VBS Day 5 (Friday)

                On the last day of VBS we took the kids to Camp Wilkerson for a hike and capture the flag.  My assignment was to stay next to Hope the whole time just in case she decided to run away. The kids had a lot of fun and then we came back to Delena Baptist to start the last big activity of the week, which was the pinewood derby. The kids had been working on their cars since the start of the week and were very excited. They all had good attitudes. Myself and some other staffers were able to encourage those whose cars hadn’t done so well or who weren’t getting as much encouragement from the other kids.

                As the week wrapped up I had some of the kids—usually girls—come up and give me hugs as they prepared to leave and one even told me that I was “the best teacher ever.” Knowing that you made that kind of an impact on a child in one week is very encouraging, but my prayer is that they learned enough in this week that they are able to take it home and live it out and get involved in a church of their own. As with my last project, prayer is something I could’ve been more faithful in doing. I have friends and family that I am fairly consistent in praying for, but when life gets busy prayer is one thing that tends to get dropped. The week was definitely busy and I had far less time for prayer than I did during my primary project, but I also needed to strive to be more diligent in this area.

                I had one other take-away from this week, which would be looking past the behaviors and what  I know about a situation with a particular person and realizing that I don’t know everything that’s going on in their life or why they are acting a certain way. I also need to be ready and willing to listen if that person needs someone to listen to them. 

VBS Day 4 (Thursday)

                Thursday was an exciting day for the kids because in the afternoon we headed out to G6 air park, which is a facility with wall-to-wall trampolines. Of course the challenge then is keeping them safe and behaving themselves on the hour long bus ride. We didn’t have too many problems, but had to be careful to keep certain boys and girls separated and keep them from bugging each other. The time spent at the park was a good opportunity to just get out and have fun with the kids and continue to develop relationships with them. Although they said they weren’t tired, once they got back on the bus you could definitely tell they had worn themselves out. It was also a challenge for me to try to stay awake on a one hour drive when I’d been up at five or 5:30 every day of the week.

                On Thursday I also had the opportunity to speak with other staff members about Hope and what might possibly being going on in that situation. Hope’s guardian had said she was a “runner,” but we hadn’t had any problems with her during the course of the week and some of the other staff made some comments that her tendency to run away was probably due to an unhealthy situation in the home of her guardian. This might very well be the case, but having a younger brother who was adopted out of the foster care system also allowed me to share a different perspective on the situation. My brother is a chronic runner as well, but this is due to factors that are a result of his past experiences and unstable emotions and perception. My brother is often like two different people. He can be very charming at times and very violent at other times. He often will only show this second side of himself to his family or mental health professionals. That could be the case for Hope as well. This gave me the opportunity to be able to share with other staffers my perspective that a lot of times in situations like this there’s no way of really knowing whether the child is reacting to current trauma or past trauma that their caretaker cannot change. The caretaker can seek to help the child move forward from any past trauma, but ultimately it is the child’s decision. In the case of my brother we have tried to provide everything we can to help him heal, but he refuses to take the steps required on his part to do so. 

VBS Day 3 (Wednesday)

                Even though Travis was not in my group anymore, there were several times during the day when all three of the groups would participate in activities together, so I was still interacting with him. He was usually one of the first kids to arrive at assembly at Alston Corner in the morning, so by the time Wednesday rolled around I had decided to try to talk with him more in an effort to build rapport with him. I was moderately successful at this. I did get him talking to me more, sometimes without me having to initiate the conversation, but he still had difficulty following instructions most of the time. Wednesday morning before classroom time we had eight kids between the three middle school groups accept Jesus as their savior, which was very exciting! Three of the children were from my group. By lunch time Wednesday the kids seemed to feel more at ease talking to me and wanted to sit with me while they ate. Around that time I also became aware that two of the kids were dating. Luckily they were not in the same group, but we did have to talk to both of them and explain that if they wanted to do that at home with their parents’ permission that was fine, but VBS was not the place for it as it was distracting from our focus for the week.

                We played water games Wednesday afternoon, which the kids really enjoyed. Then when we arrived back at Alston Corner for the kids to be picked up, Travis tried walk out of the bus without coming into the church and walk across the highway. He lived on the other side of the highway and didn’t want to take the bus home because he wouldn’t get back for twenty minutes. However, it was an unsafe situation as it was a high speed, four lane highway. I asked him to come into the building repeatedly, but he kept walking away. I told him we would arrange for him to get home, but I just wanted him to come inside while we figured out how to do that. I tried to position myself between him and the path to the highway, but I couldn’t guide him toward the church by touching him at all, as that is a part of VBS staff policy. This made it very difficult to redirect him. Luckily another staffer who worked well with Travis arrived and we were able to get him into the church together, but we

had to keep a very close eye on him as he attempted to sneak out. 

