Over the last 3 years we have been fortunate to have developed a wonderful relationship with the local elementary school closest to our inner city East Baltimore location. The school, William Paca Elementary, is led by a wonderful and encouraging principal named Mrs. Tose.
During the Christmas season each of the last few years, Captivate Church (along with our partner churches) have adopted William Paca elementary school by providing gifts for hundreds of students, singing carols with the students, providing cookies, etc. In addition we have adopted the 110 teachers and staff by hosting their annual Christmas party. We have catered in a great meal, provided entertainment and served each educator personally as though they were in a restaurant.
This year Mrs. Tose invited us to do something a little different. We were asked if we would be interested in doing a Christmas carnival in the gym for several of the grades. We jumped on the opportunity. Our inner city missionary, Colleen Smith along with a team she assembled prepared the gymnasium early Friday morning, December 14th and created a festive atmosphere compete with stations for creating jingle bells, coloring pages and candy cane reindeer. We also brought two of our moon bounces and furnished the teachers lounge with a ton of sweets. We absolutely LOVE our partnership with William Paca.
The highlight of my time was watching great teachers shine. One particular educator, a Christian, shared with me how she speaks to the students in terms of ‘grace’. She tries to give them grace and helps them to understand what this means. I was able to see this display of grace in action when I asked her about a group of 6-8 students who were in trouble and had been required to sit against the wall. I asked if we could give those students a chance to participate. The teacher agreed. One by one I observed her engage each student, and exercise genuine grace.
As we both knelt down to get eye level with the kids, the teacher would ask what the student had done wrong and how the student could do better in the future. The entire time the teacher spoke to the child she was fixing their uniform. She buttoned up shirts that had gotten sloppy and fixed collars that had fallen over. One after another students responded with humility and genuine repentance. Unprompted, each student leaned in to their teacher after they were released and gave her a hug. This teacher wiped away tears and encouraged the students as they went on their way. What I saw in these teachers was a powerful commitment to loving their students.
You should know that these students come from one of the roughest parts of our city. Their homes are often filled with conflict and financial resources tend to be sparse. To see these teachers in their element was priceless. We love our educators and are so thankful for them. As a church we will continue to be a blessing to the administration, educators and the students of our community!
Mrs. Tose deserves a tremendous amount of support for her continued outreach to the private sector. We are only one of a half-dozen groups who have regular connections to the school and I am certain that tens of thousands of dollars and hundreds upon hundreds of volunteer hours are given to our local elementary school thanks to a wonderful education professional in Mrs. Tose who creates the environment for these partnerships. It’s a joy to serve great servant leaders!
One final word about our volunteers… Three of them came to Baltimore this week from one of our great partner churches, FBC Concord in Knoxville, TN. Their 9.5hr drive brought them here to serve and serve they have. Additionally the rest of the team today were members of Captivate Church… several of whom I’ve had the honor to baptize. They all took a day off of work to serve the students of East Baltimore. They get ‘it’. I am so proud to be their pastor!
Check out some of the pictures. (Click to Enlarge)