When was the last time you had your heart melted?

When I began to learn some of the stories of the Karen people who are now attending our church, I knew God wanted me join Him to help these precious adults and their children adjust to a new home.  What I did not yet realize was how much God was going to use them to bless MY life.

The Karen families have reminded me that:

  • True joy is not defined by status or possessions,
  • Biblically defined community can still exist,
  • Simplicity is better,
  • Faith trumps circumstances, and
  • Abundant living is found through loving and serving God and people.

When I witnessed a Karen father wipe tears from his eyes as he met his own daughter’s teacher at the school’s Open House, I was reminded how blessed I am that my children could get an education.   Meanwhile, I am continuing to relive the joy I experienced watching my boys play on sports teams as I watch the Karen children excel in soccer, form relationships with coaches and players, and chatter excitedly about their experiences.    My hearts continues to melt as I am given hugs around the neck, waist, and legs.

I am so glad God “asked” my heart, “These are My children.  Will they be your children too?”

By: Connie Vigus

 

“Let’s not love with words or speech but with action and truth.” 1 John 3:18

 Do you want to make a difference in the lives of refugees coming to our area?

Visit http://www.becauselovedoes.org to find out out how. 

 

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‘PLANTING SEEDS OF LIGHT AND HOPE & TENDING THE GARDEN ONE DAY & ONE CHILD AT A TIME’

I felt the call on my life to work with people I will identify as the “underdogs”, when I was in college. These are individuals who struggle with physical and/or mental challenges on a consistent basis. I double majored in Psychology and Recreation Therapy in response to that call. I worked in psychiatric hospitals providing therapy and support to those who faced mental and psychological struggles after graduation. After twelve years, I began to feel the call to use my knowledge and gifts in a different direction, the field of education. I returned to school and earned my teaching certificate in Special Education. I had worked primarily with adults in my career as a therapist but felt I could have a greater impact if I intervened earlier. I could do this by working with children and their families. God prepared me for my current mission. I taught for five years in a traditional public school and worked with children who had a variety of learning needs along with some environmental factors that negatively affected their school experience. Then, I was given the opportunity to transition to teaching exceptional children at a new alternative school with a day treatment component that serves students who have mental health diagnoses. It became clear to me at that time that God’s plan for my career had come full circle. God had prepared me not only to work with students with special needs but also those with mental health challenges. This is my tenth year teaching in this capacity.

trust-1288018_1280Students that attend our school have a difficult time navigating life. They carry the baggage of sickness, hunger, homelessness, poverty, foster care, incarceration of a parent, physical, sexual, and/or emotional abuse or neglect, and inappropriate role models in the home environment. Most of them enter the doors of our school with little hope. It is no wonder these students have been unable to fully access and embrace the academic instruction provided to them throughout their school experience. Few of our students get excited about getting school vacations because it is difficult for them to face life outside the care and consistency of the typical school schedule.

I have the blessing of being in the bi-vocational role as both educator and missionary. The bible tells us in Matthew 5: 13-14 to be salt and light to those around us. I offer light by helping students feel safe, loved, and cared for while they are at school. I instill hope in them as they experience growth and success with academics as well as overcome personal challenges. The goal of my colleagues and I is to help our students recognize they have value and worth and deserve respect. lightbulb-rainbow_podcast
We challenge them to think beyond their current situation of which they have little to no control. Our school adopted a “Growth Mindset” culture this year. It emphasizes the importance of students giving their best effort, demonstrating perseverance, recognizing failure as the first step to success and simply saying, “I can’t do that, yet.” We instill the importance of striving toward a goal and accepting assistance when needed from others without giving up.

