BrentM

Nov 032019
 

This past Tuesday, the LHCC family came together to honor me with a post-program dinner celebration of my birthday. I am very grateful for their kindness and generosity in providing a meal to feed 5,000 … literally. The Hispanic culture dictates that all family meals are a pot luck. Everyone contributes something tasty and the volunteers are always the guests of honor for their generous time commitments. Our families are grateful for the help they get as well as their children. Reflecting upon this joyous occasion, I wondered what it would be like to be grateful like that every day, birthdays or no birthdays…

Brennan Manning in his book Ruthless Trust posed the question of whether the primal sin of the first couple mentioned in the bible was ingratitude. Even before they were deceived and ate the fruit of the forbidden tree.

I believe that people who have known tough life and death situations, suffering and know what it is like to need something so bad they will do anything to get it, have had to draw upon trust or something like it, to find joy in their lives. They have literally had to swim upstream against the odds. The poor give larger proportions of their income to charity than the rich, because they know what it is like to have needs seemingly beyond their means.

If you are reading this then surely you have much more to be grateful for. Living in a first world country with plenty of clothes, a warm home and one maybe two cars. I have much to be grateful if I consider how much better off we are than many struggling for survival each and every day. Let me use this reminder to count my blessings every day and to praise God for blessing me abundantly and most assuredly more than I deserve.

Until next time

Brent Morris Executive Director

October 20, 2019

 Posted by at 7:53 pm
Oct 072019
 

Picture the scene. Ten or so pallets full of potato’s, totaling about 20 tons, being bagged by kind hearted folks into 10-pound bags on a cool Saturday morning. How did they get there you may ask? The potato’s that is…

It all takes place every year at Pineville Neighbors Place. A generous farmer donates what I call the gleanings in the form of potato’s, in support of the homeless and food banks. Gleanings is a term used in the bible and is defined as the act of collecting leftover crops from farmers’ fields after they have been commercially harvested. It is a practice arising over 2,000 years ago when it became a legally enforced entitlement of the poor in a number of Christian kingdoms.

Fast forward to Charlotte and the 21st century and it has taken on a more hands on meaning with a deeper connotation. Potatoes are trucked in from three hours away in central NC. Picture for a minute (or check out the video) random strangers, neighbors and school children standing in huddles around pallets of spuds, surgical gloves on, digging into the gleanings and bagging all 40,000 pounds of edible offerings until they are all bagged. It’s a beautiful picture of collaboration and unity across all races, cultures and people of different socio-economic backgrounds. High fives every time a pallet is transformed to handfuls for easy distribution. Organizations represented included Atrium Health, Cardinal Innovations, Pineville Elementary School, Learning Help Centers of Charlotte and Pineville United Methodist Church, to name a few. There were the many young, the young at heart, ambitious teachers and pastors, church congregants and community helpers. It was another awesome drop.

So, now you know what’s a potato drop. Lots of potato’s going to a needy cause, for sure, but more importantly, a show of how a community comes together, extends some love for the less fortunate and helps one non-profit make light work of an otherwise huge truck load.

Thank you, Jane Shutt and Pineville Neighbors Place, for blessing our neighbors and the LHCC families with a fun community service event, and more importantly a show of good neighborliness. Till next year …

Video credit to Mr. Morry Alter, who does great productions for non-profits like LHCC and PNP

Sep 222019
 

Are you crazy busy? More to do than hours in a day to get it all done? Might we take a time out? Read on for a simple challenge this week …

A recent LHCC summer blog post called out neighboring as an art. We shared this concept with our LHCC families this past summer and the results are in. Summer camper families grew closer. Volunteers got to build deeper relationships with families and children. Parents invited other parents to our program and we got to enjoy an end of summer celebration together. It was awesome.

When serving our neighbors, are we trying to look good or do good? Inviting others to our program or opening our homes to others is a great way to show hospitality. Weary people may join us to share a meal and conversation and hopefully leave feeling refueled and refreshed. It can be stressful and awkward for both hosts and guests. We get worked up, tidying up and fed up, focusing perhaps on appearance rather than good ol’ southern hospitality.

In Luke 10, Jesus pointed this out to Martha when her sister Mary was feasting more on the friendship than faffing about the food. Christian hospitality has more to do with good fellowship than good food. In the book Crazy Busy, the author points out that there is a fine line between care and cumber. Less ado would serve better. “Feed people, not your pride.”

