Episode 10: Caring For Kids

Nancy Mitchell leads Caring for Kids, a mission that connects school, churches and business partners. She illustrates how we can emphasize “care” in the pray, care, and share lifestyle. Nancy shares stories of life-change in the students, teachers and those serving. 

Show Transcript

Welcome to the BLESS podcast, where we join Jesus, where He is already at work. We dream of the day when every home in America is adopted by one or more persons living the prayer, care, and share lifestyle.

Your host is Gary Kendall, Catalyst for Love KC and the National Prayer Mobilizer for Blesseveryhome.com. Gary works with founder Chris Cooper, and the teams at Blesseveryhome.com to equip you to live on mission where you live, learn, work, and play. If you haven’t yet signed up to adopt your neighborhood you can do so at Blesseveryhome.com. Now, let’s turn our attention to this episode of the BLESS podcast.

Gary: Well, welcome to the BLESS podcast. We join Jesus where He’s already at work where we live, study, work, and play. We often talk about living this lifestyle that we call the pray, care, and share lifestyle. Some people prefer to use the B.L.E.S.S acrostic where they talk about B beginning with prayer, L listening to God and to those around them and E, eating together, (one of my favorites), S serving, and S, sharing your story. So whether you want to think about the pray, care, share lifestyle or the B.L.E.S.S. lifestyle to me they’re each just one way of trying to understand what Jesus meant, when he said that the two greatest commandments are to love God and then to love your neighbor as yourself. So, whichever one seems to work best for you is fine. But, we encourage you to walk along with other people in this journey through life, then to let God use you.

We’re aware of two things continually; God is working ahead of us, that’s our great confidence. Secondly, He’s drawing people to himself, and that’s His responsibility, not ours. We get to come alongside as a guide if you will. And so when we share this podcast, what we try to do is help you as a listener to picture some of the people that are in your mind or your heart. Maybe you can even see their faces right now. They may be people that you work with or people that are in your neighborhood. It could also be an acquaintance, like a barista, at Starbucks or someone you might see regularly. Maybe it’s someone from your past or a former co-worker or something like that. Then, we just want you to imagine using the things we talk about on this podcast as tools, as a way to reach these people and to help them take even one step closer to God.

Gary: I would love it if we could get away from the fallacy that our job is to lead someone from A to Z in any given conversation. If God opens that door and we can lead all the way from, “Hi, what’s your name?” to accepting Jesus, that would be amazing. It rarely happens that way. Sometimes, God has people ready. I think it is more realistic to say, God, how can I join with You today, to help my friend move from step three to step four or from step four to step five.

Today we have Nancy Mitchell with us. Nancy is the director of Caring for Kids. We’ll talk more about that in just a moment. But if you want to think of the pray, care, and share lifestyle for a moment, Nancy’s going to relate what she does with the “Care” side of things with Caring for Kids. We’ll get more into that, but before we do, Nancy, tell us a little bit about what you do in your role as Director of Caring for Kids. Give us an overview, and then we’ll probably swing back and talk about how people have impacted your life as we go forward to the rest of the podcast.

Nancy: Well, thank you, Gary. I’m really happy to be here, and I love the idea of the prayer, care, and share format that you have and the work that you’re doing in the city, I believe it is making a huge difference. I thank you for entering into that. I’ve served with you for a number of years in the local church setting. I know that’s been your heart and that you have always engaged with people right where they are. So, I appreciate it, and I just thank you for the opportunity to be here.

Gary: Nancy, I think that you were the first one to mention those three words to me, pray, care, and share together. We’re going to go back ten or twelve years ago now to when you were leading the prayer ministry at Indian Creek. You talked about being a lighthouse of prayer.  It seems like you might have gone to something over at Colonial Presbyterian Church, and you learned from Mission America about these three words., pray, care, and share. You were encouraging people to be a lighthouse for prayer in their own neighborhoods. Do you remember that?

Nancy: I don’t remember how it all came to pass, but I do remember that we initiated the lighthouses of prayer at Indian Creek and people did engage, and we prayed for the neighbors across the street, on either side or those behind us.

Gary: I’m going to give you credit.

Nancy: I’m not sure I can take it but thank you.

Gary: I interrupted you. You were going to talk about Caring for Kids.

