This is family. This is church.

In a lower-income neighborhood by the school where I teach is “The Neighborhood Impact House.” A local church* provides a cozy family environment with homework help, arts and crafts, music lessons, sports activities, a community garden, and a kid-friendly bible study. Children and youth flock to this home, and I go more for the gifts of grace received than for anything I can offer.

Last Thursday, I drove up to see church volunteers in costumes playing basketball with children and grilling hotdogs.

One young boy spoke my sentiments out loud, “This is the best party I’ve ever had.” His eyes never left the plate of food a kindly woman prepared for him.

When I went inside, the kitchen filled with children decorating cupcakes. A woman laid frosting and candy decorations before wide-eyed children.

Before long, faces smeared with Kelly Green frosting and fingers sank into the tiny chocolate cakes.

I looked down the hall to see a young woman tutoring several youth. A mother sat patiently watching her daughter receive the help she needed.

Upon entering the room, the ministry leader gently moved a little girl’s hand saying, “There you go. You can do it. Trace the letter with me.”

Pumpkins for decorating stacked high on the table in the art room next door. Little hands reached for their favorite pick. They drew happy faces mirroring their own.

Life and hope swirled through every room of that home and poured out of the front door as children giggled and scurried about. Fun and joy flooded the garage and front yard. If I were to close my eyes, I would have transported back in time to our family’s BBQ’s when my own children were young.

“Mrs. Luna,” I heard as a young girl came along side for a hug. “Mom, this was Eric’s teacher.” She said these words in English for me and then in Spanish so her mother could understand. I had taught her brother several years earlier. Her mother’s face lit up with interest, and I wondered whether this girl just might be in my literacy class next year.

I felt and watched the life surrounding and filling that home with love.  As I snapped pictures of the happiness in motion, I fought back the tears thinking, This is family. This is church.


*Central Christian Church welcomes contributions of time and funds for the Neighborhood Impact Ministry. Contact Local Outreach Leader Concepcion Harris at (661) 945-7902 or e-mail Concepcion

12 Replies to “This is family. This is church.”

  1. First of all I’m jealous I wasn’t there. There is nothing more important that making a difference in someones life. These pictures you posted makes one feel that they were there with you. Keep up the good work.


    1. Thank you Duke. I’m glad that the photos helped you to feel like you were there. That was my intent and it is always great to hear that my words and photos communicated what was in my heart.


  2. JoDee,
    Thanks for beautifully journnalling your experience at the NI house last week. Your help has been GREATLY appreciated! God bless your efforts!


    1. Renee, you are very welcome. The truth is, every time I go there I am inspired by your wonderful group from Central Christian. You are very special people and I feel privileged to be a small part.


  3. I agree this is church and family! I reminds me very much of the inner city neighborhood that I did my student teaching at so many years ago. Your blog brought some of those precious faces back to my mind wondering where are they now and what are they doing with their lives. Its hard to imagine them in their 30’s & 40’s, to me they are frozen in time as elementary students.

    I especially love the picture of the adult hand wrapped around the hands of a child while writing there is so much love in that picture.


    1. flyinggma, your comment makes me wonder about my former students. Although I am 51, I started my teaching career later in life, twelve years ago, so my first class is now graduating from college. How odd this is to think about. Fortunately, I have some connections with students who look me up years later. This is always so enjoyable. I’m also receiving facebook invites from former missionary kids I spent time with while in Amsterdam. They vividly remember our interactions even though they were middle school and teen ages at the time. They are now in their thirties with children of their own. I’m amazed at the impact we can have in the life of youth.


      1. I see a lot of the students that I have taught in our small town of 400 on a regular basis. Especially the ones who have decided that small town living is a great place to raise a family.

        I don’t have any contact with the students where I student taught it is 100 miles from here and there was no facebook or cell phones back then to keep connections going.

        There have been students over the years from not so great family situations that I just wanted to pack up and take home at the end of the day with me.


      2. flyinggma, I have had similar experiences with students whose family situations are desparate. In fact, just today one of my students gave me an essay about her life and although I held it together in front of her, I cried when I read it again at home. I’m amazed at how positive she is able to be with such tragedy.


  4. This just made me cry. I have listened to you week after week describe this house to me and now I see some photo’s of what you are talking about. I just loved seeing all this…..I really think this is part of what we envisioned with Lydia …..don’t you think? At any rate it is very inspiring my friend and so heartwarming. Thanks for posting this. B


    1. Barbie, I agree with you. I believe the Neighborhood Impact House is one expression of Vision Lydia. God never said exactly what form the after-school literacy help would take but I do know this ministry touches children and youth in an amazing way. We thought we needed to organize the vision but I suspect God is more into developing hearts of people to move them to help children learn to read. When I walked up to the house I smiled because I knew His plan turned out far better than anything I could ever organize. Also, thanks for your encouragement concerning the other post, “We choose our own subjugation.” I think we are finally catching on a bit sooner these days.


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