I missed my turn and ended up in Tent City … Charlotte

 Community Service, COVID-19, Neighboring, Social Capital  Comments Off on I missed my turn and ended up in Tent City … Charlotte
Dec 052020
 

I had good reason to travel to what used to be called the Urban Ministry and Men’s Shelter, off N Tryon yesterday. You see, I was on a mission, so to speak, to collect some food items for our LHCC ministry, that the renamed Roof Above were seeking to donate, but that’s another long story for another blogpost. My GPS had me locked in on the correct address. As I drew nearer I was shocked to see what I saw on both sides of the road. Charlotte’s thriving tent city. As I proceeded, I missed my turn … because I was thinking, “my destination surely can’t possibly be down there”. This is my way of stating that I lost my concentration and thought for a brief 90 seconds car ride that I was once again in a third world African country. Back to the task at hand, I’m in the Queen City, and looking for the now hidden and seemingly distant Roof Above.

A very recent WCNC article reported ‘There are places in the third world where refugee camps are more habitable’. It’s not that simple because I know that many organizations and kind folks are helping our cities citizens, like our friends at Roof Above. Their world also turned upside down in March when people showed up along with the thousands of food packages gifted by kind neighbors. Quoting the WCNC report “What’s more a local property owner has filed a lawsuit against the City of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County. The lawsuit alleges the city and county are herding homeless into tent cities that line the sidewalks, rights-of-way. It also goes on to read that the tents have crept onto private properties and parking lots along North Tryon Street.”

My point of this blog is that it’s hard to believe we’re in Charlotte, NC. While there is reportedly capacity in vacant Roof Above facilities and temporary room housing available, many of our unfortunate neighbors apparently still choose to stay in encamped in tent city. Barriers to entry into a temporary facility include COVID screening, behavioral restrictions and curfews, seemingly hurdles not low enough. There is no mass exodus from tent to housing, even with the promise of heat and utilities.

Maybe there is truth to the sentiment that your future is determined, not by your DNA code, but by your zip code. President Obama, once claimed “In this country, of all countries, a person’s zip code shouldn’t decide their destiny.”

If you need a road trip and have never seen tent city, not on TV, but live, right outside your car window, go take a drive to Roof Above, at 945 N College Street and see tent city for yourself. I am confident you’ll come away with more questions than answers. Oh, and trust your GPS and keep your eyes peeled. Count your blessings and thank the Lord you have a roof over your head this day. Thousands, not 10 miles from you, are not so fortunate tonight.

I am

Brent Morris

Executive Director, LHCC

 Posted by at 8:19 am

Volunteer – LHCC Family Christmas Event

 Uncategorized  Comments Off on Volunteer – LHCC Family Christmas Event
Nov 242020
 

Thank you to everyone who signed up! We had an incredible response and we are all set on volunteers for the event. For more volunteer opportunities please visit https://www.lhcclt.org/get-involved/

We are currently seeking volunteers for our annual Christmas event. The event will be a time of fellowship and fun. Will be giving away coats, shoes, clothes, and toiletries for LHCC families and community members.

Volunteers will help with set-up and breakdown as well as be assigned a designated position for the event.

Positions available include monitoring stations, helping hand out food, sorting clothing, and assisting families as they move through stations.

Families and volunteers will be asked to wear masks and temperature checks will be performed upon arrival.

Event Info
Event is Rain or Shine
Saturday, December 5th
The event will take place from 11:30 am to 1:30 pm. We are asking that volunteers arrive at 10:30 am to help with setup and we will head out by 2:30pm.

If you can’t make it for the whole time but can make it for part of the time, please let us know as we’d love to have you!

To sign up, either fill in the form below or contact Rebeca at rebeca@lhcclt.org. Please don’t hesitate to reach out as well if you have any questions or if you know someone who would like to volunteer for the event. Thank you!

