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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It’s Ok to Leave – Katy Cash – Volunteer Highlight

Katy Cash’s first Sunday was not an ideal introduction for a potential volunteer.  She walked into volunteer cancellations and short staff. Without hesitation, she agreed to hop in the car with staff member, Miranda Telford, to grab the sermon file for the worship service.

They had a great introductory conversation and it was apparent that Katy had found a place to serve that fit like a missing puzzle piece. When they returned, Katy joined the 4th-6th grade class to shadow for the day and poor thing, she got dragged onto the concrete during a game of Trash Can, ON HER FIRST DAY SERVING! It didn’t phase her one bit.

She stayed after class to help serve lunch to moms and kids. When she asked, “What else can I do,” Miranda replied, “Go Home!”

“Are you sure?”

“Yes, you are free to go!” Katy, a teacher, had told Miranda earlier that she was going back to work the next day, after her Summer break.

This trend continues every time she serves. We have to make her leave. She gives her whole self when she is with us, whether it’s throwing a football with the kids, teaching the 4th-6th grade class or helping us with a special event.

Welcome to the family Katy. We hope you enjoy her WNDC Story:

How long have you served at the WNDC?
A little over a month
How did you hear about us?
Instagram
What ministry is your fav?
Kids ministry on Sundays
Best memory?
I have only been working at WNDC for a little over a month but I always leave there with my heart full of joy! My favorite memories are seeing the light bulb go off when we did the lesson on poverty… and of course getting hugs from the kids because they don’t want to leave you!
What is your why?
“Therefore encourage one another and build up each other, as indeed you are doing.” 1 Thessalonians 5:11 Sometimes that means going out of your way to give your time, support, encouragement, resources, and love to those who need it. I was so blessed to have a family and church who helped me learn how to do that at a young age. I want to keep spreading that love.

Chawnika and Tristan

IMG_3121It’s hard to remember a time when Chawnika and Tristan weren’t a part of the Dream Center. They are family to us and when they aren’t here, something doesn’t feel quite right. Chawnika explains it all started one Sunday afternoon when she came to pick up her son from our kids programming. Chawnika’s mom, Sharon, had been bringing Tristan to church with her. She said Pastor Ryan insisted she come inside and join the Single Mom’s lunch. Chawnika admits despite the fact she didn’t have her hair or makeup done, Ryan was very convincing, so she reluctantly obliged.  

From that day forward, she was hooked.

Chawnika says after Tristan was born and while his estranged father was in jail, she felt hopeless and judged by people who didn’t even know or understand her heart. “Sometimes I would break down because the last thing I wanted for my child was for him to grow up fatherless,” describes Chawnika.

Today, Chawnika and Tristan’s lives are full of joy, community, faith, and freedom. “A primary source of strength is that Tristan has found a community of people at the Dream Center who love him unconditionally. I have also found a group of women to walk beside me on this journey and I’m forever thankful. Our Single Mom’s group did not judge me. They have embraced my flaws. I couldn’t ask for a better group to walk this thing called life – a life that has ups and downs. I know I can overcome anything thanks to the power of prayer…my life wouldn’t be as peaceful as it is most of the time if I didn’t have this community of people.”

Chawnika and Tristan are living proof that your support makes a major impact on the lives of our moms and kids. “Tristan is impacted by all of the love he has grown to know and become so familiar… Tristan runs through the doors of the Dream Center and it warms my heart with the thousands of hugs he receives. For Tristan the Dream Center means freedom, the freedom to be playful, active and himself… As his mother, I’m so thankful.”IMG_1869