Messy Faith

Have you ever heard that verse in Jeremiah (29:11) that people quote when you’re in distress? It says something about how God has plans to prosper you and not harm you and have no fear he will rescue you? I have always struggled with verses that turn into inspirational quotes. Sure that’s nice and all but what was happening before that? Why did he have to be reminded that God would be with him? Because honestly most days that is not where my faith is at. My faith in God, myself, my marriage, my friendships. So I hear a portion of scripture like that, and I feel shame. Shame that I don’t believe enough. Shame I am not whom I need to be in the position I am in at the West Nashville Dream Center.

Let’s go back a bit. Do you know what happened before all this? Well, it’s actually kind of amazing, and it’s what I refer to as ugly mess gut-wrenching faith that you have to hang on to by a tiny thread to make it, which I actually believe is real faith. If we compare our faith to the end result that it got someone, we will never live up to the expectation or ever qualify to receive that kind of faith.

So what was God saying here? He was telling them to HOLD ON. They were in exile! They had no home and were forced to live in a land that wasn’t theirs. Also, the part that always strikes me is he didn’t just want them to sit and wait for him to make them prosper, he told them to take root, plant gardens, have sons and daughters and help the land he exiled them to flourish.

Since the WNDC has gone fully mobile after the loss of our building, one of the most common things people ask us is ‘why did you stay?’ Well, the clearest explanation we have is that none of us felt like our time was done here in this neighborhood. There are still people in desperate need of hope, and we can offer that so why would we abandon them? Is it easy? Nope. It’s probably the hardest season of ministry any of us have experience. However, we are prospering, we are growing, we are creating new relationships, and we feel like even in the hardest season of ministry we are seeing God increase our influence, our reach, and our resources.

One day soon I hope our story is that we have a fantastic property where we can see hundreds of people a week be fed, cared for and empowered. I hope that we can look back and say “Wow look at God!” I hope that we can own property debt free and use all our resources to serve people. However, I hope we never forget it wasn’t that simple. I hope we always remember that even while we were waiting for God still chose to let us prosper and asked us to keep building even if we didn’t know what was next. I hope we never forget all the sleepless nights we wondered if this could work or if we would fail. I wish I remember standing up in front of people and telling them we lost our building but it was going to be ok, but barely believing myself. I hope I remember all the exhausting days when we were short staffed.

I don’t believe for one minute God requires us to have the kind of faith you hear about at the end of a story before the story has even started. I think he wants us to be faithful first with what we know he has asked us to do. One tired scared hesitant foot in front of the other and kept on moving forward. I believe faith is the gift we get at the end of the season. It’s like seeing the harvest in your first garden. You plant seeds thinking “no clue what I am doing, and it prob won’t grow but let’s try and then it does… so what happens the next season? You believe! Because you have seen.

Executive Director, TJ Fletcher

MOBILE MINISTRY BLESSINGS – KIARA

37705084_10213889712729255_4299362456293081088_n-1-1457003244-1532454735900.jpgKiara has been part of the dream for two months. We first met her at our June Dream Streets Saturday going door to door handing out food donations and inviting families to our Summer day camp, Summer is for Kids.

Kiara has been impacted by Dream Streets, Mobile Food Ministry, Summer is for Kids, and Dream Center Moms.

All of these ministries have been a part of her life since we went mobile.

Also, her son will be attending Cockrill Elementary this fall so he is a recipient of a school supply sponsorship! Find out more on how you can sponsor a child’s school supply list and backpack at Cockrill here.

Read more of Kiara’s story below.

Tell us about you and your family?

“I am a single mother of three small children, ages 10, 5, and 2. I have no family here in Nashville. I moved here from Paragould, Arkansas, a very small town. My reason for moving here is because my 2-year-old was diagnosed with kidney, lung, liver, and brain disease by the doctors in Arkansas but they wouldn’t send him to any specialists.”

Kiara came to Nashville because of Vanderbilt. She took matters into her own hands.

“I went in for testing of his kidneys, no disease. Just a right kidney that’s lodged in his pelvic. It never came up from that spot during his growth in my belly to it’s normal spot. Lung disease is asthma, but that’s all better! He had an upper respiratory infection every month, sometimes catching 2 of the worst 3 at the same time (RSV, pneumonia, flu). He’s only had 2 infectious this year. MRI and brain function done at Vanderbilt showed his brain was perfectly normal! Liver disease never found! He was even born with a collapsed lung, perfect now! I just give it all to God and my faith healed him! God is so real and so is Jesus. Vanderbilt has been a blessing to him.” IMG_4458.jpeg

How did you learn about the West Nashville Dream Center and what was your first impression?