If you have trouble viewing the form please follow this link to open it in a new page:

https://forms.gle/xct2YiLBzaCr8rQeA

 Posted by at 8:23 pm
Nov 242020
 

This has been a tough year. A once-in-a-lifetime year of uncertainty and perhaps even loss, of someone or something. I lost my dad, as did my ministry partner, and my close friend. Three fathers all elevated to a higher status, all in the last 4 months. 2020 has been like a centennial flood that can be devastating. I was recently reminded of that with a slogan about storms, associated with Tropical storm Eta, “Not all storms come to disrupt our life, some come to clear our path.” Is a rainbow not a sign of hope, as promised by God?

Our pastor at Life Church Charlotte, mentioned this recently, in reference to the Platte River, 310 miles long but mostly shallow. Miles wide and inches deep is the expression.

At LHCC, it has never been about how many people we help. Instead, it’s about the hope we provide and the love and kindness we share to those we call the LHCC family. We would prefer, instead, to be miles deep and inches wide.

We have recently started down an exciting path in planning a new initiative around kinship. My last blogpost outlined a perspective on this topic.

Jesus has high hopes that we will move from separation and division to unity and kinship. Our quest for mutuality is fueled by the engine of hope. If there is no hope, there is nothing to give others living on the margins of society. No kinship means no peace. No peace, no justice, no kinship, no equality. Quoting my latest read by author Father Greg Boyle, we ought to seek first the kinship and watch what happens. My thinking at this present time and given my experience with the LHCC family is this: we ought to see those we serve for the contribution they make in the relationships we share. There is much to receive and learn from those classified as being on the margins.

I was hungry, and you gave me to something to eat. I was thirsty and you gave me a drink. I was hopeless and you gave me some. Adapted from Matthew 25:34-40

Thank you, Life Church, for joining LHCC in rolling out hope to our LHCC family this week with food hampers. We are grateful for your kindness and generosity.

Happy New Year from our LHCC family to yours.

Brent M, ED of LHCC, December 30, 2020

 Posted by at 3:15 pm
Nov 112020
 

An aboriginal woman from Australia said to some earnest, well intentional missionaries: “If you’re coming to help me, you are wasting your time. But if you have come because your liberation is bound up in mine, then let us work together.” I am quoting from a book I’m reading called Barking at the Choir, subtitled Radical Kinship, by Father Greg Boyle. The title, itself, is a another thought provoking conundrum of opposites that causes one to ponder …what on earth is he referring to. Allow me to continue …

In the same chapter, called Exquisite Mutuality, Boyle writes about a volunteer, determined to join the efforts at his missional organization, told Boyle that she just had to volunteer with his organization. When asked why, she replied, “Because I believe I have a message these young folks need to hear”. The minute you lose that message, come back and see us” was his response.

At LHCC we are embarking on a new initiative. Something very exciting, even extraordinary, that we see as synergistic with our existing program service offerings. In short, it is our belief that volunteers generally want to make an impact and build relationships in our cross-cultural ministry. What we desire to prove, or test out during an pilot phase of an multi-year project, is whether the feelings and results might be considered mutual. We know the families we serve are positively impacted, but could those who serve alongside us, as volunteers, feel increasingly connected? Might volunteers invited to serve opportunities at non-profits across the city come away from their experiences with a greater sense of happiness at having made a difference in the life of a student? 

Stated differently, might volunteers arrive at a mountain top where the feeling of satisfaction is matched by the smiles and joy of those whose lives we walk alongside, so that both are liberated? This is what we are calling mutuality. This is what has been referred to as kinship. Arriving at a place of exquisite mutuality, as fascinating and radical as that may sound.

Over the next year, with the support of a generous philanthropist, LHCC is going to strengthen its operations through increased engagement and involvement of prospective churches, congregants and non-profits, to focus on this so-called mutuality journey.

Let the learning begin. If we can learn to love our neighbors and fill our love tanks by what we learn and gain from our own liberation, could we change the rhythm and trajectory of a deeply divided city? If you have read this far, thank you for reading this first of many blogs on the topic of mutuality. We hope you will join us on this exciting journey. May our love tanks be full to overflowing. Email us at info@lhcclt.org with your comments and questions.