We have a gifted staff with a heart for each student. I see evidence of this every day. In addition to the traditional academic disciplines, we provide therapeutic gardening, Yoga instruction, social skills lessons, as well as individual and group therapy in order to meet the needs of our student population. We have no more than eight students per class so each student receives the individualized attention they need and deserve. We utilize a school wide behavior plan that requires students to reflect on his/her behavior with an instructor throughout the school day. This teaches the importance of personal goal setting, acceptance of rules and limits, consistency, and accountability in striving for success. We provide field trips to broaden our students’ experiences of life beyond their neighborhood. This school year we have partnered with two churches and a fraternity at UNCW. To encourage students and staff they provide mentoring and tutoring as well as other needed resources. Every day is a challenge for our staff and students. I believe the Lord has placed me in this mission field for this season of my life. I will continue to plant the seeds of light and hope and tend the garden one day and one life at a time.

Blog By: Lisa Everette

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         #KOG2ILM   #becauselovedoes

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  VISIT: http://www.becauselovedoes.org

KOG2ILM UPDATE: Week 6

It would be a natural thing to believe that six weeks into any project would cause you to lose a little interest and enthusiasm. For some folks perhaps that’s what you are feeling as we complete the sixth week in our Education emphasis of KOG2ILM. For others however, this sixth week has been God’s perfect timing as you have found your place to serve through meeting the needs of a teacher with a simple request, perhaps you answered the call to give a teacher support through being their prayer partner this week. There are others who heard God’s voice so loudly this week and are stepping out in faith to commit to build a relationship with a young child through the TORO program. Just this week these two requests were made from our Alderman partners:

“We would like a basketball and football for our recess time. Also I am doing a concession stand as a part of my token economy and would greatly appreciate some help providing the treats. It can be any kinds of chips, crackers, or snack items that are individually packaged as well as drinks (just no sodas). I am so grateful that we have you guys available to us!”

“We have 2 school secretaries that missed the prayer partner sign ups if anyone can help they’d love to be prayed for!!!”

Within fifteen minutes each of these requests were filled with generous folks willing and ready to answer God’s call. So how about you? Have you wanted to plug-in but not sure if you’ve missed the boat? Don’t ever doubt God’s timing – there’s always room for you and there’s always a need that needs to be met.

To God be all the glory- great things He has done!

250+ people have given school supplies and snacks

18+ people helped provide an inspirational lunch for the Alderman staff

16 people have committed to be paired with a teacher as their prayer partner for the year

28+ people provided backpacks filled with all the necessaties to being school prepared

46 people have committed to be a TORO partner-building realtionships with a child while helping them learn to read and succeed

#KOG2ILM  #becauselovedoes

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VISIT: http://www.becauselovedoes.org

CELEBRATING IMMEASURABLY MORE: KAREN REFUGEE MINISTRY AND GPS

As I start my 39th year of ministry at First Baptist it might seem that nothing new could be done. How big God is should never be doubted. What God has in store for all of us should never be questioned.  These past few years have been amazing with the new work that God has allowed me and First Baptist to join Him in. Five years ago there were no Burmese Karen Refugee ministry and only a very limited college ministry. God has opened the door wide in these two areas of mission work and it has filled me and many First Baptist members with so much joy and purpose. gps-beach

The last two nights were very exciting for GPS, the college ministry of First Baptist.  Earlier this semester at UNCW, over 247 college students filled out “I am interested in missions” cards at the UNCW Involvement Fair.  GPS stands for Go Passionately Serve and First Baptist’s GPS had a booth at the Involvement Fair.  Already this year, 54 UNCW students have helped serve meals at our Tuesday night Feeding the Homeless Ministry, 34 students have help our Burmese Karen Refugee children and teenagers with their homework on Wednesday night during CrossTraining, 62 came to our GPS Masonboro Island kickoff cookout Adventure, and 26 have come to our Sunday night Bible Study/Worship nights.  It has been very exciting to see these college students serve God by following Jesus example of welcoming the refugees, feeding the homeless and worshiping God.

