This month, our Boaz recipient is an organization that I have had the pleasure of seeing grow from the very beginning, Bridge Ministry of Acadiana.
Here were a few details from the director, Jennifer Reynaud about BMA:
Bridge Ministry of Acadiana moved a very under-resourced neighborhood in the “Four Corners” area of Lafayette in 2003. In that year prostitution was rampant and 40% of Lafayette’s drug activity took place within one mile of the Bridge house house. The high school dropout rate was about 70%, and the annual income according to LEDA was $0-10,000 per capita in the neighborhood. After moving into the neighborhood BMA volunteers went door to door to meet, learn and assess the neighborhood’s assets from which they were to begin building. The three top issues were: 1) drugs/prostitution, 2) children’s education, and 3) children’s activities and respect. This assessment formed the foundation for BMA’s relationally empowering programs.
Many of the children who have remained at the Bridge through their high school years over the past 8 years or so have graduated from high school. They are currently attending technical college or ULL. And in 2011, Lafayette Police Chief Craft personally reported to our Neighborhood Association that violent crime was down 50% and no murders. Eight years ago, we began with 8 children and about 10 adults. Currently, BMA has 75 neighborhood children registered with another 20 on a waiting list.
I personally have loved getting to witness their passion for serving and love that they began by seeking out what the neighbors themselves felt they struggled with most. I remember going with my mom when I was in high school to drop off food and the summer I was pregnant with Vivi, Tyler and I both taught classes for their summer program. The kids were so sweet and loved giving “Vivi” hugs and always asked how I was doing.
I’ll leave you with this story of just how the Bridge is making a difference.
A father/ child relationship is one of the most important relationships in a person’s life, which is why God likens His relationship to us as a father caring for his children. Unfortunately, fatherlessness is a growing epidemic in our country, and is especially evident in the Bridge neighborhood. Only 11% of families in our area have a father living in the home. The overwhelming majority of our youth either do not have their father present in the home or know who their father is, and male role models in general are difficult to find. One of our greatest challenges at Bridge is to teach youth that there can be healing from wounds left by the hole of a missing father. As a staff we are increasingly encouraged by stories of youth who discover the love of and trust in their Heavenly Father.
One example is a bouncy 1st grade boy who started in our program a year ago, we’ll call him Rob. Rob is energetic, extremely charismatic, and has a caring heart for others. When he joined the program we were surprised to meet his family- a single dad! His dad would pick Rob up each day from Bridge, wait at the bus stop to see him before we would take him to Bridge, and attentively ask about his son’s day when picking him up. This dad was a singular example in our program! One morning we saw this dad’s picture on the news; he had been arrested for stabbing someone. Our hearts broke for the devastation this would mean for Rob and were worried when he didn’t show up at Bridge for the next few weeks, uncertain of who he would live with or if we would see him again. Thankfully he started living with his grandmother who brought him back to Bridge, but the boy who returned was different from the Rob we knew before. He was unruly, bitter, and tough. His sweet heart had turned cold and indifferent. But our volunteers, staff, and his grandmother were determined to recover his true character and introduce Rob to his Father who would never leave him or forsake him.
The last year has been a long road with Rob. We make crafts with him to take each week to visit his dad in prison on Fridays, we celebrate his dad’s birthday and pray for him, we talk with Rob about how to process his feelings, but most importantly we teach him about his Heavenly Father- one who loves Rob, created him uniquely, has a good plan for him, and will always be with him. Through good days and bad days we have slowly seen the charismatic and carefree Rob return.
We never know how much teaching the kids process and internalize, but sometimes we get a glimpse into their perspective. One day Rob was drawing a picture for his dad, but instead of just him and dad, there were four adult men in the picture. When I asked him to tell me about who was in the picture, he told me that it was of him with all of his dads. “Cause you know I really have four dads, not just one. This is my dad that I visit on Fridays, this is God, this is Jesus, and this is GAWD.” I tried to keep from laughing as I explained to him that God and GAWD are actually the same, they are just pronounced differently. He thought about it and answered, “I’m not sure they are the same, because you always tell me about God, and at church they teach me about GAWD. But they do seem a lot alike.” Once we cleared up that they were, in fact, the same, I couldn’t help but smile knowing that Rob knew who his true Father is.
As we launch pre-orders for the book this month, $.50 for every book, guidebook, workbook and flash card set will go to The Bridge this month as well!