City lights and skyscrapers are two of my favorite things about New York City. In fact, I am drawn to any place that has these things, especially if the city is near water. New York City takes the cake on those things as far as US cities are concerned. I love it here. I love flying into La Guardia Airport at night when the flight route takes you right over Manhattan. Some people see beauty in nature…I see it in city lights.
Where there is light, there is a shadow. I’m not a scientist, so maybe there is some exception to that rule, but as far as I know, you can’t have one without the other. New York City is a city full of light. It is also a city of dark shadows.
Mott Haven is considered by many to be a place of darkness. Honestly, there are many days where I buy into that idea myself. It is a neighborhood full of very difficult circumstances. Not a day goes by that I don’t hear someone, if not more than one, cursing as they walk down the street, or while talking to their children. I cringe when I see parents treat their children like they do not matter. It is a place with many negative cycles. Cycles of poverty. Cycles of oppression. Cycles of abuse. Cycles of neglect. Cycles of laziness. It is a neighborhood where children and teens grow up without much hope for a better future.
Graffiti 2 is a light in the darkness that seems to consume Mott Haven. The thing about light in darkness is that the smallest light can pierce through the darkest of dark. We have many small lights at Graffiti 2. Children learning scripture through Bible Drill and positive virtues to live by. Teenagers, stepping up as the spiritual leaders in their family and sharing their faith with those at home. Parents investing in the lives of their children. A body of believers that meets on Sunday mornings.
I am blessed to be a part of this light. I pray for myself that I do not let darkness cover my light. When I am tired, worn out, frustrated with circumstances, facing a “problem”, and out of any ounce of patience, I pray there is still light shining from me. As long as there is a light, no matter how big or small, it is still a light in the midst of darkness.
~Blog written by Ashley Emmert. Ashley has been serving with Graffiti 2 since the summer of 2007. Beginning as the Director of Children’s Ministries she now serves as the Assistant Director. This month she is celebrating her 29th birthday. To celebrate her birthday she is challenging people to help her raise $2900 in support of her long-term work with Graffiti 2 in the South Bronx. Wish her a Happy Birthday and give to support her work by clicking here.
Guest Post: Heather Keller, WMU
As adults, its easy to look at large goals and be discouraged because we cannot complete that goal by ourselves. Whether it’s a team goal at work, a large project at home, or a project taken on by a church, projects can be overwhelming when they require multiple talents or large sums of money. Thankfully, children don’t think like adults! Our 2 sons have realized that if they do their part and encourage others to jump in and help, loose change can quickly add up to dollar bills.
When Denton (age 10) and Landon (age 5) heard about the effort to purchase the Graffiti 2 building, they immediately began brainstorming what they could do to help our friends, Mr. Andrew and Proof, in this effort.
Denton had a number of ideas including a yard sale and lemonade stand, but the one that we are moving forward with is a “Change Challenge.” He has encouraged his Royal Ambassadors® (RA®) chapter to challenge our church’s Girls in Action® (GA®) group to see who can collect the most change over a 2-week period in late April. During that time, our missions groups are going to Skype with staff members of Graffiti 2 so our children can see part of the facility and hear from staff members about how our loose change can make a difference there in New York.
Landon has determined that he is going to use his interest in creating artwork from found items to help raise funds. The 5-year-old has created several pieces of “sculpture” over the last year as gifts for family and friends and has found great joy in seeing other people enjoy his creations. (One of his pieces currently sits on Mr. Andrew’s desk at Graffiti 2!) Landon’s plan is to give these pieces of artwork to our friends and family who make a donation to the effort.
We know that our GAs and RAs’ “Change Challenge” and the sale of Landon’s artwork will help, but won’t be enough to begin to purchase the building. We’ve decided to reach out to other groups and encourage them to take part in the “Change Challenge,” also, our home church in Tennessee and several other GA and RA groups we know in our area.
How much will we raise? We’re hopeful that we can raise $100 between both of the boys’ efforts. We’ve already been told that if the boys can raise that much, it will be matched by an anonymous donor.
While the money is important, the lessons my own children and our GAs and RAs are learning are just as important. When we all give the little bit that we have, our collective giving is much larger than our individual giving. We can accomplish those large goals. We can buy a building in New York City!
We think that Mr. Andrew and Proof have the best job in the world because Mr. Andrew gets to tell people about Jesus and help kids with their homework while Proof gets all of the hugs and love. And, now, my boys, our church’s GAs and RAs, and GAs and RAs from a few other churches who have joined the “Change Challenge” will have a vested interest in the work happening in “our” Graffiti 2 Church and Community Center in NYC.
Heather D. Keller is the children’s consultant for National WMU®. She is also a GA leader at Wilsonville Baptist Church, Wilsonville, AL, and the mother of two funny boys. Find her on Facebook or Instagram.