Tuesday, June 18, 2024

How Touchdown Camp Got Started

When I look back twenty years ago to our first Touchdown Camp, I realize that the key ingredient was faith. It took faith for Patty Cardona and me to move in action and try out this new camp which would reach out to vulnerable kids in Redwood City, CA. 

Camp had been funded by a faith initiative by Doris Bates who took one hundred dollars and asked her friends to match it by giving another Hundred. So when she connected with me and asked what I would do with it I said, "Open Touchdown Camp."

Well there were lots of pieces. I had no idea what I was doing, but I proceeded in that direction anyway enlisting people who worked in the missions area to come and help. Of course there were many people praying for this new venture and we never underestimate that without the flame generated by faithful prayers going on, we never would have made it.

Then we were off and running with two weeks of camp and 40 children who wanted both sports and crafts so overnight we had to change the entire program. That was a spark of faith. It worked because we were learning that camp was for kids and, the kids knew what they wanted!

So the children came every year, and some of them came back as teens to volunteer. The success was not due to any one person, but everything was underwritten by God, and we learned that He was in control.

By God's grace, prayers and work in communities, lasting change can be achieve, in each cities and churches.

Sparks that are seperate, but when they are laid down together, they have the possibility of creating a fire of change that brings light in the darkest of places.

Friday, February 23, 2024

Help with Homework

For a moment, cast your mind back on being a child bringing home your homework. In the past, books in various subjects were lugged by you. You might recall a time where you struggled in a subject. Maybe you didn't want to ask for help but then you did. Most likely this help came from a parent or a sibling. You were lucky.

What if there had been no one to help you day after day, you struggled, and were bullied because you couldn't read or speak English or do math? This is the sad true situation for thousands of elementary age children who will never get the basics they need to succeed in school. More than 13 years ago, in Redwood City, in Verbo Family Services church, a small after school tutoring program started inside the church.

Volunteer adults sat one to one with their child who needed help. It wasn't all work because there were snacks and games and a welcoming environment in a Sunday school room. Children were recommended for this help from a nearby elementary school.

This Redwood City program birthed a new help with homework program under Glenn Inn, a deacon in a Korean church in San Jose. This man, who worked full time, had a mission heart to reach out to the Hispanic children in apartments surrounding the church. Why did he do this so well and succeed? Because he had come to America from Korea with his family as a child and been bullied.

It is a terrible thing to mark a child with ridicule and hate because they do not conform. Children can be mean and judgmental. They can hurt a child so badly they hate school and stop trying.

Inside a church is an ideal place to provide homework heloers. The church provides the structure, the space, the times and has staff during the tutoring. We encourage men to participate as leaders because In so many of the families we serve, there is no dad there.

Does this make difference? We know that it does. When a child feels he has someone who can help he will get a shot of encouragement. The adults in the room make sure each child gets celebrated. Frequently, there is a party at the end of each term.

As an educator I can only say that if you had just a few hours to give and get the most joy, serve a needy child. Will you stop right and pray now in earnest from your heart about becoming a homework helper?

Will you ask for prayer from your church to consider such a program?

Thank you for sharing and becoming a part of something that will give a child hope and a future and bring families into the church. God hears the prayer of the poor and him who has no helper.

Thursday, February 8, 2024

What is it that is so good about the sight of roses in winter?

In most places winter is a dormant time for rose plants. What was beautiful in summer is only a dead looking plant in a garden. And so, this time of year, a bouquet of roses is a shot of life and hope that spring will come. Newness and life will arise!

Roses in winter lift our spirits and make us smile and dance. If we are recovering from illness, the fragrance of roses may make us sit up and take a sip of water or endure the time we are in with a modicum of courage.

Roses have messages. Colors of roses mean different things. Red roses signal romantic love. These are huge around Valentines Day. Lavender roses symbolize love at first sight! Yellow roses symbolize joy, friendship and optimism. White roses symbolize purity and innocence. Roses seem to be a vital part of every florists mixed bouquets.

I was recently told here in Idaho that roses were no longer being bought from fields in CA because the fields are now being used to grow marijuana. What does this say about our priorities? Is making a profit more important than growing a crop of beauty and hope? Where did this crop swap out come from anyway? Does this new crop grow life or death for people?