VBS Day 2 (Tuesday)

                On Tuesday morning before we went to the classroom, Travis was moved to another group because we had several new kids join our VBS that morning and we now needed three groups instead of two. The teachers collaborated on restructuring the groups so that Travis and two other boys who had seemed to be feeding off of each other’s behavior would be separated. Each classroom had one of these three boys in it. My group had a boy named Jacob. I believe that most of his behavior was an effort to fit in with the other boys, as he had a speech impediment. Once the other boys moved to other classrooms we really had no trouble with him for the rest of the week. The only thing I really had to correct him on was sitting up and paying attention during class, which can be a challenge for many 11 year old boys. One of the children who joined our VBS on Tuesday was named Hope and we were warned that she had a habit of running away from her guardian (I’m not sure if this person was a relative or a foster parent or what the situation was). I was in charge of keeping an eye on her. She occasionally wandered from the rest of the group, but never seemed as though she intended to take off and would re-join the group when she was asked. Tuesday afternoon we took the kids swimming at the pool at Rainier High School. Even though there were lifeguards on duty the staff spent most of the time watching kids and making sure they were staying safe because there were so many people in the pool (it was an open swim) that it would be easy for the lifeguard not to see an unsafe situation. I personally only had to come down from the observation area and correct kids once due to two boys wrestling in the water by putting pool noodles around each other’s necks.

VBS Day 1 (Monday)

My first day of VBS serving at Alston Corner Assembly of God and Delena Baptist Church with the East Kelso Baptist mission team. This VBS was a day camp, which allows children of working parents to attend, where traditional VBS ends in the early afternoon. I was helping out with the program for middle schoolers, which is traveling over to Delena to spend the day there after the morning assembly due to space constraints at Alston Corner. We had thirteen kids pre-registered, but about seventeen more showed up early Monday morning to register. I spent the extra time that morning greeting kids and getting to know them. Sometimes I have a difficult time initiating small talk with people I don’t know very well. I just don’t know what to say. I feel like I did fine at this Monday, but could have done a better job keeping the conversation going after the initial questions such as, “What’s your name?” and “What school do you go to?” When we got back to Delena after the morning assembly we spent some time in the classroom learning a Bible lesson. At that point I could already tell that one kid in particular, his name was Travis, was going to be a challenge. Even on the first day when he was instructed to do something he would go and do the exact opposite. For instance, the class was instructed by Celeste (my supervisor) to stand against the wall on the left side of the room so she could explain a game. All of the kids complied except Travis, who went and stood on the right side of the room. He eventually followed the instructions after I came over and talked to him individually, but knowing the nature of children it was clear that he would get worse as the week wore on. This was only the first day. Late that morning we took the kids back over to Alston Corner and I made sure they weren’t taking off and were being safe and getting along alright while they played on the bounce houses.

Bowling was our first off-campus outing for the week, so the big task was making sure everyone was accounted for while we transported them. I also had the opportunity to encourage some kids who seemed upset about their bowling performance (even though they had bumpers). The kids occasionally needed some reminders to be encouraging to others, as they sometimes had a “look at how good I’m doing compared to you” attitude, but all in all they did a good job building each other up. After the day was over I discovered that Travis had a fairly negative home life. It seems to be a cliché in Christian circles that difficult people usually have something that is causing them to act that way, but it is usually true. This gave me some perspective in dealing with Travis and helped me be more compassionate towards him while still enforcing the rules.

Before and after photos of grounds work I did for Longview Caring Pregnancy Center.

Before and after photos of grounds work I did for Longview Caring Pregnancy Center. Before and after photos of grounds work I did for Longview Caring Pregnancy Center.

Before and after photos of grounds work I did for Longview Caring Pregnancy Center.

Primary Service Project

     For my primary service-learning project I spent fifty hours doing various tasks at my local Caring Pregnancy Center. The majority of my time was spent doing grounds maintenance for the center, because the landlord had not hired landscapers for the property for some time. On my first day at the center some landscapers did come out, but all they did was weed eat and left all the debris on the ground. Aside from raking the debris that they left, all four sides of the center had weeds that had not been properly managed by the weed eating. I also did some power washing to remove moss from the parking spaces immediately behind the center and pruned bushes. Additionally, I worked by sorting clothing donations, cleaning and performing safety checks on baby equipment (such as strollers) that had been donated, and keeping the vegetable garden watered and picking the produce. The produce from CPC’s garden is given away to clients. I have included a few before and after pictures of the grounds maintenance I did, along with a photo of the vegetables I picked.