In am,

Brent Morris

Executive Director, LHCC

November 11, 2020

PS – More blogposts coming, stay tuned and share your new-found love

 Posted by at 8:45 pm
Oct 232020
 

Think of it as a safe place to do school work, play, enjoy a meal and connect with your friends …

LHCC launched our Connect Hub learning program in September. This coming week, we are adding a second school day to Thursdays-at-the-church -for -school. Connect-Hub now takes place Monday’s and Wednesday’s for students while their parents are at work. We have adequate outdoor and indoor space at St Andrews UMC and have upgraded our connectivity and welcomed our families with open arms. We are providing learning for students from five Title 1 CMS schools off South Blvd, along with child meals for our low-income neighbors. Connect Hub is our term for a safe, group environment for students to sit at a desk and connect to the school learning platform with adult supervision. Students complete learning modules, have recess, and receive meals and snacks. Parents participating in the Hub are paid for their time. 2020 has been such a challenging year for so many. It’s been really hard on our kids for sure. I cannot imagine the hardships for exceptional students, those with special needs or who are living with homelessness.

We covet your continued prayers for continued interventions, inspiration and motivation as we come alongside our LHCC families, and certainly many others like them. We are grateful for this ministry and for the opportunity to build trust and provide hope in these relationships. We certainly do not take this responsibility lightly. For the glory of the One we serve.

Thank you for reading and your support of our local communities

Brent M

October 25, 2020

 Posted by at 11:00 pm
Oct 072020
 

Thank-you for reading our latest ministry blogpost. You will need to read to the bottom to find out about our latest award.

On the ministry frontlines, we have been walking alongside a young mother, Elizabeth, and her family for a couple of years. We have learned first-hand of the home-front struggles, firstly with COVID-19, and then of remote leaning over the past six long months, without any in-person help. Along with its technology challenges and the many language barriers trying to help her four children, three in elementary school and one middle-school student, we have witnessed the struggles of staying connected with the daily grind of being on constant Zoom calls. Peer socialization has all but disappeared and emotional support evaporated by being home.

LHCC has intervened to engage both teachers and school counselors to provide much needed encouragement and hope. We launched our Connect Hub learning program in September. This has been such a challenging year for so many. I cannot imagine the hardships for those with special needs or living with homelessness. Has the school system done these children a disservice, with delayed returned to class, especially now that the governor has opened up schools to return? How will we ever measure the impact on the COVID-slide?

Your prayers for continued wisdom, guidance and open conversations are appreciated, as we come alongside this young family, and certainly many others like them. Grateful for this ministry and opportunity to build trust and provide hope in these relationships.

Quoting one of my favorite bible teachers Chip Ingram, and one who I have listened to for years, “the big answer to our worlds chaos is not political philosophical or religious, its spiritual” Let’s keep our leaders. nation, schools and neighbors in our daily prayers. Chip goes on to say The greatest need in America and the world right now is for us to love our neighbor. Only radical Christlike love will heal racism, political division and reveal the love of the savior to fractured and hurting people. 

On a different note, LHCC is also pleased to have been awarded the 2020 Great Non-Profits award this month. Thank-you to everyone who wrote a review. If you still would like to add your voice to our work, kindly text 455097492 to 888-432-6659 and in 3 easy steps, you too can help make LHCC a great non-profit by sharing your feedback.

Appreciate what the Lord is doing through our ministry

Brent Morris

October 7, 2020

 Posted by at 12:16 pm

CMS discusses return to school … here’s what LHCC is doing while we wait

 COVID-19, Education, Our Mission  Comments Off on CMS discusses return to school … here’s what LHCC is doing while we wait
Sep 162020
 

Tomorrow, LHCC pivots once again to what we call a Connect-Hub, where we will receive our students for a remote school day. A Connect-Hub is our term for a safe, group environment for students to sit at a desk and connect to the school learning platform, under adult supervision. Students complete learning modules, have recess, and receive meals and snacks. We are there to help and get our students feeling hopeful and encouraged after a rough start to the school year

