Ashley Kennard, teacher at Palmetto Elementary School “Harsher punishments, stricter rules, more suspensions- that’s what we need to fix our school’s problems.” This was the response about a year ago that many teachers at my school had to an outbreak of uncharacteristic violence. Don’t get me wrong, Palmetto Elementary School isn’t exactly known as a “violence free zone” but on this particular day, there were multiple injuries including one kid getting his teeth knocked out, another with broken bones and a student that was strangled (not to death, but still!) Additionally, a teacher was struck multiple times at different points throughout the day trying to break these fights up. It’s understandable why many teachers first response was a movement towards a more strict discipline system.
Other teachers, however, felt that we should be more loving, create more safe environments and that would fix the children’s problems. I found myself in the middle of these two camps and wasn’t particularly convinced that either was going to be an ultimate solution. I was so burdened for all of the angry and hurting children at my school and thought that what they ultimately needed was to know that they had a savior that loved them and died for them and wanted to be with them no matter the cost.
I began feeling moved to action. I wanted to do something to help the children. I just didn’t know what so I began to pray. I started prayer walking my school every Monday morning. I prayed and asked God to move there. I prayed for His spirit to come and redeem the children and give hope to the families. I started getting visions of what it would look like if God’s spirit really did come. I dreamt of Moms and Dads returning home to their families, children being valued, cared for and protected. I envisioned crime altogether ceasing and anger, rage and desperation being replaced by peace and hope and trust. I imagined a bunch of people walking around feeling totally alone and then suddenly empowered because they realized they had a father in heaven that loved them so much and was never going to leave them. Period.
After a few months of praying and dreaming at my school, God connected me, through the recommendation of a few friends at Antioch21 Church, to an organization called Child Evangelism Fellowship. This organization trains and empowers volunteers to start after school clubs that teach children the Bible and disciples them in the gospel! I was pumped and after a few months of training, gathering volunteers, and making preparations, we were able to kick off our first club this past October! We weren’t expecting many children to come since we weren’t able to send the permission slips home until the day before club started due to some administrative setbacks with the county.
To our surprise, 70 children showed up that day and those numbers have continued to climb each week. In just a few months we are averaging between 130 and 150 kids each week coming to hear about Jesus! That is crazy and awesome. And crazy awesome! God is drawing these little children to Himself and it is so cool to be a part of that. Please join me in praying that God would continue to move at my school! Pray that many children would come to know Him and have their lives changed. Pray that the children would impact their families. Pray that God would raise up good churches in the area for families to get connected to. Pray that this community would be redeemed in such drastic and outrageous ways that only God could get the glory!