A winter without roses, is a day without sunshine that is endless.

Thursday, November 30, 2023

Little Acts of Mercy

Sometimes we may think of mercy as a character trait. That certainly is true when we think of God's mercy, in coming from heaven to earth, to reconcile people to himself. Here we are in this dark world, had to see a mercy of Jesus, the Christ, who lived and breathed mercy every day of his life.

We can see the acts of mercy down here, in real time by those who profess to follow him! A few simple acts to consider doing this Christmas:

1. Speak the truth in love. Jesus did!

2. Forgive others and keep forgiving others. Jesus did. Even to the cross.

3. Notice the poor.

4. Give financial help to the needy. Jesus did.

5. Tell people stories that make a point and that they can understand. Jesus did.

6. Stop when you see someone grieving and do something for them. Jesus did.

7. Allow mercy to control you when dealing with disturbed people. Jesus did.

8. Stop thinking of yourself and your desires. Jesus did.

9. Watch out and hit the breaks, so you can take notice of the little children near you.  Jesus did.

Wednesday, November 8, 2023

Encouraging Others

When Project Lost Sheep was just getting underway, I had a chance to speak at a community group with about 75 people attending. Many there that day were seniors. I was nervous but made it through the lunch and finally got to speak.

As Project Lost Sheep had just formed, I gave only an appeal that we needed to reach out to children and especially to those who were needy in our community. Several people said encouraging words to me as the meeting ended. I had some information on the table which included the mailing address for our group. So about once a week I would check the P.O. Box in Menlo Park. (Yes, the same one you see today.)

Slowly a trickle of financial encouragement came in. Lots of times, the box was empty but I noticed that there was one envelope a month that came, without fail.  It was a small donation but it was regular and someone was validating that what we were about was important.

So one day I went and met this encourager. Mildred lived in a small rented apartment. She was about 80. She seemed glad to entertain me, she brought out tea and cookies for us to enjoy. We chatted a bit. All the while I was just sitting there wondering how I could express how much she meant to me. I felt in some ways, we were friends because she was behind me in her envelope giving. 

Finally, as our time was ending I got out a few words of thanks to her for her faithful gifts. She smiled and said: "Oh my dear I have 20 organizations that I support each month. I like that you reaching out to help children."

It seemed amazing to me that she could give to so many out of her little and was so committed to doing it each month. It was hard to say goodbye to Mildred that day. Her support was a huge encouragement to me. She validated what I was starting. Project Lost Sheep was all about reaching out to children.

Do we ever outgrow our need to "encourage one another"? I wonder how many endeavors would still be moving forward if they had a Mildred in their box. We need smiles and words of encouragement. We need people to listen and pray and catch the vision for helping children.

I am thankful for each of you who have prayed and listened to me and have shared with your gifts over all these years. Never underestimate the impact of your giving small to back something good for the kingdom of God.


Monday, August 21, 2023

Racheal Torres Shares About Touchdown Camp

 An interview with Raquel Torres

How did you hear of verbo?
I heard about verbo through my parents. My dad participated a good amount in the indoor soccer program as well as my mom did a lot of volunteering with verbo leading me to participate as well.

What programs did you participate in?
I participated in Kids touchdown camp and volunteering services with verbo.  

How has this helped your family?
Verbo has helped my family tremendously. It has helped my family to connect deeply with our community. It has helped my mom to better understand the different perspectives of other families in my community and motivate her to do more for the community. She has participated in numerous volunteering events with verbo, ranging from setting up chairs for events to aiding the redwood city police department in distributing information on covid to people who are most at risk during the pandemic. Through verbo she was able to meet a multitude of people from vastly ranging backgrounds to assist the community. I can say with confidence that she would have never achieved these opportunities if verbo was not around. 

As for my dad he gained many new perspectives from volunteering at verbo alongside playing in an indoor soccer team at verbo. I remember as a kid many people of different backgrounds of Spanish speaking nations would band together to participate in an indoor soccer tournament. It was an incredibly fun experience to watch my dad play on a soccer team. I was able to see the passion everyone had to win for their respective teams. It was a memorable moment because no one had any hatred for one another but genuine joy of seeing one another every night to play a match of soccer against one another. What stuck with me was that everyone who played every sunday was somebody who had a connection to verbo. Some had children in the touchdown camp program, frequently went to Sunday church and participated in volunteering work for verbo and other organizations. My dad was able to better connect with his community and regularly engage in activities he had a passion for. To this day he still continues to play soccer games in our community. 

