school-and-so-much-more-program germinated. Teenagers who built houses in our nation’s poorest counties are now hard-working adults in their thirties. They’ve devoted their lives to empowering young people in the Mississippi Delta to beat the odds, access the opportunities they deserve, and build successful and happy lives. 

It seems like an impossible task. The weight of poverty is overwhelming. The legacy of slavery, Jim Crow laws, and deep-rooted racism created a system where success seems out of reach. But the students that attend Spring are learning, healing, hoping, and thriving. Ten of those first batch of kids are now in college- an unthinkable goal when they began. 

I have watched Spring with amazement and affection. I know the “kids” who started it. Really smart, successful people who could be making money and living comfortable lives, tithing generously and serving on church boards. Like many of us, they could build careers to ensure their family’s security and pour their energies into their own kids. 

Instead they write grants. Take kids on trips that expand their understanding of the world and the possibilities that could be theirs. They attend to their students’ whole selves, investing in their emotional, physical, intellectual, and spiritual health. My part is small, but I hope significant, when combined with grants and other gifts. 

The latest expansion is Mini Spring. Now 1st and 2nd graders can get access to the support they need at the beginning of their education, during the critical acquisition of reading skills. From a child development standpoint, this seems much more promising than starting with middle-schoolers. We cheered the reception of a $200,000 grant to make it possible. The paperwork promised it. Spring moved ahead to hire new staff and invest in these youngsters. 

And then things changed. The money rescinded. Backpedaling began. Restrictions and requirements to halt the new program because funding was no longer available. An old story of opportunities withdrawn and hopes dashed. Feelings of hopelessness and the enormity of the endeavor overwhelm. 

So, What Do We Do? Jeff Trask asked in his sermon Sunday. What does Spring do? What do those 1st graders do? What does New Covenant do? What do I do? Fervent prayers of faith to the God who provides. But how does God provide? Through what and through whom?

I find myself asking, “What if I doubled my monthly contribution?” Or if everyone did. Or if more people knew that Spring is a place where their money truly makes a difference, giving kids a taste of the possibilities we take for granted. I contemplated this as I read yesterday’s gospel passage, looking as always, for direction. What to write. What to do. How to pray. 

Be compassionate just as your Father is compassionate. Give, and it will be given to you. A good portion—packed down, firmly shaken, and overflowing—will fall into your lap. The portion you give will determine the portion you receive in return.” Luke 6:36,38 (CEB)

I didn’t go looking for this scripture. These words were waiting for me. I have never made “charity” part of my Lenten journey, but it makes sense. 

Preparing for Purim, we remember the seemingly hopeless time of Esther. Captured and taken from their country, the Jews were never equal citizens in the empire. The government did not protect them. An irreversible edict decreed their destruction and lawful seizure of their property. Salvation came through granting the right to defend themselves. For kids in Mississippi, holistic education is self-defense in an empire where they are not equals, and their country frequently fails them. 

For Spring this Purim, may this be a time when everything turned around for them from sadness to joy, and from sad, loud crying to a holiday…. days of feasts and joyous events, days to send food gifts to each other and money gifts to the poor.Esther 9:22(CEB)


Please feel free to share this with anyone who might be interested. Monthly and one-time donations to Spring can be made here.

ps. For those in the C-U area, CIMIC is hosting a Prayer Vigil tomorrow, March 20, at 5:30 pm. They invite all to join in remembering the precious lives lost at Christchurch.  
Bulletin: 3/17
Order of Service: 3/17
Sermon: So, What Do We Do? -Book of Philemon

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