Last year, Jo Hulks spent four months working as an intern at an after-school programme for elementary-aged children in Delaware. WfM were able to offer Jo some funding for her trip through our Support A Volunteer Fund. Her honest report below describes her experiences living and working in an area of urban and spiritual poverty in Wilmington.
My main responsibility was leading our after school program (ASP), “Camp Victory”. Outside of ASP hours I prepared lessons – Bible, crafts, prayer etc., visited families in their homes, assisted in classes in the Urban Promise school and discipled a small group of girls from camp
While academic progress was definitely prioritised, emphasis was placed on growth and transformation in character – explaining attributes of a godly character and holding our kids accountable to this. Most of our campers have been strongly influenced by their environment which is saturated in conflict, substance abuse, sex and little opportunity to be a child. Consequently, lots of energy was invested in discipline at ASP – this was often emotionally draining but undoubtedly worthwhile as in the short time I was there, I saw transformation taking root in even the “hardest” kids.
Walking around the neighbourhoods I worked and lived in, you could be forgiven for wondering, “where’s the poverty?”. They have flashy cars, a roof over their head and regular trips to the nail salon so while it’s not a place of lavish wealth, there are people far worse off materially. My boss put it this way however, “people here can always afford what they value most”. The central and most painful poverty entrenched in the hood is spiritual. Regular shootings, school drop-outs, expanding prisons and recurrent patterns of regret in families are the overflow of a deep lack of peace, hope and purpose. For several of the single mums I met with, Thanksgiving was going to be particularly special this year because it was the first time ever all of their sons were at home rather than incarcerated. What other message could save these families other than the gospel?
One memorable highlight was Jameela. At 10 years old her world orbits around gossip, defensive language and visits to the principal’s office. However there were strands of sensitivity, repentance and a painful longing for love somehow glowing through it all. She warmly described her Mum’s fried chicken (her favourite) and explained that they were saving up for some cooking oil to make it again. She was in my discipleship group and one week – with more concern than she may have liked to display! – asked, “how do I know I’m not accidentally believing wrong things about God?”. Her eyes fixated on me (for about 2 minutes!) as I explained that if it’s in the Bible, we can know it’s definite truth and if we’re not sure we can ask God to help us understand. Praise God He answers our insecurities with power and hope.
A consistent difficulty was that, contrary to some short-term ministry experiences, my time was not a “spiritual high” – it was a drag! That was hard. Nonetheless, God was faithful and He is due all glory for using my doubting, tumultuous faith to do eternal kingdom work:
“The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and sowed in his field; and this is smaller than all other seeds, but when it is full grown, it is larger than the garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and nest in its branches”
Women for Mission were pleased to be able to offer Jo some funding towards her trip via the Support A Volunteer Fund.
Could you or someone you know benefit from this fund? Find out more here.