From my experience verbo has helped me into shaping me to help my community whenever possible. Since I was young I participated in Kids touchdown camp. I remembered the excitement and joy I had every summer when I went to the camp. The program itself allowed me to experience new opportunities that I have never tried. One opportunity I tried was going on a stage and acting for the first time. I was given the opportunity by one of the leaders of the program in which they asked me if I would like to act in a skit. Normally I would have rejected it as I had stage fright but in the moment I accepted it. When I was given the role and instruction of what to do my heart nervously raced. I felt nervous and embarrassed but I persisted with the skit. After the skit I felt a large amount of embarrassment but what stood out to me the most was that I was happy. I realize that even if I was embarrassed and frightened of a large audience I was glad that I acted. 

I was never intimidated by the leader but was kindly pushed to try out new experiences. Had it not been their kindness and them not giving up on me I would have never tried out acting. To this day this experience has helped me to take on any opportunity that comes in my way with confidence. Year after year I continued to go to kids touchdown camp until it was my turn to become a leader for kids touch camp

Throughout my journey of becoming an adult I have continuously helped my mom with volunteering work. From my time at Verbo I was able to connect with different organizations like the redwood city police department and help them with volunteering work. I was able to help in cleaning the streets of redwood city, wrapping christmas gifts from families every year on christmas eve, distributing information on covid during the pandemic to families at risk, and ect. All of the years of volunteering has helped me to gain many skills and experiences working in independent and team oriented tasks. Alongside helped to better strengthen my opportunities in looking favorable to universities and job opportunities. 

When you talk to your friends about verbo what do you tell them? 
I talk about all the wonderful opportunities they can receive from verbo. They can receive volunteering work opportunities that help them to gain many new skills and experiences many universities and jobs look for. As well as they could enroll their family members to a summer camp free of charge. The summer camps offer fun activities for children,food and education. Furthermore they have a pantry that in my experience help me to not worry about food during the pandemic and now.

Tuesday, June 13, 2023

Memories of Love

We didn't have many books growing up, but those we had, were treasures and used mainly as references. This was in the era before google.

One day recently, going through some old boxes that had been in storage here for over 10 years I opened a box and went through books including one entitled: A GUIDEBOOK OF UNITED STATES COINS

It had a red cover and was in excellent shape. Curious, I opened it. I yet had no memory of this book. A handwritten inscription with date said.

"To my dear Joyce."
Love, Daddy

This brought a real wallop of memories including at one time that my Dad has been an amateur coin collector. May we remember and be thankful for those who loved us and left us notes to remind us years later.

Sunday, April 30, 2023

Loving Actions

People may hear what we say, but our actions to show our faith hits them with more impact. Words are merely words, but actions speak louder than words.

Actions define who we are and give a message to those around us. If someone is laid up with a bad back, we take food to them, and check in on them. It tells the person that we are "a good Christian". That person who was hurting will remember our kindness and what we did to help them.

The Good Samaritan cared for the beat up man on the side of the road. He took him to a safe place and provided for his needs by paying the inn keeper. He couldn't stay but he left provision while the man healed. He invested in the sick man out of his own pocket.

Actions do speak louder than words. If someone lacks food or clothing and we wish them Godspeed without lending the help, then we are not acting out our faith to care for others.

Each year at camp, all the food needed is provided for very hungry kids. This year, the provision of a day camp with sports, food, mentoring, crafts and Bible instruction will again launch kids into the most memorable week of their summer. The day they will always remember. This is a kindness to a group of 100 or more elementary children, many from other countries. They are usually struggling and lacking, but in this one week, every thing is good.

So, love does move us out of our comfort zone. It can also lift us to see more purpose and connection with others. Love is the highest gift mentioned in the Bible. So may we all walk across our streets in America, to see the real needs, and fight against those who beat up and destroy our children. 

May we remember the poor and afflicted and do our part to move mountains of doubt and despair. We will never be alone when we walk this path.