By Will Raybon
Jesus said to them, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.” Mark 10:14
Touching Miami with Love’s West Homestead Site might not look much like the Kingdom of God to the untrained eye.
An unassuming building sitting across from a local school, the site provides a safe haven for the children of West Homestead, Florida. In March, FBC Boone’s college group spent their spring break loving on the children that attend the after school program in West Homestead, Fla. None of us really knew what we would be doing once we arrived there; we just knew that it had to do with children. None of us suspected the love we would see and feel as we walked through the doors of that unassuming building.
West Homestead is a community plagued by poverty, fear and violence. Nearly half of the children that attend the program are living below the poverty level. Nearly all of the children qualify for free or reduced lunch at their schools and the program’s feeder elementary school received a failing grade last year. Over half of the children have said that they live in a home where someone is struggling with addiction.
Gangs prey on the youth of the community, attempting to drag them into their bleak world and show them that there are other nefarious ways to get what they what. TML shows them another path though—a path that shows the community that there is always a light in the dark.
It is so evident to anyone that walks through the doors how much the leaders there care about their charges. They help them with their homework, play with them outside and lead them in enrichment activities. Multiple nights each week, TML provides a meal and Bible study for anybody who wishes to stay after regular hours. FBC Boone came into this environment as outsiders, we left as family.
Curtis Privette, I, and the college students, arrived early every day to help with jobs around the building such as painting, mulching,and sorting books. We finished up just before the kids got there and we would divide up into our different age groups.
The last night we were there, it was my privilege to sit with a few of the boys and hear the testimony of one of the leaders. This leader had gone through the program himself when he was younger and it had steered him back toward the light after having pursued the wrong path. He shared with the boys that there was something greater: a God that loved them, a God that enabled the TML leaders to love these kids every single day, a God that had brought them new friends from North Carolina.
As we left that last night, I was nearly overwhelmed with emotion. Words seem so trivial when it comes to describing an experience like the one we all shared in West Homestead, Florida. There was a song we were taught a song on the last night that all the students at TML West Homestead hold dear:
All my life I’ve been waiting for
I’ve been praying for
For the people to say
That we don’t wanna fight no more
There will be no more wars
And our children will play
They sang this song with such joy and feeling, it felt like a prayer. There is always a light in the darkness. In West Homestead, there is light.
Will Raybon serves as the CBFNC College Ministry Assistant and will be pursuing his M.Div. at Gardner-Webb School of Divinity beginning fall of 2016.