This is LHCC’s response to the highest and most pressing needs of our families, based on our observations from our work over the past ten days, including home visits, conferring with parents, and meeting in-person with students for the past two weeks

  • Meet the Gomez family. Four school kids, none with their own room, two sleep in the lounge, no desks and no chairs, other than the small kitchen table. Mom is unable to cope and is increasingly frustrated that she can’t help her own kids in the new-normal home learning environment
  • Meet Josh, grade 5, whose internet connection at home precludes him from hearing his teacher audibly, let alone complete learning modules. Mom had no idea, but tomorrow all that changes. He will be flying on high speed internet.
  • Then there is Rebeca, who can now access her daughters progress on-line and ensure she completes her homework, and asks for help from her LHCC volunteer or teacher, when needed
  • Meet Lily, grade 6, who has yet to receive proper instruction on using a different tool to meet remotely with her ELA teacher. It’s week 5. She was in tears, sharing how frustrating she is with the lack of answers from the school.
  • Two of our youngest grades 1 students are hopelessly lost navigating an iPad, let alone understanding their remote teacher instructions
  • Lastly, kindly meet our new volunteer, Ms Reid, who identified that answers submitted in Canvas by her young student, are not properly read, due to a different syntax, rendering the answer incorrect, when in fact the student nailed it!

I could continue, but I think you get the point …

That’s why we need to get our students safely into classrooms. More importantly, the younger the student, the greater the need for guidance and supervision with technology, connectivity, lesson assignments and completing homework. Our Connect Hub is our response to meet these immediate needs that have parents in a tailspin, trying to manage kids at home and wondering when they can get back to work and help pay the bills.

Listening to the CMS Facebook live update on returning to schools indicates a pending, yet cautious return, starting with youngest students. That means a phased return, staggered entry for schools that pass readiness audits. Sounds like red tape and more delays for many. Students are resilient, but can’t afford to regress any further without the needed face-to-face classroom instruction.

Incidentally, LHCC is the only entity in the area providing both caterer-to-home meals and a remote learning program from a convenient central location. With the start-up of our in-person and remote learning program in August, we are now serving 50 percent more children and their families than pre-COVID.

Working while it is day

I am Brent Morris, Executive Director

Wednesday September 16, 2020

(Names and grades may have been changed to protect the identity of our families, and volunteers)

 Posted by at 6:31 pm
Aug 272020
 

Dear Friends of the LHCC blog,

The information presented below, and published weekly on the Mecklenburg Country Public Health Department website is hardly a case for keeping public schools virtual…

I have been supportive of the transition to Plan B from the get go (remember that was the original proposal, as in “if you want to return to school great, otherwise stay home”) …. as long as it is safe. The map tells me it’s safe. The families that LHCC serves are advocates for in-person schooling and tuition, and we expect them all to return as soon as they get the green light. We were also fortunate to have been able to prove that congregating can be safe as evidenced by our recently completed summer programs, provide we adhere to the 3 W’s. Incidentally we added a forth W for water, because we did most of the congregating outdoors under a big ‘ol oak tree in 90 degree temperatures. 100% of our kids, staff and interns are still healthy, and have lived to tell the tale of it’s possible to venture out and learn and play.

The near- and long-term effects of the lack of food insecurity, emotional teacher support, and supervision will be devastating for many years to come, unless we get this segment of the population back safely into the classroom. Grades Kindergarten to 2, in particular, are already struggling with technology at home, and potentially losing hope in only week 2 of virtual learning.

The folks at the Meck Co Public Health and the two large hospital systems apparently need to be more vocal with the CMS Superintendent and the CMS Board.

Please pray that students can start going back to school, perhaps as soon as mid-September, into a Plan B, as previously voted upon, highly anticipated and much needed, for the greater good of our youngest and often under-represented neighbors.

I appreciate your comments and perspectives

Blessings

Brent Morris

August 27, 2020

 Posted by at 3:50 pm
Aug 112020
 

The thought of children being placed in a cage at the border really sickens me. No human being let alone young innocent children should ever have to be subjected to that kind of anxiety and abuse, like a captured criminal, awaiting their uncertain fate.

