McKenzie is an amazing young woman. She is bright, beautiful and has a vision for her future.
McKenzie lives in a community we have the privilege of working alongside. Her mom is amazing, raising 3 kids and volunteering her time in the community center we operate. She is coaching a basketball team for some of the kids in the community because she heard them talking about desiring one and decided to respond. McKenzie’s mom brought the idea to our team, and we are thrilled to rally behind her.
Her daughter is walking her mother’s footsteps. Like her mom, she has a big heart, and like all of us, she has hopes and dreams. She wants to be a model and veterinarian.
McKenzie is a young, African American woman who happens to be albino and her peers make fun of her often. If I went into the details of what people say to her, you would be horrified. The darkness of the human heart is capable of awful things, and she has received the weight of that. We have cried with her, laughed with her, and simply been a friend to her. That’s what being present in every moment allows for, and also why we believe it is an essential part of what we do.
Recently, McKenzie was bullied to a breaking point. We won’t discuss the details, but I think many of us would have felt a similar way. Hearing, “you aren’t valuable,” over and over again eventually becomes a narrative you believe about yourself.
In this situation, our amazing staff represented Jesus. They simply put their arms around McKenzie, reminded her who they know her to be (a beloved and beautiful child of God), and said they would be there for her. How they represented that to her is what I want to share with you:
They set up a modeling photo shoot for McKenzie, where she was able to get in front of a camera and realize her dream. And, guess what? She was a natural! Since then, other individuals have noticed the gift and beauty of McKenzie and given her opportunities to be photographed as well. The photo you will see below is McKenzie. Simply stunning! I know you will agree.
This is what the love and goodness of God looks like.
Last week, Behind Every Door had the privilege of hosting a worship night with Greater Ideal Missionary Baptist Church for the youth at Village Oaks. The worship night was an addition to the regular after school programming at Village Oaks, and the on site staff was concerned that the youth would not be willing to give up extra time out of their day to stay. However, they were amazed when every single student who attended the afterschool programming stayed for the worship night!
From the beginning of worship, there was emotional and personal atmosphere in the room. This was much in part to an exercise done by Golden, Behind Every Door discipleship staff member, with the youth the day before. He had them line up on one side of the room while he stood on the other. He proceeded to ask them personal questions and if they could answer “yes” they took a step forward, towards him. The questions were things such as, “Do you have both parents at home? Have you ever been evicted? Have you ever had to skip meals because you just didn’t have any food?” The goal of the exercise was to build strength and community between the youth and to physically show them that no one of them is struggling with hard things on their own.
With this on their minds, the youth opened up more than ever before during the worship night the next day. Church members from Greater Ideal Missionary Baptist Church were in attendance, along with our staff, to listen to the hard things the youth are going through, to give them advice, and to pray with them.The atmosphere in the room was one of youth led worship, where the students took the initiative to share their stories, step out in worship, and pray for their friends and their community as a whole.
This worship night is just one of the many great things going on in the discipleship program at Village Oaks! The students are tasked with reading and looking up Scripture on their own, and are challenged to memorize verses. These tasks they view as challenges and are determined to complete them and in the process, so much growth happens!
Thank you for continuing to pray for the discipleship programs at Village Oaks, The Hive, and The Rose! God is using the wonderful Behind Every Door staff to make a difference in the physical, emotional, and spiritual well being of every child we serve!
What began as an extra safety measure implemented by our team has become an atmosphere changing act. What simple thing could have this much impact? Meeting our kids at the bus stop.
Between the bus stop and The Rose Community Center are a few busy streets and major intersections. To ensure that our kids were reaching The Rose safely, our staff leaders Darrion and Tierre decided to surprise the kids at the bus stop and walk with them over to The Rose on the first day of our fall programming in early September. The first day they met the kids at the busy stop, the kids were a little shocked, but the shock gave way to excitement as they were welcomed gladly by our staff.
The second day of school, Darrion and Tierre again went to the bus stop and waited for the kids to arrive. It only took a few days before the kids begun to expect to see Darrion and Tierre when they got off the bus and they waited with excitement and anticipation for their stop.
For children who are raised in poverty, many things are transient. Their home many not be consistent, having food on the table may not be a given, and having parents there to welcome them home from school may be a foreign concept. By Darrion and Tierre always being at the bus stop when they arrive, there is at least one consistent thing in their day. This builds trust with the students we serve and they know that our staff are people they can count on.
