Fifty Ways #22 — Never Too Late

It’s never too late to recognize hard work. Especially if it involves celebrating the achievement of a milestone like graduation. We did that last Sunday at Western Hills Baptist Church for three high school grads. One of them was Shelby Ferguson. I remember when she was born. Now Shelby is headed to college at Centenary in Louisiana. Her parents Pam and Ray have raised her well. Provided opportunities and encouragement along the way. We’re proud of you Shelby!

You may remember Shelby from our newsletter in 2011. She was a part of a team that provided beginning home libraries to families in Eagle Pass. Do you remember Shelby’s reflections about that trip?

Shelby then and now--large print

The youth that she overheard talking about low literacy skills have not had the advantages so many take for granted. I wonder if either of those girls will be walking across a stage this spring? Let’s hope that seeds planted in Eagle Pass and elsewhere through Books for the Border and Beyond will impact future graduations in Texas and elsewhere.

Celebrate graduates. Pat them on the back. Pray for them. Ask them about their plans for the future. Plant seeds for future graduations.

We have been blessed to be a blessing…


Fifty Ways #11 — Would it be OK, if?

In a recent conversation with a dear soul who is planning a major back to school event for hundreds of children, that question came up. Would it be OK, if? If we modified the Books for the Border and Beyond design for bookcases? The answer was YES, of course. In this case, a crate from Home Depot will be used to get books to children in a way that provides some permanent storage.

The original design was developed to address the need to give books a secure place in homes that sometimes lack solid floors – in these United States. I’ve been in homes in Texas along the border with Mexico that have dirt floors. So a bookcase provides some security for treasured books – including school texts – in such locations.

colonia family with books

In the six years since the first bookcases were shared with families in Eagle Pass, more than three thousand families have received beginning home libraries. The bookcases have differed in construction methods; some have actually been bookshelves. One junior high principal recently suggested using discarded pickle buckets as homes for books. Imagine the possibilities…

 pickle bucket

The point is to fit the container to the need. On the list of 50 Ways Your Church Can Bless Your Community Through Literacy, #11 is Adapt the family reading fair concept in other settings where families lack books at home. That certainly includes adapting the container.

One suggestion: As much as possible include the families who will take the container home in the decoration (and/or manufacture) of the bookcase, bookshelf, or pickle bucket. This personalizes the home library and adds an element of fun to the family reading fair. See other suggestions on the Literacy Connexus website for hosting a family reading fair.

And I still love the bookcases…

Bookcase rowsig

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…

black square sig 201