One of the many benefits of building relationships with our families and children is learning more about their stories, their culture and what brings them to the land of the free and the home of the brave.

Perhaps you might recall reading about the immigrant containment at our southern border. There have been many years of articles written about this atrocity, and I researched one  such article by the Council on Foreign Relations here Two of our kids were in apparently in a migratory group seeking asylum with a mother/aunt a couple of years ago.

There is no doubt that this was a traumatic experience for any child. Perhaps thinking, will we survive, was this journey to the big unknown worth the risk and will I see my family again.

Eileen recalled how their family of three travelled in a caravan of immigrants towards El Norte, a common term in Spanish for the USA. They seemed to walk for days on end in the hot sun, recalls Eileen, until they reached the border. Once detained and apprehended, she remembers how scared she was, being separated from her mother and cousin. Men and boys went one way, the women and children, another. She spent 3 days in a cage with other young girls, no doubt scared and very afraid of what might happen next. Upon reconciliation they were somehow allowed to proceed. The details are blurry at this point, and that’s OK. We do not seek answers or probe for a better understanding. It’s simply just too painful to recall that horrifying migration episode from two years ago. Fast forward to today. The good news is that they are here with us and with family. Safe as they will ever feel perhaps and making a go of a new life, in order to remain safe from trafficking, drug lords and struggles to make ends meet in a hostile environment back across the southern border.

A theme of our summer camp was “Count your Blessings”. When I think of the ordeals of others and the daily struggles of so many, I am compelled to thank God that I did not have to endure what others like Eileen will surely never forget …

The reasons for immigration are so complex, it would take more words than these to explain why this process, that has existed since before Jesus walked the earth, continues to this day. Everyone has their reason for leaving their families, as hard as that is, in order to find a better future for themselves and their kids. Eileen and her family found LHCC through neighbors.  We are thrilled that we get to serve families who have endured more than we will never fully understand.

In closing, I am reminded about the words of the Messiah from the gospel of Matthew 19:13-15. “Let the little children come to me, and do hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”

Our land of opportunity is no picnic and certainly no heaven, especially not during a pandemic, but let it be a place of safe harbor until we leave this earth for the splendor of heaven one day where there will be no pain, no suffering, no condemnation and no cages. There will only security for every wandering child and family member who seeks and also finds safety in the love of Christ. Please pray for our less fortunate neighbors among us and for the precious children in our care.

Until next time,

Brent Morris

brent@lhcclt.org

Jul 232020
 

Since our new normal began in March with a stay-at-home order including school closings, our LHCC programs have taken on a new course of serving our neighbors. There have been blessings setbacks and disruptions.

As schools reopen on August 17, whatever that really means, in our “new normal”, the future of our after-school program remains uncertain…

What lies before us are a few options for helping our kids similar, to how we used to do, way back before time began, in mid-March…

  1. Virtual homework help by phone or video
  2. Live evening homework help at the church as we used to go, but no groups, just one on one help
  3. Weekly daytime check-in at the church for scheduled help. Parents bring kids by appointment and receive help from a volunteer for an hour or so
  4. Do nothing for kids directly, due to safer at home protocols, and support parents instead with how to help their kids at home

There are surely other choices. Our mission at Learning Help Centers is to provide scholastic, spiritual and social supports to our under-resourced families. The degree to which we can accomplish our goals varies for each of the options outlined above. Perhaps there are a combination of choices to best meet the needs of:

  • Our families, as well as
  • The varying schedules of our volunteers and staff.

We covet your feedback. Perhaps you know of other organizations similar to ours that have had more time than we have to think this through, while we’re been busy delivery over 25,000 kids meals and planning for summer enrichment camps. We value your opinion and hope that you will join us. Thank you in advance for praying for the safety and protection of our families and for helping LHCC determine how best to serve their ongoing needs during the pandemic.

Working while it is day

Brent Morris

July 23, 2020

 Posted by at 6:35 am