As well as building trust, meeting the kids at the bus stop has increased the moral of the students which has increased their excitement for the programming we have for them after school. Having someone waiting on them when they get off the bus reminds them that they matter and that they are loved, both of which are core values of Behind Every Door.
Have you ever seen a glimpse of a possible future and it’s changed your whole outlook on where you are?
Five of Behind Every Door’s on-site leaders endeavored to inspire a group of students from their after school programming by showing them a new world beyond what they had previously seen. What was this new world? College.
Darrion Lewis (Community Director at The Rose) and 4 other Behind Every Door on-site leaders took 19 high school students from our 3 communities to Darrion’s alma mater, Langston University in Oklahoma. Langston is a part of the Historically Black College and Universities network of colleges that were established before Civil Rights Act of 1964 with the intention of primarily serving the African-American community.
Although Oklahoma doesn’t seem that far away to some of us, the 245 mile road trip from Dallas proved to be quite a feat for most of our students, some of whom had never been outside of Dallas. Some students saw mountains and hills for the first time in their lives, and some marveled at the cows in the fields along the highway.
Samandre, a 15 year old freshman boy, had never been out of Texas before attending this trip. In fact, the only place he had ever been besides Dallas was San Antonio. After years of struggling with grades and getting in trouble in school, Samandre has recently found a determination to succeed, as he stays busy with his school work, football practice, and working 30 hours a week at Kroger. Darrion and his colleague Cierra Cotton decided Samandre was the kind of student that would greatly benefit from seeing how other students like him were going to college.
When arriving at Langston, Darrion (Community Director at The Rose) took the kids on a tour of the university. He was able to give them a unique perspective as he was a student there himself for his college education and was also quarterback of the football team. Having this personal connection to the university helped to inspire our kids and helped to break down the mindset that attending college is impossible, which is what most of our students think.
After the tour of the university, the students got a tour of the athletic facilities and got to meet the head coach of the football team. This unique experience made watching the football game that night more personal for the kids. They were in awe that they were watching a game on the exact field on which Darrion played, cheerin on the Langston Lions! It wasn’t just athletic dreams being built during the game, but also band, color guard, and drill team aspirations. A high school senior girl from The Rose was inspired by the band and shared that she dreamed of joining the school band if she went to a college like Langston.
When the tour was over and the group was safely back home in Dallas, Samandre was hopeful and encouraged. He told our staff leaders, “I really, really enjoyed myself. It was just a really good day. I’m really thankful you took us, and that you let us ride in the suburbans. I felt so cool.”
Darrion Lewis, Langston grad and Behind Every Door Community Director, shared his thoughts on the day:
“The intent of this trip was to expose our high school students to college, while also encouraging the students to take ownership in the experience, and to walk away seeing themselves one day attending college. Along with seeing the campus and attending the football game, our students were able to speak with campus leaders, ask questions, and take pictures. This trip meant the world to the BED Staff because God used us to affirm the students dreams of going to college.”
Behind Every Door has cultivated strong relationships with the communities we serve and with the children, youth, and parents who live there. Even still, we began to wonder how we could further connect with them. This answer came in an opportunity we were provided with last week.
Our staff leadership from The Rose Community Center were invited behind the Spence Middle School doors to meet with the new principal there, observe lunchtime, and see the kids who attend our Kids Club after-school program.
After the initial responses of “Wait, you’re not supposed to be here!” the kids were thrilled to see Darrion and Tierre in their school hallways and to get to spend time with them at lunch.
A pivotal moment for our staff was when they got the chance to talk with the campus security guard and hear that one of the greatest threats to the kids right now are suicidal thoughts. We learned that about two years ago a middle school boy committed suicide, and since then, the school has been searching for added support and healthy relationships to be established and fostered. Darrion Lewis shared that “We are hoping to start those efforts in building relationships with the children. This is only the beginning; however, we are excited about the limitless possibilities of what God is going to do.”
When we say we strive to know the stories behind every door, we mean EVERY door, including the door of Spence Middle School. This newfound partnership has endless potential and we are so excited to see where it leads.
A Request for Prayer for the Village Homes Community - Our summer has come to end and though we shared a lot of fun moments with our families and their children it was not without challenges.
Village Homes has been labeled an “at risk,” property by the City of Dallas, which simply means if there is not significant improvement in the areas of safety and living conditions, we could possibly be closed and thousands of people including kids and the elderly will be displaced. In the the mist of trying to turn things around, Village Homes saw three murders between June and August. While our kids are resilient, no child should have to live in a place where gun shots are routine and death is your neighbor.