Nancy: With Caring for Kids, we do both the prayer and the care side of things. We can’t share in the public sector. We’re not able to do that in the same way we can in some other settings. But we do pray. We are undergirded in prayer. In fact, Caring for Kids was birthed out of the Citywide Prayer Network. It became an answer to a question that pastors were asking in the different networks around the city, “How do we serve our communities together beyond a single event?” Churches were coming together for single events like Serve Days and things like that. But they wanted to go a little deeper into the community and develop relationships together as the Church of that community. So we began a journey of trying to figure out how to do that and create on-ramps for churches to serve together in their neighborhood schools.

Gary: You were involved in that at Indian Creek.

Nancy: Yes. You experienced some of the ways God could work in the schools in Olathe.

Nancy: Absolutely.

Gary: It’s gone way beyond that now.

Nancy: It actually did begin in Olathe. At that time, we weren’t an organization. We were helping churches partner with schools in their neighborhood and working with the school district to do that. But it was one church and one school, and it grew from there. Then the dream got a little bigger.

Gary: Yes, it did.

Gary: So, before we go in that direction because that will be the majority of our time. I would like for you to go back, if you would, and think about who prayed for you. When you think about reaching out to neighbors, friends and, others, etc, who was it that prayed for you? Who was it that shared with you and helped you on your spiritual journey?

Nancy: There are many people really, but there was a kind of convergence at one point in my life. God truly does order our steps; I’m convinced of that.  I was on a journey. I was seeking. I wanted to understand what it meant to have a personal relationship with God. I knew about God, and I had been in church most of my life, but I didn’t have that personal relationship, and something was missing.  I was really on this journey, and I was by myself.

I had a couple of jobs at that time. I had kids at home and was trying to juggle those schedules, but it was all in God’s plan because there was someone when I worked in the school district there was somebody there that was praying for me. I worked at Hallmark in the evenings, and somebody was praying for me there. I had a friend with whom we were in a babysitting co-op together. She was praying for me. It was the trifecta. They were all praying for me.They were caring for me. They entered into my story as friends in just caring for my family and me. I trusted them. 

As time went by, I recognized that there was something very special about them. I obviously didn’t know about the Holy Spirit, but I just knew their effervescent love. I just felt like I was loved and cared for, and I was very attracted to them. They had a lot of favor in my eyes. As time went by, they began to ask me questions. They asked if I would be interested in Jesus. Each one of them had a different way of doing that and bringing me into their world and their journey. It was the combination of those things that caused me to learn what my next step was and how to journey. I gained some tools.

Gary: That’s so great because that’s exactly what we talk about all the time. I’m so glad that your name was on someone’s prayers which ended up in heaven. God was answering those prayers and moving in your heart.

Nancy: He always does. I think many times it takes a person for us to be able to give some context to what we’re feeling and give us some words and maybe with the use of tools, to be able to take the next steps.

Gary: Tell me a little bit about your call to Caring for Kids. I know a little bit of the story. I think it’s a cool story in how God gave you a vision for schools and even for our city. I’d love for you to tell the listeners the bigger story because it’s amazing what God has done in this short period of time. It started itself as a burden in a few people’s hearts and then became something citywide. I think it will impact our nation. There are a lot of people who could dive in and do some of the things that you and your partners are doing.

Nancy: I may be the Director of Caring for Kids, but we are truly a team, and we work together as a team. We are a team of five people, and we’re all very passionate about kids and have all come from a variety of experiences of working with kids. This team that pulled together was heartbroken over what was happening in the school districts. It was at a time when there was an organization called Youth Friends. Youth Friends pulled out of Kansas City for financial reasons. Then there weren’t any more on-ramps or ways to figure that out what the school districts needed to do next. We stepped into that gap, not to provide training and mentoring and so forth as they did, but we saw that there was a great need and so we stepped into the gap.

There is an increase in poverty. We became aware that children that are experiencing and increase in personal trauma through their broken and fractured homes and marriages. In poverty they didn’t have enough food to eat. Sometimes they didn’t have clothing.

We began to realize as we had conversations with people that children are trying to learn at the same time as they have these tremendous challenges facing them. It’s impossible. The schools just simply cannot meet all those needs. It does take a village. So we thought, “who’s going to raise up the village?”

