My favorite day of the week is definitely Friday – not because it is the start of the weekend, but because it’s the day I volunteer at Oliver Elementary. It’s a wonderful thing to know that, by God’s grace, I am making a difference in the lives of three little girls. I think I am even more appreciative of this privilege because I prayed for several years about where God wanted me to serve. I tried serving in different ministries, but none of them were a good fit until I came to Oliver. My long search has made the discovery of my ministry all the sweeter!
I’ve known for some time that I wanted to be a mentor, but I just wasn’t sure in what capacity. I deeply believe in the power of a mentor who loves Jesus because I’ve had several mentors who have been used by God to bring healing and restoration to my life. I simply want to give back the comfort that God has given to me. I can’t begin to tell you how much joy I feel when I can communicate to these girls that they are precious, smart, loveable, funny, creative, and beautifully created in God’s image.
When I first started at Oliver, I couldn’t help but think to myself, “What difference can one hour a week make in their lives?”
One Friday, as I was praising one of my girls for a job well done, I said, “That was excellent!” Immediately, she said the word “excellent” back to me in the exact tone and inflection I used, with the biggest smile on her face. I was taken aback in that moment, realizing that these girls are watching me, listening to me and imitating me. It is my greatest prayer that they would see the love of Jesus in me and want to imitate Him!
I am amazed by the connection that God has built between us in just one short year.
Every Friday I have lunch with my three girls. After lunch, I pull them out of their classroom one at a time to do reading activities. Before we start reading, we do 10 minutes of drawing together, and that’s their favorite activity. I encourage them to draw anything they would like to. They frequently draw stick figures of us grinning broadly, hand-in-hand under a sunny sky with the words, “I love you Miss Pat” written along the top of the page.
As I have come to know them better, I hear about the hard things in their lives when we draw together. I wish I could do more, but I know from personal experience that having a supportive person to talk to can make all the difference.
I recently read an article citing research done at Harvard’s Center on the Developing Child that stated, “Every child who winds up doing well has had at least one stable and committed relationship with a supportive adult.” It goes on to say, “The power of one strong adult relationship is a key ingredient in resilience.” Resilience is the ability to overcome adversity in a positive way.
Children at Oliver need a great deal of resilience. Of the children attending Oliver, 61% do not have a male role model in the home. The crime rate for the Oak Ridge Park neighborhood – where Oliver is located – is more than 4 times the national average, and 99% of the students at Oliver qualify for the federally subsidized school lunch program. The vast majority of students are testing below grade level in science, reading, and math.
Nearly every Friday I am asked by a little boy or girl if I will be their mentor. I have to gently tell them that I already mentor three children, but I wish I could.
There are so many sweet children right here in Birmingham that are longing for a mentor and are in need of a Savior. It’s as easy as sharing breakfast or lunch for 30-40 minutes once a week – and if you do, it will change your life forever!
Pat Klug and her husband, Chris, are part of our faith family and have been attending Brook Hills for about 10 years.
Brook Hills partners with multiple ministries investing in these children and in this area of our city. Despite the many barriers families in this community may face, they have limitless God-given potential to transform their community. Through Love Oliver, we have the opportunity to join them in addressing those economic, academic, spiritual, and social barriers and point them to the perfect redemptive work of Christ. If you'd like to learn more or partner with our team to serve and Love Oliver, visit brookhills.org/loveoliver.