phil-4This past week a great group of 35 GPS students not only fed the homeless on Tuesday night, but went around to their tables, sat with them, listened to their stories, asked for their prayer requests and needs.  After all the tables and chairs have been packed away, we had a tremendous prayer circle and it was very moving to hear both the GPS students pray but also several of the homeless men join our prayer circle and pray with all their hearts.  The very next day at Wednesday’s CrossTraining, a group of 34 Burmese Karen Refugees children and teenagers were joined one-on-one with 21 GPS students to help them with their homework.  We have several Karen refugees who have just come to Wilmington this summer and are beginning from  “square one” learning English and doing their homework.  Watching these pairs of children who for many were living in Thailand in very poor living and educational circumstances only six months to two years ago, and GPS students from UNCW, studying, reading, and laughing together is terrific.phil-2ra

An added blessing this year that God has provided is a new GPS college students who was a 1st grade refugee from Vietnam when she came to America 12 years ago to settle with her family of mother, father and seven brothers and sisters in the Greensboro area.  “Ra” is a student at UNCW and signed up for GPS at the fall UNCW involvement fair.  She came to help one of the Burmese families who has two teenage girls move into a new apartment, setting up their beds, arranging their bedroom furniture and clothes.  Ra also went shopping with one of the 15-year-old Karen girls to pick our a new dress to wear to a recent Burmese wedding that was held at the Activities Center.  It will be an amazing example for all of our Burmese Karen kids to see  Ra who came to USA just like them when she was a child and now is a student at UNCW.

God is truly doing IMMEASURABLY MORE in the lives of both the Burmese Karen children, teenagers, mothers, fathers and the lives of our GPS students from UNCW.

Blog By: Don Vigus

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#immeasurablymoreFBC     #becauselovedoes

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VISIT: http://www.becauselovedoes.org

GOD CALLED ME INTO MINISTRY- THE MINISTRY OF BEING A TEACHER

When I was in high school I was called into ministry. God called me to be a teacher. Later on he called me to be an administrator. I am an assistant principal and of course one of my responsibilities is handling student behavior and discipline. When I think about the time of day that students are most likely to get in trouble at my school, it’s 7:15-7:30 a.m. That sounds pretty early in the morning considering the tardy bell doesn’t ring until 8:00. 7:15-8:00 a.m. is the time when our students are exiting the buses and waiting in line to eat breakfast. All students are welcome to ride the school bus and eat breakfast but at my school but those who do are typically the ones who are on free or reduced lunch and their parents don’t have the disposable income to drive their students to school or they don’t have a car. Imagine getting up early in the morning, riding the bus with other22295255442_9a41c02d4a_b students that haven’t eaten either and then waiting in line for breakfast with other hungry students. Last school year the line was so long that it stretched out the cafeteria and down the hall near the office. Often times students had a hard time waiting patiently to reach the front of the breakfast line. Students were in the office for being disrespectful to staff or cutting in line and the day was just getting started.
I probably handle discipline a bit differently than other principals because I have the privilege of knowing the grace that Jesus Christ extends to each one of us. I choose to use student conduct problems as opportunities to talk with students about who they want to be and how school can help them get there.

Last year the community provided many resources for our students. A nearby church adopted us for “Backpack Buddies”, a program that provides non-perishable food to families on the weekend when students aren’t able to eat breakfast and lunch at school. The residents of the neighborhood across the street adopted several students at Christmas. They were ‘Hidden Angels’ who bought bicycles, toys, pajamas and books for students, wrapped them and delivered them to our school counselor to be distributed to families that requested assistance. A retired teacher that lives in the neighborhood behind the school dropped off goodies for the office staff just about every holiday. She happens to be a member of FBC which makes me extra proud to call her my friend. These are just three examples of how the community loved our school. With 650+ students, we hope that our community partners walk alongside us again this year.
This past week I began my fourth year as an assistant principal, my twenty-first year as an educator in New Hanover County. Once again we opened the doors to greet students as they got off school buses, walked into the cafeteria and waited for breakfast. The breakfast line was shorter this week than last year. I hope that is an indication that families had the money to buy groceries and ate breakfast at home. The line always grows longer as the year progresses. I intentionally added more staff to ‘breakfast duty” this year. My hope is that with more supervision there will be more opportunities for our staff to talk with students, to build relationships and to recognize when students are having a rough start to the day. We can’t control what students are going through when they aren’t with us at school but we can provide a warm breakfast, a friendly greeting and a safe environment so that our students are ready to learn.