We began to go to work. We knew that each school district was different just as every child is different and every school is different, and there’s a culture there. We wanted to have a contextual process that people could enter. We needed to shift the story, we didn’t want to come into the schools saying we’ve got a great program or we want to do this for you. We simply came in with open hands and asked how we can help you achieve your goals. We became school-centric and began to put the principal at the center of the story. We started by trying to partner two churches, as a result of the Citywide Prayer Movement, trying to build unity in mission and so forth. But then we looked around and saw this great neighborhood and community. There were already businesses and civic groups and nonprofits in the schools. Why wouldn’t we all work together? So, we created a process by which we could envision everybody for the same goals and bring everybody together around a table and begin collaborating and bringing their unique resources to the table and serving that principal and that school and those kids together.

Gary: You were kind of like a neutral convener.

Nancy: We are a neutral convener for sure. We’ve become a backbone organization that facilitates and then equips those partnerships for sustainability for the long haul.

Gary: What were some of the stories? I’m sure that there are stories inside your story, where your heart was pulled, or your mind was maybe enlivened to think differently, to step into that great need. What are some of the things that you experienced along the way, especially in the early days?

Nancy: I heard stories that just broke my heart. As we began to do some investigation, I realized that some leadership and some people in the school districts didn’t want the church in their school, and there were trust issues there. I had one very hard conversation where I just listened. The schools were concerned about the church being in their building and what we might do and those kinds of things. I went out to my car, and I began to cry, and I began to pray. I said, Lord, this has to change. We have to figure out a different way of building a relationship and of building trust, which is so key.

Gary: We’re on their territory.

Nancy: We are definitely on their territory.

Gary: It is not the place to preach or to be a prophet. It’s the place to be a servant.

Nancy: Exactly, serve with an open heart and love on people. What you said, I think it is exceptionally true. God is the One that leads the way, and He opens doors. When you have an opportunity for the church to be around the table with a business, a non-profit, or civic group, they may or may not be a believer. You have an opportunity to be that expression of love and light and to be present and available, not only to the school and the children but also to the greater community that is around the table.

One of the things that a leader told me in the school district was, the church is not relevant. The church doesn’t care about anything outside of their building. That truly broke my heart because I know many churches that are interested in being relevant and meeting people where they are and serving without an agenda. We have encountered so many of those types of servants in the school district stories.

As trust has been built over time, there has been opportunity and doors opening to serve at a deeper level because we know that needs need to be met. We understand needs such as backpacks, clothes, and food. We build our process on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. The bottom two tiers have to be met before a child can ever feel like they belong anywhere. So, we serve faithfully into that. As trust develops, not only with the school, but also with the children and their families, other things begin to happen. Parent engagement begins to happen, and deeper sustainable kinds of projects begin to develop, which has just blessed us beyond anything I can say.

This happened a couple of weeks ago. I’m very excited about it. It’s very fresh. In one of our high schools, which is very urban and has a very high level of poverty, we have several partners around the table. It is a really strong partnership. We invited the two churches across the street to be a part of that, and the two pastors had actually never met before. Their churches are like two blocks apart, but they met at the table there and became friends. As time went by, there was a new pastor that came on board and wasn’t sure that they wanted to invest their time in meeting those basic kinds of needs but eventually he saw the value in it.

He was committed and he kept coming back. One day, maybe six months ago, the principal said, we have a group of boys with an attendance issue. This group of boys is “at risk” but they’re leaders, and we can see that leadership gift in them. I would love to provide mentoring for them through a program called SOAR. I would like to pull those boys together and see if they’d like to participate and be a part of it. But there will be certain requirements to be a part of that. This pastor said, “Yes, sign me up!” I want to do this. So they did it. They gathered those boys together. The boys looked around the room and thought they were in trouble. Everybody in the school thought they were probably in trouble. They thought they were going to be suspended. There was a lot of anxiety, a lot of folding their arms, and closing themselves off.

Gary: They thought it was going to be punishment.

Nancy: Their expectations were a little different.

So, the pastor came in and said, you’re all here for a reason, you’ve been chosen. There are people around you who see incredible leadership gifts in you and things that we’d like to help you learn more about and to be able to use. You have an opportunity to learn about that with a great program and I’m going to be the one teaching it. I would just love to have you be part of this and see where we go with it.