Though we are soliciting your prayers it is not from a hopeless place. We had a wonderful back to school event, where we unveiled our “That’s Trash Bro” liter campaign, we played games, ate a bunch of snow cones, passed out school supplies and most importantly prayed for our kids that God would protect and guide them through a successful year!
For not the best of reasons, many eyes are watching Village Homes. “But God is our refuge and strength, our present help in trouble.” we are believing for such a transformation, that eventually we will say of the watching eyes that “their eyes were watching God!”
Thank you all for walking with and praying for us.
Prayer request shared and written by Village Home's Community Director, Kea Westbrook.
Here is a recap of this year's trip to Washington D.C. told by Village Home's Community Director, Kea Westbrook-
Summer 2018 did not disappoint, a specific highlight was being able to accompany a group of students to Washington D.C. We traveled to D.C. with 23 teenagers from across the three Behind Every Door Properties with the specific purpose to educate, inspire and have lots of fun!
There was so much to learn and from which to be inspired from the African American Museum to the Museum of the Bible, our students learned about their history both culturally and spiritually. Our adventures led us on a tour of the national mall where we were able to spend time at the Lincoln and King memorials. We visited the home of Frederick Douglas and toured the home of our U.S. Presidents. Yes, our students from Dallas TX were in the White House! Madam Tussaud’s wax museum allowed us to get close to all of the U.S. presidents and some of our favorite celebrities. And the National Harbor was a great place for some of us to conquer our fear of heights on the Ferris wheel, eat good fun and enjoy getting to know each other better.
Traveling to D.C. was a special gift that provided new experiences and new possibilities for our teens! After inventorying what impacted them the most, almost every adventure made it on at least one person’s list. However, an extra special moment for the majority was the privilege of having Deborah Roberts, an African American female who now works in the Department of Transportation, come share her testimony with us. Her beginnings were like many of our students, and she explained how she was able to overcome what seemed like insurmountable odds; Faith, her love for reading and with the right people around her, she persevered. Mrs. Roberts personal touch helped reach the hearts of some our students; they shared how she inspired them because of her confidence and because she was just like them; she infused hope.
Going to Washington was a journey that began this summer but the full weight of its’ benefits is still being measured. Every time we speak with our students more nuggets are revealed about just what that trip meant to them. We had devotion every morning and a debrief every night, prayerfully, we inspired habits of personal quiet time and healthy communication. There is so much more to tell, but I want to take the time to say thank you to every one that supported and prayed for our transformative trip, our gratefulness is more than what can be expressed.
THANK YOU - Behind Every Door Board of Directors for approving the trip; Stand Together for our special family dinner Thursday night in D.C.; Eddie Adesodun for designing our Roots to Routes logo (they were a great witness tool) and to PXP Solutions for getting our shirts printed on time; Deborah and William Roberts for your love and continued support; all the parents for entrusting your kids in our care (that means so much)!
Again, we set out to educate, inspire and have lots of fun. Mission accomplished and to God be the glory.
This summer, we are collaborating with an organization called Techie Factory that brought weekly technology camps to our Roseland Community Resource Center, (“The Rose”) so the kids we work with can access educational camps right in their apartment complex!
Techie Factory is an experience based, educational program for children to learn about technology while having fun and enjoying themselves. Their focus is reaching the up-and-coming generation with technological advances through fun and exciting experiences.
So far this summer, Techie Factory has brought the Fun with Coding and Circuit Boards Camp (June 11th-15th) and Innovation through Creative Design and 3D Printing Camp (June 18th-22nd) to The Rose for our kids to learn and enjoy. Additionally, we have students attending camp at the Rose this week to learn 2D Design!
We are so fortunate to be blessed with the generosity of Mess Wright, a staff member at Techie Factory, who made technology summer camps a reality for students who attend our programming regularly. Mess personally raised almost $8,000 in funding to provide our kids the Techie Factory camps she teaches. We could not be more grateful for how gracious she has been to our students!
Follow us on social media to see what our kids are up to at camp this week:
Facebook: Behind Every Door (like our page)
We are pleased to share with you some recent publicity we have received through the success of our amazing entrepreneurs and their creation of Urbanade!
Urbanade was featured in the recent print edition of Preston Hollow People, as well as on the Park Cities People website. The article includes Urbanade in a summer round-up, sharing with the Park Cities community fun ideas to take part in this month. In total, this placement garnered a total viewership of 22,620+.
Read our spotlight here-