Ellen and Paul Teran were advocates for children and families at Rosedale Ridge long before Jacob’s Well got involved there, and they have been instrumental in this partnership from the very beginning. Over the last year and a half, the Terans have served on JW’s Rosedale Ridge Leadership Team. Below, they reflect on the difference JW volunteers have made in that community, and, as always, they encourage us toward hope. Read their messages below (but first, if you haven’t already, read Isaac Anderson’s update).
Four years ago as an eager new teacher, when two of my students’ moms did not come to conferences, I looked up their addresses and drove up the big hill to their apartments at Rosedale Ridge. I was unprepared for what I saw and experienced. Immediately overrun by tons of kids, shocked by the conditions of the apartments, I sat on the floor of an unfurnished apartment as explicit music blared through the walls, and talked with my student and her sweet momma. I remember driving home from the conference knowing that my life would never be the same and knowing that the insight I had just gained about my student’s life would change me as a teacher forever.
The next few years were filled with so much despair as we stood with the families of Rosedale Ridge–students hoarding food because “I ain’t got no food, Ms. Teran”, kids desperate for love and attention, kids begging to come live with me, watching some of my favorite kids be evicted and leave, more heartbreaking conversations with mommas, kids sleeping on the floor with rats and roaches, stories of guns and violence and drugs, and knowing that these kids and families deserved more dignity and hope than they were given. Everytime I went to RR, kids would beg to be held, beg to get in my car, beg for me to be their mom.
And yet in the midst of this despair, we saw the hand of God. We saw and experienced His grace and goodness right alongside these families. We collected hundreds of toys and household necessities every Christmas, saw a new busline come to the bottom of the hill to connect the families to food & resources, watched teachers at school consistently love and motivate the kids. Over time, Lecrae’s gospel rap started blaring through the apartment walls. We took kids to camp to learn about Jesus, we read the Bible with moms and middle schoolers, we saw so much growth and so much beauty.
My time with Rosedale Ridge has been a constant rollercoaster of hope and despair. I can not list the amount of tears and worry and prayers of desperation we have prayed for our family of kids and moms at RR for the last four years. This year had a different reality. Although conditions were still horrible and the kids’ lives didn’t get any easier, they were surrounded by love. All of the volunteers showed up. Day after day they came and loved the kids, read stories, colored pictures, and exemplified the love of Christ. At school I started to notice that the kids were holding their heads higher. They were smiling. They had a new bus line to connect them to grocery stores, they had a Halloween party, a Thanksgiving Feast, a Christmas Drive, field trips to the pool & museum, etc. The kids were loved all day at school. After school, instead of wandering the field and getting into trouble, they ate snacks, played and experienced hope.
As I prepare to leave KC for Paul’s residency, and as our kids prepare to leave RR and find new housing, I hold onto HOPE. I believe that these seeds that have been planted matter, and that the Lord is holding these sweet kids in the palm of His hand. I have to believe that the last four years, and this year, and every moment at RR mattered. Thank you for loving these kids. Thank you for your time and energy and your prayers. As we prepare to say goodbye to these kids, I believe that we need to be realistic that we may never see them again. We need to cry and hug and be present while we can. We need to remind them that we will love them forever. They know change and transition all too well, but they rarely get to say a real goodbye. We must be the bearers of hope. We must remind them that their future is so bright and that they are so deeply loved. I thank God everyday for the time I had with every kid at RR. They have changed my heart and my family and my faith forever.
There is great hope for these kids. And for their mommas. And for us.
“We are not the healers, we are not the reconcilers, we are not the givers of life. We are sinful, broken, vulnerable people who need as much care as anyone we care for. The mystery of ministry is that we have been chosen to make our own limited and very conditional love the gateway for the unlimited and unconditional love of God”.
And now Paul…
It is difficult for me to capture and summarize what the families and children at Rosedale Ridge have meant to me over the past four years that Ellen and I have built friendships in the community. A year ago, our Rosedale Ridge Team was meeting, preparing and dreaming about the partnership between Jacob’s Well and Rosedale Ridge. It was an interesting time for Ellen and me as we were incredibly excited about the partnership but also knew that we would be taking a big step away from RR as we welcomed our daughter into the world, as Ellen prepared to be a working mom, and as I prepared for residency.
My deepest prayer for the partnership was that we would no longer need to promote the children and rally support for the complex, but instead that God would gather a handful of passionate and caring Christian adults who would fall in love with the children and see their value, joy and sweetness. Then, that those volunteers would formulate their own dreams for the community and develop their own excitement for the kids. God clearly answered this prayer in excess. Many of the kids have bragged to me about their mentors and I have seen so many more smiles and proud faces when I stop by RR. I know that there have been a lot of difficult days and tough situations that you have faced as mentors, but these children have been transformed by the consistent love and commitment that you have showed them. I am very grateful that God has facilitated a sense of belonging in the Jacob’s Well and Rosedale Ridge Partnership. The relationship was never about service but instead was about kinship. As Humans, Christians and Neighbors you demonstrated that these kids and their wellbeing belonged to you and that you, in return, also belonged to them and that is exactly how God chose to erase significant margins in the Rosedale community of KCK this past year.
A teenage boy from RR once confided in me that he was overwhelmed and scared. He was the oldest of four kids and he felt the pressure of being the ”man of the house”. He broke down as he told me that it was so unfair that he had to keep his siblings on track when there hadn’t been anyone in his life to lead him, because every man in his life is either locked up or dead. This boy left RR before the center was created, but the effect of your presence cannot be measured. You were role models, mentors, friends, and you demonstrated a pure love to these kids. The handshakes, hugs, affirmation and quality time that they experienced with you will have a greater effect than any of us will ever know.
As mentors, the past year hasn’t been easy and you have likely experienced a variety of emotions with these children. It may be difficult to describe what Rosedale Ridge has meant in your life, but I hope that your time at RR and the relationships that you formed have been life-giving and abundant for you. The story is not yet finished, so let us be the champions that these kids deserve and show each one of them their value in the Kingdom of God.