Well, they loved it. Twelve young men participated. Part of the story is a couple of those boys, actually walked across the street went to that church on their own time, on a Sunday morning and brought some friends. This pastor exhibited love and care, and he had no agenda. His agenda was the principal’s agenda, to love these kids, to help them with their leadership gift, and to envision them for something a little bigger than they thought they were capable of doing. It is pretty powerful.

Gary: Yeah, it’s great.

I always think about how many people in my generation, grew up thinking we go to church. One of the things that we say all the time on this podcast, we can go to a building, but we ARE the Church. We need to BE the church and be on mission every day where we live, study, work, and play.

I go back to the word in the Greek language, ekklesia, the literal translation means “gathering.” The church is a gathering of people, a community, if you will. So when Jesus said, “I’ll build my church and the gates of hell will not stand against it,” He wasn’t saying, I’m going to build this temple on a corner. Jesus is saying, I’m going to build into the people. This community of people will be like me.  They will be the representation of me to the world. I am going to build into them, and nothing in the world can stop them.

If we would think, we are those chosen people. We are part of that community of disciples. We are the church wherever we go. We go with His Spirit, in His name, in His power then truly the kingdom of heaven can come to Earth through the people of God. If we think we ARE the church, instead of, I GO to church. The pastor in your story demonstrated that.

Nancy:  Yes, I love that.

Gary: One of the things that led me to have high esteem for what you guys do is through the volunteer work that I did with LEP with Countryside Elementary.

Nancy: Yes.

Gary: When I was pastoring at Indian Creek, I had a heart for the partnership we had with Countryside Elementary. There were three different principles, over 10 years, but each one of them had a great heart for the school. My grandkids actually go to that school. There are 17 different languages spoken there. There are several apartment complexes around the school and it’s a very diverse place. I think there’s a lot of beauty in diversity and there’s a lot of need. There are a lot of single-parent families. There are a lot of working parents. So, when the kids are coming home, in many cases they’re coming home alone, or going home to a friend’s house and looking for something to do.

Over time, one of the ideas that were shared, is the same process you talked about where we were saying to the principal, tell us how we can help. What came out of that was the idea of an after-school program.

So for three years, I was a part of that program, every week during a certain period of the school year, most of the school year, we would meet with these kids. They were anywhere between 15 to 25 of them. Over time, I just came to love those kids (and their parents because I would see parents at pick-up).

There was a young man named, Antonio. I know he wouldn’t mind me telling his story. Antonio had more energy than he had wisdom. He didn’t know what to do with himself. A lot of times others didn’t know what to do with Antonio either. We could tell a lot of stories about Antonio, but he had a great heart. Over time, you could see his heart for his classmates growing. You could see his heart for God growing.

In LEP, there are three distinct things that we do, one is Cultural Arts where there’s a variety of things that they might be able to participate in, like anything from choir, to soccer, learning about science or math, or photography, and about half an hour is set aside for that. Then there’s reading. It’s kind of mentoring time, but we would always read and work on their reading skills. This was the heart of the program from the school’s perspective. Reading is a requirement, and we wanted these kids to advance in their reading. The third part was optional, not everybody stayed for it, but it was learning about character and learning about God and the spiritual life, etc. We tried to help relate the Bible to everyday life.

So, Antonio went to all three and he gave us a challenge. He had trouble listening and sitting still during the story time. But over time some good things started happening with him. He started coming to Indian Creek Community Church, and he brought his family. Then, Antonio made a decision to receive Christ. He wanted to be baptized, and so we got to do his baptism after he graduated from the school and from fifth grade. Then, just a couple of weeks ago, I got to baptize his sister Mariana.

Nancy: Wow.

Gary: It was very fun. Their mother, Christine, talked to me after the baptism. She said you know our whole lives were changed because the church reached out to Antonio, and now we come here. This is our church, and our family’s changed. That’s just one story. Several others are similar to that.

I guess the point I want to make is I think we were doing things anybody could do. I don’t know all about the cultural arts side of things. I couldn’t teach the science part or the photography part or some of those things. But I could read with the kids, and I could be there and be a part of the character building process. We have some great leaders who worked hard. You know some of them, Nancy.  You know Terri Geenens, Ruthie Burrell, Amy Stewart, and others that were faithful leaders in it. All I had to do was come alongside them. I was one of the few males, so I was the bouncer sometimes.