“I learned about the West Nashville Dream Center through the door to door food giveaway, which led me to my first impression of, “Wow, these people are a blessing”.” IMG_7031

When did you want to know more about the center and the ministries?

“I wanted to know more after my family was invited to a school’s out block party, where I became knowledgeable about Dream Center Moms group.”

What were your hesitations about getting involved?

“I hesitated for a minute because I’m new to the city and I didn’t know how people were out here or how the churches were, due to my bad experiences at churches.”

What is your favorite memory here?

“My favorite memory is laughing with the moms at Jo’s house.”

What ministry has impacted you the most?

“The Dream Center Moms had the most impact.”

When did you feel like you were a part of the Dream Center family?

“I’ve always felt apart of the family from the moment I stepped into the Mom’s Group meeting.”

 

 

Why Jaquita Matters

We met Jaquita’s kids in the Summer of 2016 when they attended our Summer is For Kids day camp. They heard about the opportunity from our volunteers going door to door at TN Village Apartment complex and our pencil partner, Cockrill Elementary, where Aarion and Ariana attend school.

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Jaquita volunteering at Night to Shine in February.

We knew she had to be an exceptional woman because her kids were a light to us and we looked forward to picking them up in the Dream Center van.

She made sure we had her phone number and email address in case Momma needed to step in at any point. That day came when little Aarion punched Pastor Ryan in the nose. We can laugh about it now because our buddy was on steroids from a stay in the hospital from a severe asthma attack. I’m sure we’ve all had those days where we wish we could sock it to someone! Jaquita handled the situation with grace and sincere apologies. She never made excuses for his behavior. Now Aarion goes down in Dream Center history as the only kid to punch Pastor Ryan. We hope to keep it that way. 

Jaquita began attending our Sunday service with her kids after that Summer. We would invite her to stay for Dream Center Moms group and she would politely decline. But in the Summer of 2017, everything changed.

Jaquita was suffering from deep depression. Life felt so heavy and she tried to take her own life. Thank God she reached out for help, being vulnerable and calling us her church people. But we wanted to be her family.

TJ and Miranda dropped by one afternoon after that incident with food from our food ministry and gave Jaquita a chance to share where she was at and how we could help. From that day forward Jaquita began to rely on the safe, positive community we have to offer and now she is pretty much here anytime the doors are open with her kids, attending Dream Center Mom’s group or volunteering. 

Life didn’t magically take a 360 for her. She has been through some difficult things this fall trying to help one of her sons who was struggling and navigating the need to find a new job. But she has persevered and is continuing to seek healing through counseling connections we have and the beautiful relationships formed in the Dream Center Moms group.

Jaquita just entered a CNA program and has a new job that supports her schooling. Will you pray for Jaquita? We want to see her continue to thrive. Pray that her kids stay well. Pray that she has the strength to study. Pray for her to get good rest at night.

Jaquita certainly matters and we are proud to share her story.

Watch Jaquita’s Kids perform part of their original rap, “Welcome to the Dream.”

JOHNNY & ROSA

This past Sunday we interviewed one of our Dream Center power couples, Johnny and Rosa.

TJ: How did you learn about the West Nashville Dream Center?

Johnny: I was going to Cross Point church when we first met and then we started doing bible study, where you host a group for about 6 weeks. I roped her in and said “do you want to be a part of it?”…

Rosa: ….After a couple of months dating by the way. He was like “you wanna do a small group with me?”

Johnny: I was hardly ever at the group because of the travel with my job, but one of the people in our small group said “Hey I went over to the Dream Center, it’s like two minutes from your house. I heard gunshots, but it’s a pretty cool place.”

Rosa: “Where do we sign up!”

TJ: I’m a little hesitant to ask this next question because it doesn’t paint me in a very good light, but Rosa can you tell me what your first impression was when you came here?

Rosa: Yes, I always joke with TJ that the first time I came here I wanted to start volunteering so she showed me around, but she was very like distant and cold. I was like “She hates me. Maybe this isn’t the place for me…”

Johnny: She literally came home and said “There’s this lady TJ; I think she hates me.”

