Article written by Urban Alliance staff. Photos courtesy of World Vision.
"For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me." Matthew 25:35 (NIV)
It's been a busy year of impacting lives for Evelyn Hannah and the youth group she leads at Bible Way Temple Nation in Hartford's North End, and they're not slowing down.
Last year, Hannah and a handful of youth attended the Youth Empowerment Institute training provided by World Vision, through Urban Alliance's Next Generation initiative, which helped strengthen their capacity to partner with youth from their church in ways that lead to sustainable community transformation.
"I filled my knapsack with 'tricks' like ice breaker activities and other group techniques," explained Hannah, "and I saw excitement in the youth with a desire to serve others."
Following the training, Urban Alliance provided grant funding that helped Bible Way integrate youth empowerment principles within their youth program.
Using the words that Jesus spoke in Matthew 25:35, Hannah and her crew mapped out a plan to meet the basic needs of their neighbors right in Hartford.
"The young people were ecstatic about the projects and the different components of the projects. They had a voice," said Hannah.
They met monthly over the summer at Bushnell Park to provide hygiene products, water, food kits, Bible tracts, books, and hot meals to anyone in need. They served free breakfasts to children and youth as a CRT Summer Meals Program site. They collected new and gently-used school uniforms from community members (and even decorated donated collection bins), partnered with a local laundromat to wash them for free, and delivered them to students at Simpson-Waverly school. And, they distributed books, supplies, backpacks, and clothing at a free community day hosted by their church at the end of the summer.
But, they're not done yet.
This week, the group will be doing what they do best - changing lives - when they distribute more basic needs items at Bible Way's mobile food pantry.
"I liked the part when I helped put packages of supplies together to hand out," said 9 year-old NaDhari.
10 year-old Tiann shared, "I liked washing the uniforms."
These efforts not only helped provide food, clothing and other needed supplies, but they helped build up the youth who were providing those very essentials.
"Seeing their ideas come to fruition helped build their confidence and developed their leadership skills. These youth are the 'NOW' generation. Not tomorrow, but today. We need to pour into them spiritually and build their confidence, give them the skills, tools, and capacity to be needed to lead and serve," said Hannah.
And, as the green grass sprouts up this new season, so do the fresh ideas from the youth at Bible Way Temple Nation of how they will continue to make a difference in their community. Kudos, change makers. Kudos.
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