Blog By: Janna Lennon

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#KOG2ILM  #BECAUSELOVEDOES

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VISIT: WWW.BECAUSELOVEDOES.ORG

CHANGING THE WORLD ONE LIFE AT A TIME

Thank God for amazing teachers who change their students’ lives and change the world as a result!  #becauselovedoes

 

 

                               #KOG2ILM     #becauselovedoes

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                                              VISIT http://www.becauselovedoes.org

EDUCATION IS OPPORTUNITY TO SHOW WHAT LOVE DOES!

Education is Opportunity To Show What Love Does! Serving as a coach and high school educator is one of the most rewarding opportunities that one can have.  I have the opportunity to support young people in what is often a crucial time in shaping their future.  People regularly separate sports and education at the high school level.  However, I believe they go hand-in-hand as one provides key elements of discipline and focus that lead to success in the other.  This is where I have felt the strong calling of God in my life.  The opportunity to lead young men on the football field also gives me the responsibility to help them grow into men of high character that will push towards goals of success in each area of their life.  This clearly includes athletics and academics, but expands further to the lessons of what it means to be a good husband, father, and citizen in this community.  I regularly have chances to present my faith, but more importantly have the responsibility to model my faith each day with humble leadership, love, and support.

14114920_10210540015555853_8142242045313322168_oI can think of multiple examples of students and/or athletes that I have had the opportunity to work with that were dealing with struggles in their teens that I cannot imagine.  Teens in our city are dealing regularly with the pressures of fitting in with sex, drugs, and alcohol that have been around for years.  These pressures are constant and with the prevalence of social media are now magnified.  However, while not to down-play that difficulty, there are other issues such as homelessness, hunger, and gang violence that are becoming more evident as well.  I have had multiple players whose lives have been affected in traumatic ways by these struggles.

Many of our students and athletes are growing up in single parent homes. Those parents are doing everything they can to raise their children in the manner that they see fit.  However, there is often a void that is left when lacking a father or mother.  As a coach and a teacher, there is a responsibility to be an example that will hopefully help fill that void for those individuals.

These struggles are apparent at each school in the county and surrounding area.  The question is, as Christians, what can we do to help?  The impact of KOG2ILM program at Alderman Elementary has provided an incredible example of the opportunity that we have.  There are organizations such as Communities in Schools that do an amazing job of reaching out to provide support for students that struggle with problems such as literacy, hunger, and poverty.  These organizations are regularly seeking participation and aid.13920107_10210389463152137_3298685740560298885_o

For those that have students in our schools, encourage them to reach out to classmates and teammates that may come from a different background.  Invite them over for dinner, to play video games, or to shoot hoops.  This may put them or more likely you (parents) out of your comfort zone, but you must realize the impact you can have on a young person who lacks support at home.  I have a close relationship with a former player that to this day, states that my wife and I having him and a few of his friends over for dinner when he was in high school led to him getting to where he is now.  It was a simple meal to us, but you had never seen a group of boys so grateful.  She grew to love them so much that she started baking cookies and sending them to the boys at school each week.  Such a simple display of caring was what these boys needed.  He has told me that they were on a path to jail and now each of them is working a steady job and raising a family.

Where there are struggles, there is opportunity.  Teaching, educating, and parenting present us with incredible opportunities to display what Love Does.  Take advantage, get involved, and show the love of Christ to our young people! Love Does!

Blog By: Craig Underwood

History Teacher & Football Coach-Hoggard High School

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#KOG2ILM    #becauselovedoes

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http://www.becauselovedoes.org