TJ: It’s not true. I did not!

Rosa: I did learn very quickly that they have a lot of volunteers that just sign up but then very quickly leave. So TJ wants people who are showing up and constantly showing up, not just showing up when it’s convenient for them.

TJ: Thank you. That redeemed me a little bit, I guess.

TJ: Next question I have is “When did you want to know more about the center and its ministries. What made you want to do more than just come on Sunday?”

Rosa: So I was raised by a single mom, and when I learned about the single mom program it immediately touched my heart because I know the struggle that they have. They have to be good cop, they have to be bad cop. I always joke that you’re doing an awesome job, you’re gonna raise us just functional enough to make us funny. I wanted to pour into them, and a lot of them have small children and that’s basically a thankless job. You know, you have children then you’re never going to get the gratitude until they’re adults which is along time coming. So I want them to know that were thankful. We know what you had to do, and we love you.  IMG_0960

TJ: Rosa has been super committed. Johnny is kind of our honorary single mom group member. Well, because he’s kind of always around. I think he just stays for the lunch; we’re not sure. For those of you that don’t know, if you’re new here, we do have a very thriving mom’s group that meets after the service. Were a little bit rowdy, a little bit wild, but we have a lot of fun.

Rosa: It’s a great place. They feed your kids while you get to go enjoy your food, and not have the constant “Can I have some mom?”

TJ: Yeah, we lock the door.

image1 (1)Johnny: That’s how I got roped in. She goes to the single mom ministry and was like “Hey I need someone to hang with the kids while I’m with the moms” and I said “Okay, I’ll come play with the kids.”

TJ: Did either one of you have hesitations about getting involved up front?

Johnny: So when I first started coming here I was on the road traveling a lot, and I was only here maybe once every four to six weeks. I know from being married to Rosa, how important a male figure is in these kids lives; even a strong female character, but the main thing is consistency. I was very hesitant to be here and get involved if I wasn’t going to be consistent. But I love the place, so Rosa and I found a great way. There were some days when she would facetime me for a couple minutes and I would say hi to the kids, and they’d ask me where I was. But it’s my way of still being here and being involved as much as I could, so if you’re here every Sunday, you could get involved throughout the week, but if you’re only here sometimes there are still ways to get involved. 

TJ: Tell us a favorite memory that you have.

14435354_10207314163241387_1475699637373501430_oJohnny: That would be Miss Anne at our wedding. This is a family here. TJ did our marriage counseling which was great because her husband is on the road like I was. But I remember TJ and some of the other single moms just dancing and having a good time at our wedding. Our wedding is very important to us, but we want our family there and this is our family. (TJ married them as well)

Rosa: Yeah, I’ve never been part of a church that was so intentional about their relationships. The people that you’re in group with, and the moms; there wasn’t even a question to have them there because they are so important to us. They are family, and you have friends and family at your wedding. People aren’t just popping in and out of your life, it’s going to be feeding into it. A lot of the time, it’s feeding into relationships even when we don’t want to because sometimes when you’re in that darkness, you just want to wallow there by yourself. TJ, she’s not going to let you wallow there, were going to look at the ugly with you, so we can bring you to the light. image1 (2)

TJ: What ministry has impacted you all the most?

Rosa: That would be the single mom’s group.

Johnny: I would say honestly for me personally, it’s the ministries that happen outside of the titled one. It’s about walking through life. Being there for the milestones. Going over to the hospital and holding Ava when she’s born. 2017 was a tough year for us, so being able to walk in this place and people walk alongside you like “Hey what’s going on?”, catching up with you, shooting a text message. That’s the ministry that I love. If somebody has walked through what you’ve walked through, so they’re a great resource for you to have. It’s those little things.. 10 minutes here, or 10 minutes here that really pour into your life over time.

TJ: I think you guys have kind of answered this but, do you have a specific moment were you feel like you became a member of the Dream Center Family?

Rosa: I have say probably 3 or 4 months in I really started to feel like the Dream Center family. I feel like the people here are used to having people flip in and out of their lives and there’s no consistency there. So, I always joke with the moms that literally nobody talked to me for like the first month that I was there, and I just kept showing up because everyone kept ignoring me. When I kept showing up, I started having conversations with people, started feeding into their lives, and telling me their story and that doesn’t happen with people who just bounce in and out because of the culture of people here. They want people who are going to feed into their lives and not be gone the next month. This is really a place where if you keep showing up, those people are going to be there.

