Children from low-income families in an apartment complex off Ambler Ave are now able to receive the care and attention most other kids get on a daily basis.
Caroline Thompson, sophomore accounting major from Cypress, organized an after-school program for the elementary and junior high students of North Abilene Apartments last semester.
“I was visiting churches my freshman year and the college minister was making announcements, he said, ‘Y’all should really go out of the country for Spring Break because you need to get out and share the gospel with people. You live in Abilene, there’s a church on every corner, everyone knows Jesus,'” she said. “I didn’t say anything, but my mind immediately started turning.”
The program has three main goals: to build relationships with the kids to where a mutual trust can be created, to share the gospel with as many students as possible and to get to know the children on a spiritual level, to effectively mentor and disciple those that want to know Christ.
Ultimately, Thompson hopes to create a guide based off her program for other college students across the nation to adapt in their own efforts of children’s ministry.
Thompson said she spent last summer working alongside Foundry, her home church in Houston, which rented out apartment centers and trailer houses to outfit them as after school centers for kids. This, she said, was her main inspiration for the program here in Abilene.
After becoming motivated to help, Thompson said she spent last semester volunteering at House of Faith, a children’s ministry organization in Abilene. There, she found the at-risk population and coordinated with Denise Davidson, the program’s director, as to where to go.
“As college students, we don’t see this population,” Thompson said. “We go to the movies, you don’t see them there. You go to church, they’re not there. You go to the mall, to nicer restaurants and you’ll never see this population. You might see them at Wal-Mart, but that’s when you’re trying to avoid them.”
Thompson planned and planted the program with students Brittney Bratovich, Zach Callaway, Merrill Parsons, Joy Gregory and Allison Lamberth.
Lamberth, sophomore psychology major from Houston, said she jumped onboard the moment Thompson talked to her.
“We have days where we really dream big with this and have huge ideas,” she said, “but I think our ultimate goal is to have more location and it be something that students who need service hours come in and do about. Something that ACU students know about, volunteer at and get to know the kids through.”
The program, tentatively named “Jump,” is in need of sponsors and volunteers. It operates every Monday from 4 – 5:30 p.m. Volunteering includes everything from playing soccer, to face painting with the kids, to drawing on sidewalks with chalk, essentially anything the kids want to do with the available supplies.
“We need help, we have a lot of kids there and not very many helpers,” Lamberth said. “We especially need guys to come, because the junior high guys come and are having to come and hang out with the girl volunteers. We definitely need more guy volunteers.”
The relationship-based program is hoping to expand as time goes on, Thompson said, and eventually rent out an apartment to outfit as an after-school center. She said any students looking to volunteer can email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“Yes, you can go out of the country to share the gospel, and that’s a great thing to do, but why wait until you go out of the country?” Thompson said. “There’s no excuse, they’re right across the street. You don’t have to go to Africa or Asia, or any place like that, to find people that need your investment.”