How about a little challenge for the coming week:

  • Slow down your hurried life. Go out of your way to greet and chat to a neighbor.
  • Be present with our family ( aka put down the phone?), and
  • Make time for daily meditation and devotion. 15 to 20 minutes, tops. This might just be the one thing strong enough to pull you away from your busyness, so you can be intentional about becoming a good neighbor.

Peace to you, take it easy and have a Mary-like week

Brent M

 Posted by at 8:49 pm
Aug 112019
 
 Posted by at 2:09 pm
Jun 262019
 

I was invited to the Copa Gold cup soccer matches this past Sunday at Bank of America stadium. It was an amazing experience. Most of the fans were clearly Mexican supporters. I mean, I am thrilled they beat Martinique 3-2, and the win was the cherry on the top of a festive, fun and entertaining evening. Had they lost, I would have run to get away from a potential stampede.

It was not difficult to spot who was there for their home country. They are all kitted out in green or white Mexican soccer team shirts and garb, faces painted in the national colors of the flag, boom boxes, Mexican flags flying, horns blaring, and many with masks. There were sombreros galore. They arrived really early and stayed well into the night. I also got to witness the Mexican wave … a crowd inspired “stand-up at just the right time and wave arms” as the momentum circumvents the field, much to the delight of all concerned. Growing up in South Africa, Mexican waves had just started to make their appearances at day/night cricket matches, when the going was slow. It was far from slow Sunday, and the waves kept on coming…

What struck me was how much camaraderie existed between seemingly complete strangers. They were out to enjoy themselves… Respectful, friendly, law abiding, and not overly rowdy. Frankly entertaining for this Anglo spectator. Families and friends were just hanging out together, singing, chanting, young children in their fathers arms and others in tow mothers guided them through the carnival atmosphere outside the stadium … and certainly inside. I have not seen so many similar happy immigrants together in one place. They were delighted to be there … together, without seemingly a care in the world. I had to marvel at the contrast from Nascar, basketball or football spectators, on so many levels.

The local press is full of stories about the harsh treatment of children, the caravans of immigrants at the border, and the dramatic rise in the Hispanic population in our Queen City as the 2020 census nears. One has to admire these peoples tenacity and perseverance. Families are here for a reason, even though most would prefer to be back home. That’s a true statement. This deeply divided city, nonetheless, is a great place to live, and a paradise compared to the trouble they are fleeing in their homelands south of our border. You see, these are our city neighbors, escaping unspeakable violence and persecution. If my family lived like that, I too would pack up and leave for a better future. I believe I did in fact do that. Therefore, as long as they are here, we should welcome them and treat them with respect and dignity. They have something the rest of us don’t seemingly possess. We might benefit from taking a page from their playbooks. In our line of refugee and immigrant ministry work, at LHCC, we meet a lot of awesome immigrant children and their concerned parents. We love on them and try to help with everything we possibly can and tend to their needs. They are grateful people.

What follows is a short, sobering perspective on what we ought to see with our neighbors, regardless of whether they are from Mexico or Timbuktu.

Let your love be stronger than your hate or anger. Learn the wisdom of compromise, for it is better to bend a little than to break. Believe the best rather than the worst. People have a way of living up or down to your opinion of them. Remember that true friendship is the basis of lasting relationship. (Author unknown)

These are people, not problems. They are our neighbors. Who wouldn’t want to live in peace and raise their children as best they can, in a safer environment? Let’s pray they are successful in school and in life, for a better future for everyone.

Until next time, I am

Brent Morris

Learning Help Centers of Charlotte

June 25, 2019

 Posted by at 9:02 am
May 052019
 

Back in March, I challenged myself, and others to be a better neighbor. After Movement Day in March, I was inspired to practice what I preach and literally love on the neighbors on my street and in my neighborhood. I undertook to share my experiences here after these first 30 days. In addition, we at LHCC challenged our volunteers, and the parents and children we serve to do the same. Love their neighbor. Yes, literally.

What I put into practice was to be more intentional than I had been before. I made excuses to be in the front of our home, not hidden away in the back yard. I was intentional to slow down and catch up with my immediate neighbors and the people in my sub-division. My “hi’s” were extended to “how are you” and “it’s good to see you” kind of sentiment. What happened was amazing. I actually felt good about not been so hurried and I took the time to show kindness and caring. I shared this with various members of my church group and they too were encouraged to persevere with strangers and acquaintances and convert them to friends.