TJ: As we are about to enter our 5 year anniversary, we think about this place and all that it’s done; What would your reaction be if we had to close the dream center doors?

Johnny: We would be devastated because this is a place that we’re able to come and that pours into us. Last year we were looking at what we were doing with money. We had things happening on the outside but we said look, this is our home and when we donate and invest money here, it comes back to us so really we’re investing in ourselves. This is our home and our family so if these doors were to close, we would lose the people we are doing life with, and that hold us accountable; are there during the hard times. Having that place to be vulnerable, and safe enough to have those conversations with. So we would have to start the whole process over and it would take years.

Rosa: The community that surrounds here, sometimes I only show up on Sundays, and I feel like this is the only day that people get poured into, and without that I can’t imagine what their lives might be like without having people constantly motivating them, and expecting more from them, and just showing up. I don’t know what everybody would do, and it just saddens me to think about this place not being here.

TJ: Well good thing we’re still going, 5 years strong. 

Ryan Bult – Why I’m Part of the Dream

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Pictured above is Ryan at one of the first local serving days, Serving Saturday, he launched with Cross Point church.
Ryan Bult is the West Nashville Dream Center Pastor and CEO. He has been in ministry for 12 years. In that time, he has led community groups, local and global missions, disaster relief, and he is instrumental in the vision of our center. He was part of the Dream when our center was just a dream. 7 years ago when Ryan was Missions Pastor at Cross Point Church, plans and prayers began for the West Nashville Dream Center. He is the father of 3: Ryder, Lawson, and Dibora. He is also proud to be called “Dad,” by Kani and Du’sean. He and his beautiful wife Teresa have been married for 20 years.

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Continue reading “Ryan Bult – Why I’m Part of the Dream”

Why I’m Part of the Dream – Katie Kines

22853284_10212177564526653_4320650628105425575_nKatie Kines is our Director of Kids Ministry and Donor Engagement. She has helped us navigate our first year as a non-profit with ease, keeping the ball rolling on funding needs and fundraising events. She continues to make sure we have a solid Kids Program at our center. 

“When Miranda asked me to write this blog, I honestly had no idea what I was going to say. I think my first response to “Why are you part of the dream?” was honestly “Why wouldn’t I be?”

I’ve been participating in mission trips, whether at home or abroad since I was in high school. I was actually on a mission trip in the Appalachian Mountains when my grandmother passed away, and before I could call home to figure out how to make it back for the funeral my grandfather called and told me that I was not to come home– that I was exactly where my grandmother and where God wanted me to be. I think that was my earliest memory of being part of something bigger than myself–being part of the body of Christ. Since that time, I’m not sure I even knew why, but I knew God had a plan for me that consisted of dedicating my life to helping others.

I actually moved to Nashville for a job I previously held at a local children’s hospital and, to tell you the truth, I don’t know that I ever saw myself leaving the medical field– that is until I came to the West Nashville Dream Center. I came to the WNDC one of the first Sunday’s it was open and ended up being in the nursery with our only baby at the time. I then found myself back there every Sunday being part of the kid’s ministry, and somehow that grew into being part of the Community Night ministry as well. I then stepped on staff temporarily when TJ went and finalized her adoption of her precious second Fletcher kid, Caleb, and never left. Once TJ got back we realized we had created a new staff position and I haven’t looked back.

I have a lot of responsibilities and a couple different job titles at the WNDC but the true reason I’m here is that I see Jesus in every single child we serve. I’m not biologically a mama yet, but I like to tell people that I have about fifty of my own children on any given day. They’re why I come back day in and day out; to be reminded that our Heavenly Father loves us not because of what we can do for Him, but simply because we’re His. That’s what I want our kids to know too–that they are seen by and loved by not only us but by Jesus. I believe I’m doing exactly what God called me to do and I’d like to think that my grandparents, who are both by Jesus’ side now, would say the same.”

Why I’m Part of the Dream – Anna Lopez

18813715_10209069083270243_1603800399775691346_nAnna Lopez is our office manager and we often call her the “momma” of the West Nashville Dream Center. She also helps manage our food ministry during the week. Every member of her family plays a role here, husband Ricky helping with maintenance as needed (and getting a kick out of picking on the staff), Santana is a Student Ministry volunteer and Cheyenne is the resident babysitter. Alex is in the Student Ministry and serves when his momma asks. This is her West Nashville Dream Center story.

