Web log = Blog

The term “blog” is reminiscent of the intro to Star Trek when we’re reminded of stardates – fictional representations designed to disguise actual time of voyages “where no man has gone before.” I wish that I had begun a “blog” on May 1, 2004, when Literacy Connexus began. Blogging was in its infancy then, too. A diary would have worked. Perhaps in 2024 I’ll look back on today’s “blog” and be glad for the discipline of blogging at least every two weeks for the second ten years of Literacy Connexus.

What’s certain is that this initiative is focused at the intersection of volunteers and churches – an appropriate way to bid farewell to April as Volunteer Month. Literacy Connexus is all about volunteers helping people through church-based literacy ministries. Volunteers make it work and work well. So thank you, volunteers. Volunteers who have taught English as a second language, who have taught adults to read, who have tutored children and youth. This is the tradition, our literacy missions heritage. Thanks, too, volunteers who have built bookcases for children who live in homes without books. Thanks for those who have created teaching materials and written articles and given expression to the many ways that churches can bless their communities through literacy.

donating books is fun

What will the next ten years look like? More persons for whom English is not their native language are coming to Texas: refugees, immigrants, and internationals. We have a choice. We can embrace and encourage or turn inward and atrophy. Many adults are outside the workforce because they lack skills and credentials for employment. The GED is more difficult and more in demand (expected, really). How will churches open their doors to persons who are marginalized? We have a choice. And what of the cycle of poverty? Will we link arms with those who see the need for early intervention such as preschool for all? Will we explore creative new approaches in working with schools and other partners who believe in a meaningful future for all children? Again, we have a choice.

We also have a choice when it comes to answering that most crucial of questions: Why are you doing this? Why are you spending your time teaching me? Why did you come all the way out here to bring books and bookcases to these children? Why are you tutoring at that elementary school? Why, indeed? One could make the case for enlightened self-interest. Community service blesses the community. A rising tide lifts all boats and so forth. We can certainly point to the Golden Rule. Consider one of the principles of the helping relationship that was included in a little book published many years ago by Woman’s Missionary Union: The helper combines witness and ministry to communicate the love of Christ. Both/and not either/or. Both.

Stay tuned…

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Thank you!

Saying thank you is important for anyone who receives a gift—especially a not-for-profit organization.  More than just being polite, there are tax implications. So, thank you to all who support Literacy Connexus through your donations and other support.

Some gifts are monetary; others in-kind (a fancy word for things used in doing one’s work).  In the last week many books have been donated for Books for the Border and Beyond.  This is one of the most important in-kind gifts we receive.  The books go to one of three book banks affiliated with Literacy Connexus.  Donated books are sorted by volunteers and shared with families lacking books at home.

At the world-wide headquarters for Literacy Connexus (4802 Hwy. 377 S, Fort Worth) I am sitting at a desk donated by a company going out of business.  Someone donated the chair I’m sitting on.

Bookcase Stack

Can you spot the donations?

I am using software made available by Tech Soup at a greatly reduced price through Microsoft.  The lateral file cabinet to my right and the bookcase behind me were donated by United Way when they moved to new offices.  The list is long for those kinds of gifts.  Thank you!

But Literacy Connexus really lives in volunteers serving through churches in the cities and towns across Texas.  A couple of years ago we learned that each week in Texas more than 10,000 adults from 88 countries learn English through the efforts of 1,500 plus volunteers.  This past weekend volunteers trained new teachers in three cities.  These 75 new teachers have returned to their churches with clear ideas about how to prepare lessons and make learning fun.  Thank you Robin Feistel, Martha McDade, Connie Anthony, Karen Peiser, Ella Moore, Carol Coburn, Dora Parnell, Blenda Wilson, Elsa Romero, and Beth Avery for your dedication to teaching English with excellence.  Thank you teachers everywhere for you service to persons seeking to learn English.

This blog will be launched on the Literacy Connexus website as a part of the ongoing work of Pam Moore.  Thank you for three years of dedicated service.

Thank you, Literacy Connexus board members:  Caroline Bell, Lynda Bertram, Kathy Cervantes, Lyle Crossley,  Larry Floyd, and Shewanda Riley.  From cleaning up trash along the highway to reviewing tax returns and donating to the cause, your service is much appreciated.

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And thanks to all who pray for the work of Literacy Connexus.  It matters.

Lester

We Joined Mary Hill Davis

Literacy Connexus is one of 96 ministries in Texas that receives funding through the Mary Hill Davis Offering for Texas Missions.

Last night, representatives from a half dozen Baptist churches in the Stephenville area gathered at the Greens Creek Baptist Church to focus attention on this offering. Enjoying dinner and playing “allocation Bingo,” they learned about where money goes when given to the MHD offering.

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Read more in today’s newsletter!

Follow our Blog!

On weeks alternating with the Literacy Connexus newsletter (as in this one) we’ll begin a series of blogs – “web logs” – related to the work of Literacy Connexus.  Rather than reflecting on the universe at large or generally random topics, our goal (Lester, Pam, and guest bloggers) will be to draw back the curtain and share something of the movement and progression of our work in literacy in Texas and beyond.

Literacy Connexus is in the middle of the late summer training events for ESL (English for Speakers of Other Languages).  Our website lists workshops from Fort Worth to Houston to San Antonio and more.  These workshops are known as TEX (Teaching English with Excellence) trainings.  Experienced ESL  program leaders give their time to train volunteers to teaching English to beginning students.  Robin Feistel developed TEX over several years and is the ESL Coordinator for Literacy Connexus.