In the past 30 days, LHCC has hosted three community events. We saw families inviting their friends. Even an opportunity presented itself for those served to serve two of our volunteers. What I believe I have seen is that it feels good to slow down and engage people in our midst or sphere of influence. For the next 30 days, I will continue to encourage others to love their neighbors and be a blessing to their communities.

Until the next time, I am Brent Morris, Executive Director of Learning Help Centers of Charlotte, proudly serving alongside our staff and volunteers on the mission field that God has called me to.

 Posted by at 10:38 pm
Apr 072019
 

I have been tutoring at LHCC for 3 school years.  I find it to be a very worthwhile and encouraging ministry.  It is a real high to see the light go on in a child’s mind and their faces beam as they begin to grasp a concept that has been befuddling them.  It is also very gratifying to build relationships with the children as well as the parents.

This school year brought me a new challenge I was unprepared to handle.  In August, I started working with Jane (not her real name) a 5th grader.  At first, I was surprised to see how weak her reading skills were.  The following weeks I realized that even though she could barely read she had somehow been passed on year after year by the school system.  Not only could she not read, her math skills were barely at a second-grade level.  I spoke with her mother on several occasions but due to the language barrier and cultural differences, I was unable to properly communicate my concern.  Each week I became more and more desperate and frustrated in how to help Jane.  She was bringing in 5th grade homework but had no comprehension as to what to do.  Honestly, I cried in the car after each session the first couple of months.  I wanted to help Jane but felt so inadequate.

Through an interpreter I asked her mother over and over if she would arrange a meeting for me with Jane’s teachers.  The mom listened politely but made no effort to arrange such a meeting.  Thankfully the school reached out to Jane’s mom via a letter that arrived the day before our tutoring session.   Mom invited me to attend and I jumped at the chance.  Sadly, the night before the meeting I came down with the flu and was quite ill.  I prayed feverently that the Lord would allow me to be well enough the next morning to attend that meeting because unless I was on my death bed I planned to be there.  I awoke the next day and was able to get dressed and get to the meeting which lasted almost 2 hours!  I was fine during the meeting but then went home and back to bed for two more days while my flu continued after that precious 2 hour break!

During the meeting it was discussed that Jane was becoming frustrated with school and made excuses every day as to why she didn’t need to go. It also became apparent that on the present course Jane would probably become totally lost in the system and eventually drop out. Her IQ is very low and her mother is ill-equipped to help her. As a result of the meeting, it was decided that Jane was not able to continue on a mainstream 5th grade level and would be moved into an Individual Educational Plan (IEP) but still remain with her classmates.  I was able to connect with her teachers and got help in how I could best help Jane.  This was such a blessing because now Jane is working at a level that she can handle.  She is happy to do her homework and her confidence level has soared as has our relationship.  This is especially important as next year Jane will go to middle school and if not for this change and new IEP probably would have drowned in the CMS system.

Thank-you for reading my volunteer story …

D.O. ~ third-year volunteer with LHCC

April 2019

I was moved at Movement Day Charlotte

 Attitude, Education, Family, Immigrants  Comments Off on I was moved at Movement Day Charlotte
Mar 192019
 

I went to Movement Day Charlotte this past weekend. The day when local church pastors, non-profit and marketplace leaders come together to get their marching orders, to quite literally keep moving. Six years ago, at the inaugural predecessor conference called The Justice Conference, I was profoundly moved to consider my movement into ministry. If you are wondering whether I got the big white phone call from God, I did… A month later, I went on my first mission trip to Haiti with my church, Forest Hill. A month later, I handed in my resignation. If you want to walk on water, you got to get out of the boat.

Joined by 1,000 pastors and ministry leaders yesterday, I was again reminded of why I quit my job to take a small role in the local mission field. It is an honor to serve our neighbors. We are a deeply divided city and the needs are ever present. The only key metric of progress since the prior Movement Day is literacy rates have improved by 1%. To 40%. That’s 4 out of 10 grade 3 students reading at grade level. The rate for our target audience is even lower, at just 24%.

