“You’ve supported me, now it’s my turn to get to support you!”

By, Amanda Knight

Mycah walked up the steps of our apartment one night. When I opened the door she was wet from running through the rain and I quickly invited her in as we both embraced.  In her hands, she held a gift bag and her usual big beautiful smile.  She handed us the gift and told my husband Gavin and I that we needed to open the gifts in front of her so she could see our reaction.

As I opened the gifts, I took out beautiful baby onesies full of colors, with dragons, cute sayings, and adorable prints.  Since Gavin and I announced our pregnancy, these were some of our first baby gifts so the feeling of gratitude was especially powerful.  But the clothes didn’t stop!  More and more outfits, all thoughtfully selected. I noticed a card still in our bag.  I eagerly reached for the card, but she stopped me. “…You have to wait until I leave to read that,” she said.

Instead, we chatted about her upcoming summer job. She was looking forward to returning to work at Kids Across America—an inner city summer camp. This would be her second year to serve.  Gavin and I were happy to congratulate her in person on her amazing grades in college (straight A’s!), her leadership on campus as a Resident Assistant, and her involvement at her church.

After chatting, we realized her ride was still waiting for her in the parking lot.  We thanked her and hugged goodbye.  She ran back through the rain while Gavin and I both sat down to look again at the beautiful clothes that God had blessed us with. It was more than just gifts we were admiring, but more importantly, the beautiful relationship that God had been molding for so many years. The relationship had impacted both Mycah and me!  It was humbling to think back on all the Bible studies, outings, trips, and stories Mycah and I had gone through together.  I gave God praise and then remembered the card still in the bag!  As I opened the card, I read Micah’s note. These words stuck out boldly:  “You’ve supported me…now it’s my turn to get to support you.”

In my training as a social work major, there was always talk of boundaries, which indeed are especially important. Some understand boundaries to mean no contact with people you serve outside of work hours.  As Christians though, I think there are significant times when we need to evaluate if our boundaries are keeping others from using their God-given gifts for the kingdom.

Those of us who are used to giving, or “providing services,” often can feel very awkward receiving.  But in the same way that Jesus said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive,” we cannot be selfish and always be the giver.  We must also allow others the opportunities to serve and to give, even if that means we are the receiver.  It is indeed a humbling place to receive.

It reminds me of the feeling Peter must have had when Jesus said He must wash Peter’s feet.  Peter’s initial reaction was, “No Way!  You can’t wash my feet!  Jesus, no!  I serve you! You don’t serve me.”  When we are usually the ones that give, it can feel so wrong receiving–like things are out of order. But we need to remember that Jesus told Peter, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.”  Then Peter said, “Then not just my feet but my hands and head as well!”

We don’t always know where we will see the Lord in our everyday lives.  If we are open to both giving and to receiving, we may see Jesus through the interactions of people all around us.

Amanda, far left, with a group of TML Alumni.

Open Doors Lead to Open Hearts at Touching Miami with Love

Our doors are always open for you to see the impact of your giving and we invite you to stop in and see us in Overtown or West Homestead. When you do, here is just a glimpse of what you may find.

Our Spiritual Formation Directors (Amanda in Overtown and Martin in West Homestead) will be guiding the children through weekly devotionals that proclaim how they were fearfully and wonderfully made. Some of our children’s program instructors are leading engaging and educationally enriching lessons on literature, fitness, and enrichments in science topics, literature, or history.  Others are teaching the kids a drum cadence or dance lesson or are cooking up a culinary arts lesson.  You can peek in the window and see our Reading Interventionists; five in all at both sites.  They meet with students in one of the tutoring rooms where students get needed help with reading skills.  Our Case Managers will likely be just returned from their daily time in our partner schools where they met with teachers and shared lunch in the cafeteria with our students. Over the course of the afternoon, they will meet one-on-one to encourage the students and ensure that they are on track with their individualized Success Plans we create each year with students.

Our middle and high school students are working on TML’s laptops as they do their homework every afternoon and if you have time to stay for evening programming you’ll find staff setting up for dinner as we serve a full sit down dinner to begin each night of youth programming.  After dinner, our staff will then lead Creative Arts sessions, and on other nights Social Skills classes. Our Spiritual Formation Directors lead devotions for youth, challenging students to connect with the God who loves them.

We stay busy with nearly 450 children, youth, and adults actively engaged in our year-round programming and we couldn’t do it without your support.

West Homestead Spiritual Formation Director Announced

After thirteen years of faithful ministry, Wanda Ashworth-Valencia is moving to be closer to family in July.  As we looked to hire a Spiritual Formation Director, one of the many roles she filled, we sent job requests to seminaries, partner ministries, and made online postings to seek the best candidate to lead this important aspect of our programming.  We looked across Miami-Dade County and across the country for the right person to guide our children and youth.  After numerous interviews, we found no one with as great sense of passion, understanding of the West Homestead community, and experience with youth as our very own Martin Villa.

As many of you know, Martin first came to Touching Miami with Love: West Homestead (formerly Open House Ministries) as a second grade student. During his time in the program, Wanda’s love had a profound influence on Martin.  As he grew up in the program, Wanda encouraged him and challenged him to grow as a leader first through a summer position in high school and later as a fellow staff member. Martin has shared about his passion for TML and his West Homestead community in several settings. In 2015, he was asked about the students that he teaches, “I see my second grade self in them as I teach them and hang out with them. When they tell me their struggles, I see my struggles. I see the things I used to go through as a child with my family. I can feel them. My passion is in these kids . . .that’s what TML is for. For the teenagers and everyone else that I’m teaching now.  This is their home. This the place they need to be.”

We are so grateful to Wanda the legacy she leaves behind in the life of Martin.  Please join us in welcoming Martin into his new role as he leads the spiritual formation of West Homestead’s children and youth.

Martin with campers, Summer 2012

Making Space to Listen to Youth

We all know the teen years can be rough for youth. The average teen deals with lots of emotions and talking to teens about their feelings can be difficult. This is true for one of our newer teens in our youth program, Asia.*  We share her story as one example of many of how your support is making a difference in the lives of those we serve.

Asia joined our youth program at our Overtown Site four months ago.  Our youth staff knew there was likely something behind her aggressive verbal attacks.  Oftentimes during our weekly Social Skills classes, the youth share about their personal lives, but after months Asia never shared. Her anger was coming from a deep seated pain, but staff were unable to get deeper conversations started.  It was instead during Creative Arts in a small group that Asia finally opened up to TML staff member, Tianna. With her head down focused on her project, Asia shared how since she was a very young girl she’s watched her mom struggle with substance abuse.  During low times when her mom relapsed, Asia had to live with different relatives and how that made school and friendships difficult.  The constant shuffling from home to home, disconnect from friends, and missing out on a healthy relationship with her mom has taken its toll on Asia’s sprit.  That night over a simple activity Tianna was able to be the listening ear Asia so desperately needed and trust began to form.

Fast forward several weeks and many conversations later, Tianna along with other youth staff from TML stopped in at Booker T. Washington School during lunch.  Asia spotted across the lunch room and nearly ran over to them.  Tianna was shocked to see Asia so excited as she introduced them to several of her friends.  The smile on her face was real and the excitement in her voice such a marked difference from the sarcastic, rude Asia just a few weeks ago.  Asia’s turbulent teen years aren’t over and her mom’s road to permanent recovery may still be long and winding, but because of your support Asia can have trusted adults who care about her in her life and a place to come for support.