            Now I’d like to focus on how I feel I developed as a person through my time spent working at Caring Pregnancy Center. This spring I went through the Leadership Theory and Practice CollegePlus! course, which delved intensively into discovering who God created individual students to be. As such, I felt like I had a fairly good understanding of myself, my motivations and giftings, but this particular community service project practically reinforced what I had learned about myself through Leadership Theory and Practice. I tend to be drawn towards tasks that are in the background rather than service in which I would be directing other people, which is what my time at Caring Pregnancy Center certainly was. I prefer to be given a task and allowed to work on it by myself until I finish. And once I get started on a project — especially if it’s something that can be finished within a relatively short period of time — I have a strong drive to keep chipping away at it and not work on anything else until I finish. Of course, in this case I had other responsibilities at the same time, whether they be at home or elsewhere, but this drive really helped me stay focused and I was able to finish my project ahead of schedule. This allowed me to help out with a VBS that was a joint project of several area churches, as they were in desperate need of another classroom staffer for the middle school program. I also realized during the course of Leadership Theory and Practice that one of my types of intelligences was nature, which would include working outdoors or with animals. I really enjoyed the opportunity this project gave me to do something productive outdoors, as most of the tasks I have to do in a day are typically indoors. I also very much enjoy the sense of satisfaction that helping others can bring, even though I was not directly involved with the clients.

            This community service project also helped me develop my interpersonal skills in a few key areas. One of these was noticing my tendency to stereotype visitors to the center. While our brains often make connections between certain types of people and their behaviors based on experience, people are individuals and we need to treat them as such. Being aware of my thought processes in this area — I can stereotype people subconsciously — will help me accomplish this. As I worked on the grounds outside the center, one day I realized that I had been making judgments on whether visitors to the center were clients or were there to donate based on the type of car they drove. As I mentioned earlier, sometimes we can’t keep our brain from making connections like this, but what we can do is be aware of it and consciously strive to treat individuals based on who they are, not what they look like. When I first went to the center to meet with my supervisor, she told me that due to confidentiality concerns, if I ever saw someone I knew at the center I couldn’t tell anyone. I had never even considered that something like that might happen. It didn’t even enter my mind because the types of people I normally interact with would most likely not be seeking services from a pregnancy center. To me, it was a humble reminder that I am not morally superior in any way to clients of Caring Pregnancy Center. While I’ve been raised in a Christian home and would be considered by most to be a good person, I have to be careful not to allow pride to creep in and allow me to think that an unplanned pregnancy is something that could never happen to me. I too, am fully capable of that sin. If I think I am immune to temptation it will simply make me more susceptible to fall prey to it. I had a privilege — being raised in a strong Christian home — that most of the clients of CPC probably did not, but that doesn’t mean I couldn’t end up in their situation. I also think that just being around clients and people in the surrounding community was a good opportunity for me to get used to interacting with different types of people that I might not normally feel completely at ease around. While I was working outside on a hot day, I had one client come and bring me some bottled water. Often the clients also want to have something to offer others and be able to give back.

            Through the time I spent serving Caring Pregnancy Center I came to really appreciate the way the center goes about offering services to the community. CPC’s main program is called Earn While You Learn, and it allows clients to earn supplies — such as clothing and strollers — by attending parenting classes taught by CPC staff. Towards the end of last year I took a CollegePlus! course called Social Justice from a Biblical Perspective. This course stressed that simply throwing money at a problem is not an effective way to make it better. For the situation to change, individuals involved have to desire to be self-sufficient, otherwise the money will be spent and the person will again make the same decisions that caused them to need services. Unfortunately, sometimes we have to turn people away in an effort to help them learn to be independent if all they are looking for is a handout. CPC is effective at weeding these people out because they require action to be taken by the client in return for services. The center is also selective because they only allow expecting mothers and mothers with children under age two to receive services. CPC has the capability to put clients in touch with other service agencies that might be necessary, such as food banks and adoption agencies. Caring Pregnancy Center is able to offer abortion alternatives by offering auxiliary support or putting the mother-to-be in touch with an adoption agency.

            I believe that the problems that cause clients to seek services from Caring Pregnancy Center are rooted in the breakdown of the family and morality in America. Divorce and the sexual revolution have resulted in many children without fathers and mothers without husbands. But the problem goes even deeper. These problems are rooted in the nation’s shift away from the traditional values that our nation was founded on — Christianity. If we have no logical foundation for morality, we will have no morality. I believe this is the underlying cause of the situations of most CPC clients.