 

When asked to describe why she is part of the dream, Anna first said, “This is very hard for me.” Asking Anna to describe things about herself IS hard for her because she lives to serve others. She doesn’t desire accolades or attention. When someone is in crisis, her first response is, “What can I do to help?”

Pastor Ryan first met Anna and her family through a Serve the City project with Cross Point Church. Her neighbors had asked Cross Point to help them with some housing projects when they were going through a tough season. Anna started attending Cross Point after that and served in the cafe on Sundays.

“I always loved the work and passion that Pastor Ryan did in the community with Cross Point. I wanted to be part of that work and serve others too. I have lived in this community my whole life, so it is home. I attended Sylvan Park Elementary, Bass Middle, and Pearl Cohn High School. I now live in my childhood home that sits in Sylvan Park. A lot has changed, but a lot is still the same.” 

Back then there were no high rise condos or restaurants popping up daily. But there were a lot of dividing lines in the community as a whole.

“Charlotte Ave has always been a dividing point. The railroad tracks behind our center divided gang activity from drug activity. It reminded me of West Side Story.”

Today, those railroad tracks separate the fast-growing Nations neighborhood from the Preston Taylor housing community and it’s neighboring blocks that we serve. We call our neighborhoods the forgotten corner of Nashville because many people do not realize so many families live here. They’ve been forgotten for many years.

Anna was excited about the plans to open the West Nashville Dream Center back in 2013. What better way to help strengthen her community!

“When the West Nashville Dream Center was set to open, I kept calling Pastor Ryan and asking what I could do to help. I wanted to serve my own community. He never called, so I just showed up and started answering the phone.”

“And I never left.”

It could have been one of Ryan’s biggest mistakes if Anna had never decided to just show up. Anna is the first face you see when you come to our center. She is known to cry in empathy for people’s stories and is a Mary servant, no Martha traits can be found. She cooks meals for our moms and kids, planning out the menu for the week and equips others to cook meals as well.

“I kept coming back to the West Nashville Dream Center because I felt so at home here. I have grown to feel like I have a purpose through serving and now being on staff here. It helped me find my passion for helping.”  

There are so many reasons why Anna is part of the dream, but Anna has discovered a unique passion for the people she has met here.

“I have a passion to see people overcome obstacles due to their education or lack thereof.  My husband struggles with reading and I’ve seen the limits that has put on what he is truly capable of. Many people have looked down on him.”

So, Anna has been known to sit and read with adults here at our center and has recently found a love for Cockrill Elementary, our Pencil Partner, while attending their Literacy Nights. She helps provide a meal for the families and stays to help the parents. She is amazed that some of these parents are not only learning how to read, but they are learning to speak English as well. They work so hard for themselves and their children.

We are so thankful for you Anna. Thanks for living out what it means to be part of the dream.

 

Why I’m Part of the Dream – Miranda Telford

Miranda Telford is our Marketing and Sunday programming Director. She is a native Texan, wife of 12 years to Jason, and has one son, Drew (aka Drewbie). Her favorite thing to do at the West Nashville Dream Center is to drive the van to pick up kids, beep beep, and hang with the kids after service on Sundays.IMG_5914

There have been few moments in my life when I’ve heard God speak. It’s not an audible voice, but an overwhelming realization that He is with me and whatever He has placed on my heart and mind screams, “PAY ATTENTION!”

6 years ago, I experienced one of those moments. A passion and what I considered a calling I received at 18, collided with my 28-year-old self.

And this is why I am part of the dream.

Flashback to 2001. I was 18, about to begin college as a psychology major, hoping to be a counselor. My experience with my parent’s divorce inspired me to help others. The death of my uncle, who was an alcoholic plagued with bipolar disorder always haunted me. I wanted to help people who were stuck, controlled and eaten up with mental disease or addiction. The Summer before I left for college, I went on a mission trip with my church and served at a community center with after-school programs, free counseling and supplemental meals. I was so intrigued by this model and overwhelmed as I imagined the healing that took place there.

After serving, I was certain God showed me that I would start a Community Center like that one day. 

I told my boyfriend (now my husband) and a few friends about the crazy plans I felt God had laid on my heart. But as time went on, my path changed and I thought God had shifted those dreams to someone else. I became a Communications major at college with dreams of working in public relations for some big Music City company.

