On Friday, May 31st - the day after school was released for the summer - the Summer Reading Mentor and FREE lunch program started with eight students, eight youth mentors and six adult volunteers.
Every week of the last three summers I'm in awe how God perfectly orchestrates the number of volunteers to be exactly what we need and how He's reaching each person.
Each child has a special story. The youth mentors are vital to the program; children know someone is waiting for them each week and look forward to spending time together. The youth mentor reads to the child, helps them read, asks them questions about the story to build comprehension. But the time together is so much more than reading skills. As they read and play games together they talk and the child knows someone will listen and cares for them.
As the mentors wait for the children to arrive, they're also able to connect. This week an incoming freshman answered questions an incoming seventh grade student had about junior high and put her mind at ease. Next another mentor answered questions about high school athletics and a senior that just graduated answered questions the incoming freshman had about high school. Everywhere we turned someone was being lifted up.
During Chapel time we share one of the stories from the Bible - from creation and Noah with the ark to the miracles Jesus performed and that we must believe in Him to have eternal life. The children listen, ask questions and give input. Each week as we ask for prayer requests, I'm amazed at how many children share a request - often about something very personal from safe travels to healing for a parent that is ill. Reading Mentors is a safe place for them to share and feel supported.
We close in prayer, clean hands and head to Fellowship Hall where two volunteer interns (college sophomores) have planned, shopped and prepared a new healthy, delicious lunch each week. The children, mentors and adults enjoy time hanging out. When they're ready to head home the children are given a backpack with a few snack items and something for a small meal.
We're grateful for the youth and adult volunteers that pour themselves into the children each week; giving of themselves and their time to support and help others.