Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it. (Proverbs 22:6)
NEWS FLASH: Bridge Ministry of Acadiana is opening a christian school in Lafayette's Four Corner's Neighborhood. It will be another component in Bridge's neighborhood and community revitalization vision. Here is our story….
In 2001, there were two schools in the “four-corners” neighborhood that were closed as part of a desegregation order. Crime in this area had been escalating over the years and lonely men and broken women walked the streets day and night. Families in the neighborhood and their schools saw little hope, and those outside this neighborhood and schools saw little hope too. With the school’s closing, the school board decided to allow our kids to attend schools under a school of choice program. As a result, most of our children were attending good schools.
In 2003, Bridge Ministry of Acadiana moved into the neighborhood. At this time about 70% of our neighborhood were high school dropouts. In the early days, our children who came to were often three to four years behind their classmates. We were shocked and hurriedly tried to repair this problem. We have learned a lot since then about children growing up in generational poverty, in broken homes and unsafe neighborhoods, and the devastating effects, along with chronic stress, has on a child’s mind, heart, body and soul.
Hundreds of volunteers have been coming to Bridge over the years to invest in our neighborhood’s children and love them as their own. People have begun to catch our vision of development, but most generously invest their time, talents and treasures. We are told that some families even began praying together for our children, their homes, neighborhood and us when they crossed a ‘bridge’. We found God at work in many homes before we arrived. Over these many years, many people have walked back and forth across the perverbial ‘bridge’ and became friends. Broken relationships with God, self, and neighbor are being reconciled and a sense of wholeness has begun dawning as we now walk together as brothers and sisters and become whole.
Fourteen years later, crime is down, trust is up, and our children at Bridge are not only graduating from high school but going on to higher education and training. Some of our graduates work, or have worked, at Bridge leading bible studies, summer camp, different children and youth clubs, gardening activities, sports, field trips, nature trips, photography, fishing, etc. The Bridge has been walking alongside our neighborhood children and their parents and neighbors by doing development and not relief. And, in their shalom, we are finding our shalom.
One of Bridge’s many relational and development programs that has been done from our beginning is tutoring and homework help. Not only this, but our staff weekly go to our children’s schools to observe, meet with their teachers, attend parent-teacher conferences and other school functions to support our children and their parents. Our staff and volunteers have attended many of our children’s sports activities, family events, graduation celebrations, etc. Simply doing what admiring and respecting friends and parents do.
The Bridge has always embraced our local public school system and our public school teachers, who have also embraced us. However, this year in an effort to save transportation costs, our local school board re-zoned our entire neighborhood of elementary children to one of the worst schools in town! Just like that, our children will be moved this year from good schools to one of the worst. Our children’s parents were mad, as we were too. After all, their children are our children too. Love is kind of interesting when it is your children and you feel there is an unjust burden placed on their backs by outsiders. Before we responded, we went to our children’s parents and talked, but mostly listened and learned. We ask them about their “school of choice” options and found they have no choices. That is, we found that it might take 3-4 years for all our children to win their school of choice lottery. We found that if they did win the lottery, only 3 of our 43 parents could provide transportation. If buses were provided, the bus stops were too far from our neighborhood and unsafe to walk to and from for elementary children. Bottom-line they had no choice but to be bused to the worst school in town and they felt hopeless and mad. I may add, that they were to be bused to a school that was already loaded with generationally under-resourced children which is the root issue with public education people like to conveniently ignore.
We then asked our parents group, “If you had a real choice of schools for your child, what kind of school would you choose?” Most of our parents said, “We would dream of having our children go to a good, private, Christian school, just like the schools the people across town send their children.” By holding their dream of a private school tightly to our chests we found ourselves on a most unique path. Doors started flying open, health inspections passed quickly, fire department quickly approved facilities, State Board of Education and BESE approvals, teachers and administrators hired, curriculums purchased, children signed up, and voila… “The Church Academy-Bridge” was certified and our neighborhood’s dream is becoming a reality this August!!! Funding will always be an issue, but the Bridge is now more intimate for longer periods of time with our children, their parents and neighborhood. Making Christian character training more complete and stepping a little closer to a true neighborhood revitalization in our commUnity.
Love is kind of interesting in how it carries us along and builds us all up mentally, spiritually, socially, and even economically. Because of our choice to love and to be loved great things are happening in our neighborhood and city that are well beyond our human expectations. With the presence of a good school, homes may begin being built again on burnt out lots and stores may begin opening again. This is the neighborhood revitalization that we at Bridge envision through the eyes of our neighbors where wholeness, peace and joy abounds. A neighborhood where children play in the streets and old people with canes safely sit in the park and on their front porches again. Love is kind of interesting in how it carries us along ….
We have learned that before justice is done we must first love our neighbors. In all this, we at Bridge have realized that in intentionally choosing to love our neighbors, their children and their neighborhood we get in position to do love some justice. And we also get into position for our Lord to grow our hearts and minds too. God’s bridges are surely designed for two-way traffic!
If you have never been to Bridge Ministry of Acadiana, we invite to come join us and see how a neighborhood’s revitalization requires a multi-faceted approach. Also come see our new and exciting school: “The Church Academy-Bridge”!!!! Come, join us today by volunteering, investing, and or praying. You will never be the same.
“Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 8 Love never fails.” (1 Corinthians 13:7-8a)
- Nelson Warner, Chair of the Board