Sunday, September 8, is International Literacy Daya very important observance for those in the literacy field.  But did you know that Thursday, September 19, is Talk Like a Pirate Day?  Special emphasis days and months are not in short supply.  They focus brief attention on things that are important – at least to calendar makers.  Because you are reading this, I’m guessing that literacy is important to you (at least more than talking like a pirate).  So, gentle reader, as you contemplate International Literacy Day, what’s in your library?

bookcase

Lester Meriwether

Volunteer Job Openings

Literacy Connexus is looking for a few good men or women. If you are familiar with our Newsletter, you know that we would love for you to join us in this ministry. We have three volunteer positions to fill, each allowing for flexibility of time and commitment. Prayerfully consider which position is right for you. Contact Lester, 817-696-9898.

1)      Book Finder

Do you have a nose for finding things? Literacy Connexus is always in need of children’s books to give to families in need. This volunteer position involves scouring the internet for organizations with books to give away, following leads on book give-aways, and soliciting book contributions from agencies, businesses, and individuals. In general, you would be a children’s book sleuth, tracking every lead and sniffing every trail. You would unearth the book bonanzas of Texas, giving Literacy Connexus the opportunity to share the wealth.

Qualifications:  Effective computer search skills; clear communicator by telephone and email; thrive on challenges.

Commitment:  Minimum of 4 hours/week.

 

2)      Development Director

Are you a fundraiser at heart? This volunteer position involves collaborating with the executive director to design and implement a development strategy for Literacy Connexus, in order to achieve fundraising goals and engage donors. You would lead and manage development efforts to raise the annual budget.  You would engage the board of directors, and train and lead fellow staff members to support fundraising efforts. Writing grant proposals and reports to funders is a major component of this job.

Qualifications:  High energy, positive, “can-do” attitude, flexibility, and teamwork; high degree of initiative and the ability to think strategically. Strong verbal communication skills and demonstrated ability to write clearly and persuasively, with attention to detail. Grant writing experience is recommended; a thorough understanding of strategic development is a must.

Commitment:  Minimum of 6 hour/week.

 

3)       Project Manager

Do you love it when a plan comes together? This volunteer position involves dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s of Books for the Border and Beyond projects-in-the-making throughout Texas. As churches and groups navigate from the planning phase to hosting a family reading fair and submitting their follow-up reports, your job would be to answer their questions, ask a few of your own for our records, and ensure that they receive the materials we provide for each project in a timely manner. You would be the Literacy Connexus liaison, with the backing of the rest of the staff.

Qualifications:  Friendly; clear communicator by telephone and email; problem solver.

Commitment: Minimum of 4 hours/week.

 

Now That I’ve Grown Up

I didn’t know what I wanted to be when I grew up, but when the time arrived, I set my sights on Army Officer Candidate School. On my application, I stated that it was important to me to fully believe in the organization I worked for, and to participate in activities that would be not only meaningful to me but would have a big impact on others and my country.

Fairly lofty conditions, considering the ink had barely dried on my college diploma and my only previous job experience had been at Winchell’s Donuts and A&W Root Beer. The Army showed me who was boss, though; I got commissioned, but in total disregard of my hard-earned journalism degree, they pronounced me a petroleum officer.

I’ve been thinking a lot about those Army days recently, probably because in the past year, my life has made another unexpected and dramatic about face. It started with a simple prayer prior to the 2010 Morning of Missions activity at the Texas Baptists Annual Meeting in McAllen: Let my morning’s involvement have an impact on others and myself that will last long beyond this day.

I ended up at a Books for the Border family reading fair and witnessed beginning home libraries—Bibles, health literacy books, story books, and bookcases—being given to families living in poverty. I met Literacy Connexus executive director and founder of Books for the Border, Lester Meriwether, who, after a moment’s introduction, asked if I would be interested in writing the planning guide for his ministry. Yes, Sir! Never had I been so certain of God’s immediate answer to prayer.

My biggest obstacles in attacking this assignment were knowing nothing about Books for the Border except for what I had seen that morning, and knowing even less about literacy missions ministry as a whole. But Lester was a veteran, and with his leadership–and a frontal assault on the internet–I managed to gain steady ground over the next couple of months.

I found a barrage of evidence pointing to the need for literacy ministry. More than 3.8 million adults in Texas possess a level of literacy inadequate to earn a sustainable living. Families in poverty often remain stuck, generation after generation, because homes without books produce kids who can’t read. If a child has scarcely, or never, been read to prior to kindergarten, he will likely start school behind his peers and lag even farther as time goes on. Kids in poverty often find themselves on a trajectory toward high school dropout, unemployment, crime, and lifelong struggle.

But there is a war being waged against illiteracy as a root cause of poverty, and as I became indoctrinated to the strategies employed by those on mission, I knew I wanted to enlist. I learned that effective ministry involves recognizing the gifts of every person and the assets of every community, and then using those strengths as a starting point. Effective ministry means understanding that all people are loved and gifted by God. With sensitivity and collaboration, we come alongside of those in need and work with them, not for them, to shore up their flanks. The results are sustainable solutions that will annihilate the cycle of generational poverty.

My tour of duty with Literacy Connexus has put me on soldierly alert to the pervasiveness of poverty and to the work to be done. I can see how my experiences in the military, raising a family, and serving in my church and community all combine to give me the skills needed to help me do this job. It’s exciting to me that God gives us the experience long before we know what it’s for, and the awareness and the passion at just the right time—and at Literacy Connexus, a generous dose of esprit de corps on top of everything!

God knew exactly what I would want to do when I grew up. And He had in mind for me the very things I mentioned on my OCS application—an organization I could believe in, meaningful activities, and the opportunity to impact others. The U.S. Army was merely the warm-up.