Nancy: You need one or two.

Gary: You do need them sometimes, to help keep the peace

Nancy: A good role model.

Gary: Yes, but anybody could do what we did. The Life Enrichment Program was about one and one-half hour in time.  I usually participated in it one day a week. We hosted LEP for two days a week at Indian Creek, and the student had the choice of going for one or two days.

Many people could go into a classroom to read.  Many people can go to school and be present to help.  I know of dads that actually walk the school property and pray. There are many Moms in Touch groups, who meet to pray for their schools. Indian Creek would go down and help every time the school would do something. We would show up in mass to help encourage the teachers, encourage the parents, and these are all very doable deeds. I don’t think our community or our churches are aware of what an opportunity there is, what a need, and what a difference they could make.

Nancy: Absolutely. Let me ask you a question if somebody loves on your kids, how do you feel about them?

 Gary: Oh yeah. You want to be with them more frequently.

Nancy: Absolutely, so when they do collaborate, some of the great creative and innovative ideas that come out of the collaboration around the table are amazing. One of those partnerships in Shawnee Mission School District decided to partner up with another school that had partners, and they all got together and decided they were going to do a Dad’s Night which just blew everybody’s mind. It was fabulous! All these dads came, and they fed them and did fun activities. They decorated their dads like a Christmas tree and those sorts of things. It was just an innovative idea that came up out of the collaboration of people working together and bringing whatever they have on their hands, whatever resources, and volunteers they have.

But I do have to say that Indian Creek really was a pioneer for sure. We have talked about that many times as a team. It was a pioneer, and we are seeing after school programs popping up all over the city in different ways. It’s a different context and different culture, some are at churches, some are actually in the schools. It’s just amazing to me how that seems to be almost a natural kind of organic flow that happens when trust is there, and people work together.

There’s one story in Hickman Mills. There was a pastor who had an after-school program, but they were struggling with the volunteers. They were serving, I’m not exactly sure, but it was in the single digits of kids. Then another church came along and partnered in this, and they brought their volunteers, their energy, and their resources to the table, and they went from single digits to serving 100 children in a year. We actually have that story on our website, if anybody wants to go see that. But that is a story of how we really are better together.

Gary: The first time we got involved in Countryside was because of a high school student who attended Indian Creek named Brittany Outler. Brittany realized some of her classmates didn’t have backpacks. She got it in her heart that she could find backpacks for her friends and it turned into something a lot bigger. She really went after it. It seems to me, we were able to fill 100 backpacks. I’m not sure, maybe that is preacher’s math, but it was a lot. It was a huge pile.

I think it woke a lot of people up that there are needs there that were not being met.  We gave the backpacks for a couple of years but then the Principal, Amy, said they don’t need backpacks because businesses are donating backpacks. But what if we could fill backpacks with snacks? So we did a summer program every summer. We packed backpacks for the kids: Jason Reiswig led that project. We gave them food that they could have in their homes over summer because a lot of the kids were getting breakfast and lunch at school and when that didn’t happen they didn’t have as much.

The point I’m trying to make is, these things kind of came up spontaneously. People are looking around and asking what needs could be met. I remember that there was a lack of trust, in the beginning, the first time we proposed doing a workday. It almost didn’t happen because when the principal went to the school district to say I need supplies like basketball goals. There is a church that wants to come to a workday. The school district actually told her, not to get her hopes up because they probably won’t ever show up. She convinced them that she thought we would come. But when it came down to it, they really didn’t fill the order for her because they (the school district) didn’t believe. We eventually got all of that worked out. I I remember on that workday we turned out over 300 people to do 12 big projects. Just the other day I was in the Countryside again, and I walked by someone shoulder to shoulder, and they said they remembered being in this school when we painted every wall in Countryside Elementary School.

I thought yeah we did. These are the kinds of things that can be done. I’ll emphasize again it should be whatever the principal wants. It has to be their agenda, not our agenda. But whenever we can be an answer to their dream, and we can help them dream, that’s huge! When we start asking teachers what they need, we will hear things as simple as Kleenex, or colored markers. Some of the teachers provide these out of our own funds.

Nancy:  Many of them do.