Fast forward to 2011. I was 28 years old and Nashville had been home for 6 years. I was on staff at Cross Point Church, working in the Creative Department doing marketing and music. I was on a high professionally, but I was also burnt out ready to leave ministry.

That Summer, after much hesitation and fear, I went on a mission trip to the Dominican Republic. My experience serving others in extreme poverty brought back my dreams of starting a community center. I shared this with a dear friend and she replied with much confidence, “I believe this is still something God wants you to do. Don’t give up.”

One month after I returned from that trip during a vision meeting at Cross Point, our Pastor shared dreams of starting a place called the Dream Center. With an after-school program, free counseling, supplemental meals and more.

The dream God had given me was AWAKENED, given PURPOSE and points of ACTION. God was speaking loud and clear.

I began a new adventure at that time. I switched jobs, from the Creative team to the Missions team at Cross Point and was the Local Missions Coordinator alongside our very own, Ryan Bult. I helped connect people with local mission opportunities in middle TN.

I was there when we were given the blessing of renting and renovating what is now the West Nashville Dream Center.

Fast forward to today. When I walk the streets surrounding our center, I walk with certainty that God wrote these people and this neighborhood into my story, long before I understood what it meant. I often feel closest to God when I’m here because I know that Jesus would be with us, and IS with us, talking to drug dealers and protecting children.

I now use my marketing background to bring awareness to the needs of our people and the goals of our center. It is my greatest joy to give a voice to hope and tell the story of the West Nashville Dream Center.

What I’ve learned most being part of the dream at the West Nashville Dream Center is that when God gives you a desire, it demands obedience. And when He speaks, you don’t want to miss it.

EMBRACE

Why I’m Part of the Dream – TJ Fletcher

Screen Shot 2017-11-01 at 12.21.54 PMTJ Fletcher is our Community Relations Director, managing all of our programs at the Dream Center and finding new ministry partners who can serve the community we love. She is a proud Canadian, is married to her husband Kyle of 7 years, and has 3 boys, Cash, Caleb, and August. TJ’s story is the first of a series of blog posts where we not only introduce you to our staff but share why we are part of the dream. 


 

The words that changed the course of my life and gave me hope for others:

“You’re going to have to work harder than anyone else and you don’t get to feel sorry for yourself.”

I was 15 and making poor teenage choices. Seems normal enough right? Except I didn’t have that liberty. I had no parental support. My sister and her roommates were my primary guardians so I wouldn’t end up in foster care. I had fooled the school system since 3rd grade, pretending I was my sister’s age so I could go to the same school as her and not be labeled as a homeless teen. I had an after-school job to pay rent and buy groceries, not for fun money like most teenagers. I lived on next-to-nothing and would eat tuna sandwiches for weeks at a time.

I often felt like no one cared about me and that I wouldn’t make it. My friends were my family. My heart and my mind were a minefield just waiting to blow if the wrong person stepped too close. I had baggage for days that I carried around with no clue how to get rid of.

So, when my youth pastor took me for coffee and sat me down to say he had heard I was partying and hanging out with questionable kids, he told me I needed to stop right away. The words he said impacted me so greatly that I’ve never forgotten them.

He told me that YES, my life sucked and it wasn’t fair but what was even less fair was that I had no time to feel sorry for myself. If I wanted to make it out, I had to work harder than anyone else around me. As the words sank in I kept thinking about how unfair it all was.

I was tired of being an adult. So tired. I just wanted to have fun and not worry about people hurting me, being hungry, or how I would succeed.

He told me that he would do whatever it took to help me get out, but that I could never be a victim. At the time I was really mad at him; I mean my life was awful and there he was telling me, “Too bad, you better suck it up buttercup.”

But he was right.

When you grow up in poverty and crisis and have secrets a mile wide before you even finish high school, you can’t afford even one slip-up. You start out on a slope and there is no net at the bottom to catch you.

The kids we work with at the West Nashville Dream Center have so many disadvantages just like I did. Before they are out of diapers they are subject to a path of giving up and allowing themselves to be victims. They are climbing up a slope of neglect, poverty, racial prejudices, abuse, lack of education, hunger, lack of resources, fatherlessness, and all sorts of trauma.

This is why I am part of the dream.

