For those of you who were around for Isaac’s July sermon series called “Neighboring”, you may recall a story he read from JWers Paul & Ellen Teran. Their story is both eye-opening and inspirational and we wanted to share the full version with you. So here, in Ellen’s voice, is part one of the two-part Rosedale Ridge story. Read on!
God has really been stirring things up at the apartment complex that I worry most about. Paul and I are very involved at Rosedale Ridge, a very poor apartment complex about 7 minutes from church. (It is at the top of a huge hill on S. Mill St.) All of the kids who live at the complex feed into Frank Rushton Elementary. This complex and group of people have really tugged on our hearts: kids hoarding food at school because they don’t have enough to eat, moms with no way to get to the grocery store, parents making poor choices, VERY few fathers around, many kids sleeping on the floor, unsupervised kids playing outside, fighting, gang violence, drugs….
Paul and I took five middle schoolers from Rosedale Ridge to Kids Across America Camp this summer. Everything was donated for them to go (the kids didn’t have enough clothes, suitcase, pillow, etc). The leadership there were so impressed and encouraged by our kids, that they have promised to come to KC to do several rallies at Rosedale Ridge. Through camp and through riding in our cars, the kids are now obsessed with the Christian rapper, Lecrae. We gave them several CDs, and now all of the siblings, friends and parents are in love with his music, too! The say “Ms. Teran, I love this God music!!!” and they talk about how much they identify with him. They’re reading their Bibles everyday and are wanting to start Bible studies with the younger kids. Now, when I go to pick up kids or visit families, rather than hearing X-rated music blaring through the thin walls, I hear kids rapping to Lecrae. It’s amazing.
The other night we had our campers over for dinner and Bible study, and they were telling us all about the gang violence, the police actions, the fighting, the guns, the lack of food…We hear this from kids of all ages, but the way these kids talked broke our hearts even more. It’s much more violent than we ever knew.
The families have to walk 2 miles to the nearest bus stop to get food or to get to work. (I am trying to get in contact with the Mayor about this…) and when the few people who do have cars, offer to give others rides, they charge them a ridiculous amount in food stamps.
I am on the Board of Directors for Kansas City Urban Youth Center (KCUYC)–an after school program at the complex. It is struggling, and they are working to re-vamp, but it provides the kids with help with homework, a snack, a safe place to be, they play games, do some cooking, etc. I am encouraged by the good that is taking place, but there is still so much need.
I’ve had this vision of loading up a van full of moms (who don’t have cars) and driving them to Price Chopper or Wal-Mart or a grocery store. The moms could have 1 hour to shop (they would have to use their own food stamps) and then they could get back in the van and be dropped off at Rosedale Ridge. We couldn’t serve everyone, but I know it would help the families so much! Right now, the closest store, within walking distance, is Family Dollar. I know families who are eating chips and pop for dinner…
I have been working with a family of one of my students, this week who had been homeless all year. The mom would pick up her Kindergarten daughter (oldest of 5) from school, using the city bus, carrying their clothes in grocery bags. She has 5 kids, has been on her own since she was 14, had been homeless all year–and yet her daughter was the highest kid in my class (reading at a 3rd grade level), was well clothed and so loved. The mom used our Internet in my classroom after school to try to find housing. So many people were praying for her and eventually she found a long term housing program.
Well, last week, she finally got an apartment at Rosedale Ridge. However, she had no way to move her things. She is not a person to ask for help before she has to, so they lived in the apartment for a week with nothing but what they could carry on the city bus (which is 2 miles away from their apartment). After a week, she finally asked for help. We helped move in clothes and toys, but through the trips back and forth to move things, my little student told me (through a little questioning) how they were sleeping on the floor, because they had no beds, how they are eating PBJ for dinner every night, because they don’t have pots and pans or a microwave, etc. When I got to the apartment, I realized my student was correct. There was NOTHING. I talked to the mom, and she showed me her “list” of what she wanted to get for the home, saying she would do it, but it would take awhile..
I tell you all of this because I came home and cried myself to sleep. I was so distraught and so discouraged. And then I sent a few texts and a few emails. By the time I woke up in the morning, friends had offered to donate couches, dining tables, pots and pans, microwaves, sheets, blankets, toothpaste… Then I got a call from a ministry who returned my call, telling me they had brand new mattresses for every person in the family. And that we could pick them up today.
I called the mom and told her the story, asked her if it was ok if we brought these things, if she even wanted them. She said: “Ms. Teran, me and the kids, we been praying every night all year long for God to take care of us. I used to think prayer doesn’t work, but now I KNOW it does! I am so grateful!”
When we dropped them off today, the kids were sleeping on the floor, wrapped in blankets. No pillows. They woke up and saw us, jumped on the bed and said: “BEDS!!! We don’t have to sleep on the floor!!!!! Please tell your friends thank you!!” I got to hug the mom and tell her how many people love her–how she has strength that I can’t even dream of having, and how the Lord is so obviously taking care of them.
The mayor’s office called and I have a meeting with them on Monday about the bus stop and several city commissioners have emailed saying they would like to meet as well!
I tell you all of this because this was NOT Paul and my efforts: we didn’t donate ANY furniture: this is the body of Christ coming together. Friends from school and other places, who are broken and messed up like us, have prayed and donated and called their families, and helped us move furniture.
It’s not a solution, and there is still so much despair in that place, but it is a great reminder to me that God is holding the world in His hands and that He truly does care for these kids, even when it feels like they have been forgotten.
And that the body of Christ is a very powerful thing.
Ellen Teran is a third year Kindergarten teacher at Frank Rushton Elementary School and married her husband, Paul, in 2010. Paul is a medical student at the University of Kansas Medical School. Both attend Jacob’s Well regularly.
Stay tuned for Part 2 from Ellen next week…