Gary: Twice a year, we would take lunch into all the teachers and stay for all three of their teacher lunches. We would just sit and talk to the teachers and get to know them and encourage them and thank them profusely. Year after year of doing that, the teachers begin to tell you some of their concerns. They’ll let their guard down a little bit to say, here are some of the real problems that we don’t know how to solve. At that point, there’s collaboration that can take place with trust. I think in those settings, the love of Jesus and the heart of Jesus comes through because if Jesus isn’t in it, then it’s hard to keep coming back to the table for just human love. Our human love is limited, and to some degree, we’re all selfish, at least I am, and we all need the love of Jesus.

Nancy: We absolutely do. I love that you’re sharing all those stories. There is an unlimited number of needs. The creativity and the ways to serve are unlimited. Especially, as you said, at the beginning, when we love God with all of our heart, mind, soul, and strength–in that, we receive that same love. Then we can express that in tangible ways and love our neighbor. It’s the discernment and the direction of the Holy Spirit that really can help us with the creativity and in meeting some critical needs, which would not be met in other ways.

I love that you shared so many varieties of ways. We have had older retired people in churches asking what they can do. They are the best mentors in the entire universe. The kids relate to them and trust them instantly. Some of them will write cards. Churches will get a group of people to write postcards to all the teachers, once a month to encourage them and bringing snacks. Those things in themselves make the teachers feel like they are not alone in this. They say, we are not alone in this; we’re part of a community that cares. It also conveys a message to the kids and the families that there’s a community here, where you belong. We care about you. We love your kids. We love you, and we’re here for you, and that conveys a message that really can’t be conveyed in another way.

Gary: I was at an event. We were providing volunteers for a back-to-school night where they were playing games in the parking lot and doing a variety of things and this PTO leader kind of pulled me off to one side and said, with tears in her eyes, we can’t get parents to come to these kinds of events. The kids want to come. We say we’re going to do a back-to-school night and they get all excited and then we don’t have enough parents. It’s the same teachers who are teaching all day that are out here trying to make that event happen. We just don’t have enough parents. She asked, Do you think that there will be any way you could get maybe 15 to 20 volunteers from the church who would just come out and stand at the games helping for crowd control, participating in the games, and helping things go smoothly. I said, yeah I’m sure we can do that. She was basically crying because I was saying, yes, we can provide volunteers who will stand at the front of a bouncy house and keep the kids from hurting each other. What a privilege that is! What a great opportunity that is! I don’t know if our listeners even think that that would be a way to be the hands and feet of Jesus, just to show up and be there. I remind people sometimes that Jesus lived 30 years as a neighbor before His 3 years of ministry.

Nancy: Wow.

Gary: We talk about loving others as you love yourself. We coach you to love as a neighbor. Jesus was 30 years being a neighbor and we know that His life was not that remarkable in those days because when He did stand up in Nazareth and began to talk about “the Spirit of the Lord is upon me” and he spoke His mission statement, people said, who is this? It’s just Mary’s son. So Jesus was willing not to have the spotlight. He wasn’t trying to be remarkable every day. Jesus was a part of his family and a part of this community. He was serving and learning to be a carpenter and all of these things that sometimes, we think well, how spiritual is that? Evidently, it was very spiritual! It’s quite spiritual to Jesus. He spent 30 years doing it.

So as we get it to the end of this time, tell me a little bit more. How many school districts are Caring for Kids in? How many schools are a part of this? If a person wanted to be a part of Caring for Kids, or something like that, or if they’re listening and they’re in a city that doesn’t have something like this, how could they be a part?

Nancy: There are a couple of things I want to say before I go to that place. We’re excited about this coming year because we went into a time of real in-depth evaluation on how we can be the most impactful and reach the most schools. We did some external assessments and some internal assessments. So we created a strategy for the coming two years and it’s an equipping strategy. So we both facilitate the collaboration, we engage people, we facilitate, and we connect. But we’re trying to move a combination of factors together where we were equipping as well as facilitating so that we can move on to other schools a little quicker. So we are hiring an Equipping Director.

We’ve got this person in place already and so we’re pretty excited about that. The reason we want to do that is that we started getting connections with other organizations like ours around the nation. We became a learning community. We spent some time in Arizona and learned about what’s happening there. There is a great organization that is connecting the community with schools. We wanted to be able to provide tools for people to be able to do this on their own and to invite another church to come alongside them. So as we are creating this equipping, these resources and integrating that into every part of our process, we’re also creating a parallel path for somebody just to pull the tools off and be able to utilize them. I wanted to tell you that part.