I know they can climb up that slope if they work harder than everyone else. Even though they deserve to feel sorry for themselves, if we can teach them to power through those thoughts they can make it out and see their full potential. I imagine being at the bottom of a mountain, rocks, and mud everywhere. All you can see is the distance and the work it will take to get where you want to be. But if you fight through the hard, you get to the top and your eyes are opened to a valley of beauty.  

Potential is kind of like that. If our kids can fight up the mountain, their eyes will be wide open to see how much more potential their life can hold. There is nothing like winning to make you think you can win bigger and better the next time.

I love the song by Need to Breathe called “Hard Love.” It reminds me of how hard we have to fight for these kids and help them get back up again when they fall down.

We get back up together.

“HARD LOVE”

Trading punches with the heart of darkness / Going to blows with your fear incarnate / Never gone until it’s stripped away / A part of you has gotta die to change

In the morning you gon’ need an answer / Ain’t nobody gonna change the standard / It’s not enough to just feel the flame / You’ve gotta burn your old self away

Hold on tight a little longer / What don’t kill ya, makes ya stronger / Get back up, ’cause it’s a hard love / You can’t change without a fallout / It’s gon’ hurt, but don’t you slow down / Get back up, ’cause it’s a hard love

You know the situation can’t be right / And all you ever do is fight / But there’s a reason that the road is long / It takes some time to make your courage strong

When the wolves come and hunt me down / I will face them all and stand my ground / ‘Cause there’s a fire burnin’ in me / They will see my strength in this love I found

TJ recently received certification from the Katyn Purvis Institute of Child Development in Trust-Based Relational Intervention and plans to implement these tools at the Dream Center in the near future to further help the kids we serve find hope and healing. If you have questions for TJ or would like to talk more about how you can be part of the Dream, email her at tj@westnashdc.com

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The Gift of Protection

Our mission statement: We are a ministry center committed to PROTECTING and empowering those in our community living in distress.

We serve through the lens of protecting all who come to find safety at our center. Some of the children we help live in crisis daily. Their basic needs unmet, tension at home, and neglect.

We recently had a challenging time with a young girl who was irate after her sister was kicked by another student. It took several adults to keep her from taking matters into her own hands to defend her sister. She was inconsolable. Staff member, TJ, was able to embrace her while she still fought.

TJ said, “I don’t know what it’s like for you at home, but at the Dream Center, KIDS GET TO BE KIDS. You don’t have to fight to be safe. At the Dream Center, grown-ups protect children.”

The young girl sobbed and fell into TJ’s arms letting her body finally relax. WE PROTECT.

At our Sunday worship service this past weekend a 5-year-old walked away from his class while they were outside playing a game. He was found and told to always tell an adult where you are or where you are going.

He replied, “Why?”

We assume it never occurred to him that anyone would be looking for him or keeping up with his whereabouts. Most 5-year-olds are rarely out of their parent’s sight. We’ve witnessed toddlers unaccounted for, their caregivers unaware they had left the house. WE PROTECT.

During Dream Center kids class, one boy was being bullied by a group of brothers, getting knocked over in his chair. Just like the girl mentioned above, that boy’s brother took action and did the same to one of the bullies. After the fight ended and we made sense of what happened, the group of brothers causing trouble were given lunch and sent home for the day. We then talked with the brother who took up for his younger brother. He was still in fight or flight mode. We reminded him that when he is at the Dream Center, we are here to protect him and his brother. The lesson of asking an adult for help, instead of using his hands to fight back, was given. He let his guard down and begin to share about being bullied himself at school. We earned a little trust, the scowl on his face faded and we allowed he and his brother the special job of bringing out the lunch cart, (pictured above).

They took such pride in a chance to have this responsibility. WE PROTECT. 

We could share story after story about the need for protectors in our community. The police come to us when a child is hurt or missing. We stay connected with local schools to report when kids are spotted in the neighborhood during school hours. Often, school is a much safer place for them to be during the day than at home.

We hope that the gift of protection motivates our kids to seek out relationships that build them up and ask for help when they don’t feel safe. Sometimes this mission seems like an uphill battle. But, the moments when the load is lifted off their hearts and minds for a day keep us walking, sometimes crawling up that hill, hand in hand with those we get to serve.

If you are interested in learning more about serving our young children or teenagers after hearing these stories, click HERE to fill out the volunteer form and standard background check.

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Photo Sep 23, 10 16 25 PM