            I have been involved in community service on several occasions prior to working at Caring Pregnancy Center. However, I had a desire to do more, as most of my service was within organizations I was already involved with and tended to be a one day project. Working at CPC allowed me to initiate service and get involved with a community organization on my own, and while I was in a background role, I found it to be satisfying nonetheless because gave me a chance to practice pure altruism. It also cause me to rely on God a lot, as I have struggled with chronic fatigue for most of my life and am just now finding answers as to why I don’t have more energy. For about ten days prior to my service I had been feeling poorly and I had been doing a lot of praying that God would give me the energy to finish what I’d started. I had also asked several friends to pray and God saw me through. I did much better than I’d expected, but I definitely had to trust God during that experience. However, in regards to my service I think I could’ve improved in praying more for the center and its clients. Due to the nature of the work I was doing I had plenty of time to do this as I was primarily doing tasks that didn’t require a lot mental energy. When I was cleaning and performing safety checks on donated baby equipment I did use the time to pray for the clients that would receive them, but I feel like I could’ve been more faithful in this area.

            As I stated earlier, I believe that the majority of the time the problems that result in an unplanned pregnancy begin in the home. Because this problem is so widespread in modern America, it is difficult to imagine that there is a way to remedy it. I believe that the most effective way to do this is person by person, developing relationships with those in need and helping them transform their lives so that the problem of unplanned pregnancies and fatherless children is not continued in the next generation. If these women can learn to be involved in their children’s lives the way God would have them to, I believe that unplanned pregnancies would be much less common. Families function best if they work the way they were created to work. Mentoring mothers-to-be can help reverse that cycle. This follow God’s design for families as laid out in the book of Genesis. As I did some research for this paper and the biblical plan for families, I found a quote by Chuck Swindoll which says, “A family is a place where principles are hammered and honed on the anvil of everyday living.” I believe this is consistent with the biblical mandate to instruct one’s children in the ways of the Lord (Deuteronomy 11:19). The mentoring that Caring Pregnancy Center provides is also supplemented by practical help through helping provide baby supplies, as I mentioned earlier. This two-pronged approach provides practical help to meet immediate physical needs and helps the client move forward emotionally and spiritually, allowing her to come to a place where she is independent of services and maturing in her relationship Christ.

            As I mentioned earlier, my time spent at Caring Pregnancy Center helped me realize my own tendency to stereotype people and reminded me that I could very easily find myself in the same situation as many of the clients at the center. I was also surprised when I began working at the center because the stereotype of lower-income women pregnant out of wedlock is that they are teen mothers. This did not appear to be the case for most of the clients at CPC. In fact, there was one woman who came in that was at least in her 30s, possibly older. This project also gave me an opportunity to put my money (or in this case, primarily my time) where my mouth is. If abortion is something I’m going to complain about, I need to do something about it as well. I have been involved in multiple civic movements dedicated to fighting abortion on a legal level, but it is equally, if not more important, to fight it on a personal level. One of the services Caring Pregnancy Center offers is post-abortive counseling. Women who have experienced the tragedy of abortion have the potential to be some of the most powerful weapons against it. Abortion is fought in the hearts and minds of the people of our nation, and we can change those hearts and minds one life at a time. So even though I was not directly involved with clients, this project allowed me to have a supporting role in an organization that is seeking to change the hearts and minds of those who are most at risk to be personally involved in this tragedy and I have been able to have my actions support and reinforce my beliefs.

            In summary, this experience has given me a better understanding of how to go about ministering and supporting lower-income women going through an unplanned pregnancy and foster independence and self-sufficiency at the same time. I learned a lot of this simply by spending time at the center and making myself aware of its operations. I was able to further the purpose of Caring Pregnancy center by helping the clients to have fresh, home-grown vegetables to feed to their families; I cleaned and performed safety checks on equipment that would be donated to clients; I sorted clothing that would be given to clients; and I made the center a more inviting place for clients by cleaning up the grounds. I am hoping to continue helping sort clothing donations once a week in the future, but I am waiting to see what my schedule will look like in the fall before I make a final commitment. My biggest take-away would probably be what I have already mentioned in regards to my tendency to stereotype clients. It is something that many times is done unintentionally, but I must be careful to be aware of that tendency within myself take each person and situation as they come, without assuming that I know the particulars of their situation. Women could also seek the services of Caring Pregnancy Center for reasons that are not their fault, such as in the case of rape. My job is to show compassion while fostering personal responsibility to those involved until I have heard the person’s story. We can become desensitized to poverty in America because so many who seek help are just trying to get a free ride. But God has called us to be discerning and compassionate, and the only time we should withhold help is if there is evidence of cyclical poverty and the individual involved is not trying to move forward.