Now, to answer your question, we are currently engaged in 7 districts. We’re serving 87 schools at this point. It is a moving target, but we have over 300 organizations. So we have 361 community partner organizations that we’ve engaged in those 87 schools. 178 of those organizations are churches, so you can see that there’s more than one church at every school. There are 94 businesses and 89 civic or nonprofit groups. Those organizations do the projects on the ground, and answer the question of how can we help.

There are over 1,200 volunteers have become mentors and have been mobilized into the schools to work directly with students. Over 2,200 projects have been completed to support the principal goals. We are goal-directed. So we get their goals and then we start developing projects underneath those goals and over 40,000 children have been served. This is totally God. I only cite this because I know that God has generated some of these outputs just to encourage us. Well over $800,000 has been invested directly back into those schools.

Gary: Fantastic.

Nancy: That’s just what we know about. It just demonstrates that the community loves their kids. We know that the parents love their kids and the schools love the kids. So this happens when we all come together and ask what can we do to help our children have hope. We inspire hope in their heart and prepare them to impact their world that is ever- changing. We work together to do that. So those are the numbers that we are currently serving.

We started in Olathe and Indian Creek was a part of that. You were at the table when we actually initiated the beginning. There are 36 schools in Olathe that we helped to partner with churches and we take those numbers out since we’re currently not presently serving in the Olathe School District. But if we included them, that would be 123 schools that we have connected, and there are about 400 more partners if we would include those numbers. But right now we just serve in terms of being on the Adopt-a-School Task Force. We work together as kind of a link around the table trying to see how we can help each other. They’re doing a great job in Olathe. They have excellent support. They’ve given us a lot of our ideas and helped us develop our process. So they were a massive help to us here in Olathe.

Gary: So I remember the first time I heard a lady talk about the homelessness in Olathe. This broke my heart, and she kind of pulled back the cover on something right in our midst. We were mostly unaware of that. Our presence also encouraged her. She said to me many times, how the principals and teachers would feel encouraged when people showed up to help. So we don’t want to underestimate that part of the whole thing. It’s helping kids for sure, but it’s also helping those who are vocationally giving their life to the kids.

One of the things that I wanted to mention is, we’re often telling people to go to Blesseveryhome.com and adopt their neighborhood. We’re working hard to see every neighborhood in Kansas City adopted. We’re making progress toward that. But more recently I’ve heard about some people, and it’s kind of a new twist to this, going to the List tab where you can now add people in with or without an address. You could use the school’s address or your workplace as the address.  So some teachers have gone in and added the names from their students in there.

You’ll get five names back every day for which to pray. So it’s a great way to visually see the names, remember those students, and pray for them. You could put their parent’s names in there too. There are also people who are doing that for their co-workers. You don’t have to have an address and it’s a way you can use that program just to be a prayer list if you will.

Every day when your “daily five” comes it has scripture for which to pray. It just reminds us of how rich the Bible really is and how many verses there are that talk about life, giving life, being life, and that Jesus is the Life. It reminds us of new ways to pray. So I wanted to mention that as we’re talking about schools, because there are lots of teachers who are subscribers of blesseveryhome. I’m sure they are followers of Jesus. So they could put their list for their school right in there and even their co-workers.

I have people tell me, I live in the country so I don’t really have neighbors. Or they say, I live in an apartment building and it’s not the same. Actually, you can still receive your names but my point today would be, don’t limit yourself to the fact that it isn’t necessarily a neighborhood with a white picket fence. You don’t have to think of it that way. Think of your neighborhood as your sphere of influence.

Nancy:  That’s great. I love that idea. I definitely will be sharing that. How many neighborhoods are currently adopted in Kansas City?

Gary: We’re almost at 2000. We’re going to have a party in July, (July 11) and we’re going to celebrate that we will have crossed the 2,000th neighborhood mark. We started with about 300 neighborhoods adopted and we’ve been growing. We’re adding 75 neighborhoods a month which is pretty phenomenal when you think about it. So the prayers that are being prayed, if we’re all being faithful are for 80,000 homes now, and three persons typically live in a home, so that is nearly a quarter of a million people being prayed for!