Last week’s blog was about the value of persisting with reading over the long summer months. I am more convinced than ever that the benefits are more than just school reading grades. What I heard yesterday is that we have to put our words into action. Go do something…We are going to spend 30 days focusing on our literal and physical neighbors. Ask yourself the question “Do you know the names of the ten or so families occupying the households where you live?” Can we convince the families we work with to do the same? I’ll report back in 30 days. How can we fulfill the great commission to love our neighbors if we don’t even know their names?

Until then, I am

Brent Morris 

 Posted by at 7:56 am
Mar 102019
 

In 2017, an independent report comparing four CMS schools for year-round consideration, compared with the rest of the CMS schools brought unexpected results, in my opinion. Neither the shorter summer breaks nor the extra time produced measurable academic gains, after three years. I am referring to the March 3 Charlotte Observer article, entitled “Concerns over year-round school benefits led to board’s decision“, well written as always by Ann Doss Helms. I was dismayed. Actually, I was self-evaluating how these results could possibly be true, as I weigh up everything I have learned and experienced from delivering summer enrichment camps for the past six years with Learning Help Centers of Charlotte. The video below speaks to the value of bridging the gap for low-income children, who would otherwise experience limited learning, not to mention reading encouragement during the long summer months.

Summer Reading Loss simulation, comparing the have’s with the have not’s

I will not argue or refute the results of the multi-year study of the sample four schools from West Charlotte, included in this study. These schools no doubt have many challenges before students even sit down in class to learn. High levels of absenteeism in July, when other CMS schools are still out enjoying pool-time or vacation. What I will argue is that I disagree that additional summer literacy interventions and a shorter summer vacation are not beneficial for our young English Language Learning students. I have seen first-hand the extraordinary benefits of summer learning activities. I know that the parents of the children we serve expect us to be the encouragement for their children over the 11 weeks of summer. I also have it on good authority that teachers spend anywhere between three weeks and an entire fall semester reteaching their elementary school students what they have forgotten over the long, hot summer months. Case closed… At LHCC, we remain optimistic about the what we do and the potential value of year-round schools. We know that the 11-week summer vacation is highly disruptive for continuous learning. Therefore, we will continue to promote summer literacy camps, along with a fun learning experience during our summer program. We are pleased to be offering summer camps again in 2019, for our seventh year. Who’s going to support us in offering this invaluable program to our awesome children?

We appreciate your comments and support of our families

Feb 282019
 

I am scared of heights. Always have been … I used to bend my knees looking over a wall from a five-story block of flats where I grew up in South Africa. I would really rather just stay on terra-firma, feet-on-the-ground … unless I am swimming.

This past Saturday, we treated some of our community-minded LHCC families to a Rewards Day at Sky High Sports. You see, back in October, one of our community partners, Pineville Neighbors Place, organized their annual Potato Drop. Our LHCC families and children helped bag about 4,000 10 lb. bags of spuds, for donation to local food banks and low income communities. As a show of appreciation, Sky High Sports saw the opportunity to reward the children from our LHCC program for their service by inviting them to a fun morning at their awesome trampoline park, adjacent to our Pineville serve location. After the usual jumping and laser-tag activities, our energetic kids spotted the ropes course some 12 feet above their sweaty heads. They donned harnesses and then undertook some bold steps along suspended ropes and platforms. This was rather intriguing to me. Most had never undertaken this kind of adventure before. Some may have ventured out previously during our LHCC 2018 summer camp, but for most part, this was a new experience filled with trepidation. They swallowed their pride, and bravely took their first steps, guided by parents shouting encouragement from below. “Don’t let go!” they pleaded. They were dependent on a harness that seemed all too necessary all of a sudden.

We were very proud of them all. Some had tears in their eyes, as they overcame their fears and made it across the rubicon from one platform to another. Others were stage struck, unable to move a muscle. Words of encouragement were everywhere and they did the necessary with wide eyes and tensed muscles. Courage was in play, as the support from others was palpable. I knew how they felt. I had felt that way many times before as a young kid, but the life lessons were priceless. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. I was just thrilled to be able to witness this experience, hold their hands as necessary, and see their delight at overcoming their fears, and accomplishing their what they thought was not in the realm of probability when they began. It is a joy to serve these families. I thank God that He made this provision for me and my family to be His hands and feet in serving our neighbors.

Until next time, I am

Brent Morris

February 24, 2019

 Posted by at 9:23 pm