I do believe in prayer. I don’t think of prayer as power. The power is in the relationship with the One to whom we pray. So when people talk about power in prayer, I would say, there is power generated through the relationship. Prayer is the vehicle, it’s a tool, by which we really begin to receive the heart of God. Then as we are in a relationship with Him, we become more like Him. He can use us, and then the Kingdom of Heaven advances on earth. So I believe Kansas City is being changed from a grassroots level.

What’s interesting about these lights, we talk about 75 a month being added is, there are probably 15 churches that are telling people about Blesseveryhome.com. But primarily it’s not talked about every Sunday. It’s really friend-to-friend that is spreading the effort. This is a very organic kind of thing. Someone will say, I pray for my neighbors, I pray for my friends or relatives and here’s a really good way to do it, it keeps my prayers, it keeps me reminded daily. So a friend tells a friend, who tells a friend, and tells a friend. There’s no way I can get to, or we can get to 75 a month. So, this is people, who already have a heart, they just need a tool. The tool doesn’t do any good without the heart, but when you have the tool and the heart, you have something powerful.

Nancy: You have a movement.

Gary: Yes, we do. Well, Nancy Mitchell for sharing today. This is really helpful.

We often focus on the sharing part of pray, care, and share. Or sometimes we focus on the prayer part. I felt like it was time to talk, or dive in a little deeper, into what care could look like. We could probably have one of these podcasts about caring in a hospital or caring in a workplace, but you know caring for our kids at school, touches everybody’s heart. This is not just our future; it’s our present. This is our present reality–caring for the kids. So thank you for leading that.

Nancy: Well, it’s a privilege to be here and it’s exciting to be able to share a little bit with you today and hear about what’s happening. I just wanted to let you know in August, on the second Sunday, it’s Pray for your School Sunday. So everybody can pray for the school that’s in their neighborhood and prayerwalk around it. You can do that every day or any time of the year but we have a day where we’re trying to unite prayer. We have resources on our website.

Gary: So, what is the website?

Nancy: It is caringforkidskc.org

Gary: Okay, great. If you’re listening today and you’re not from Kansas City, maybe you should start one in your town or go to the website and find some of the materials. I remember a day when Indian Creek was the only church that I knew of in Olathe that was working in an elementary school. I didn’t know of any other churches, if there were, I just didn’t know about them. But now to know that all 36 schools have a church working in them, that’s so exciting!

I love to see people in this city following God’s leadership of serving and really being selfless. God uses it.

Nancy: Thank you for all you’re doing, Gary. I really appreciate it.

Gary: Thanks to you too. Well to those who are listening, I want to remind you that you can find more out about Love KC by going to lovekc.net. There are resources there for you. You can go to Blesseveryhome.com and sign up there to adopt your neighborhood or as we talked about today, your co-workers, extended family, friends, or even the kids in your classroom. So, I encourage you to do that too.

Let’s let God use us because I think that we’re in a time in the life of our country when a lot of people have been jaded by the media and they don’t understand what the Church is about or don’t understand maybe even what Christians are about. We’re going to have to show them with our love. We’re going to have to be love, we have to be light. We become the physical evidence that Jesus is alive and well, and that coming to Him is a good thing. So we need to BE the church not just GO to church.

And with that I say thank you for listening today. You can go on to iTunes or Google Play and find the BLESS podcast. Like it, share it with your friends and let’s keep this story going.

Donna Moore:  Thanks for joining in today for the B.L.E.S.S. podcast. People often ask what the letters stand for in B.L.E.S.S. We like to think of B.L.E.S.S. as a lifestyle where we B, begin with prayer. L, listen to God and to others. E, eat together. S, serve and S, story–sharing your story and the story of Jesus. 

We not only pray that every home in America will be adopted by a disciple who lives this lifestyle but also that those that do will join their efforts to build missional communities where we live, learn, work, and play. If you haven’t yet signed up for Blesseveryhome.com, you can go there now. You can find more from host Gary Kendall including ways to connect outside of this podcast at LoveKC.net. Thank you for being a part of this B.L.E.S.S. podcast today. We invite you to subscribe, to like it, share it, and write a review.

Now let’s join Jesus where He is already at work.