When Love Collides: A challenge to rebuild

I just want to be where You are, I just want to be near Your heart, ’cause there is NOTHING like Your Love.

Yesterday as I was pulling out of the parking lot at work my phone rang.

“Hello?”

“Hey LauraBell (at CGM it’s almost as if my first and last name are one word, it’s funny + endearing all at once), It’s Pastor Austin, I wanted to steal you for a second to show you the food pantry, can you swing back by the office?”

“oh yeah, sure thing, be there in a sec!” I said as I turned my car around to meet him.

Pastor Austin is the Community Development Director at the Non-Profit ministry I work for in West Montgomery called Common Ground Montgomery.

Pastor is called Pastor because he is the Minister at a neighborhood church in Washington Park.

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The name just kind of rolls off the tongue.

I picked him up at the office and the two of us drove two blocks over to a little house that lies across the street from the church where Pastor preaches.

This little house may be seen as just another house, but Pastor made it something better.

Over the course of time and ministry, Pastor Austin found that there was a need in the neighborhood for a place of refuge for people to hang out in safety, a place for families in crisis to come and get free groceries as they needed, as well as hot showers. His knowledge of the community and the needs they have stretches far beyond what you or I could ever imagine.

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So he did it.

He created a little space inside for people to relax, hang out, or get food if they were in crisis.

He created a relationship with the Montgomery Food Bank and began purchasing items from them to store in this space, making it more conducive to the needs and transportation of those living in the neighborhood.

There was a pool table, refrigerators, central heating/AC installed to keep fresh produce and shelves stacked FULL of food and necessities.

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Everyone in town was raving about the new food pantry that Pastor Austin started.

People within the community would come and serve their neighbors, Valiant Cross Academy spent time there in service weekly helping sort canned goods, and families in crisis were helped with grace and so much love.

But then… 

One night, a group of people came in and stole everything.

Y’all, I mean everything.

All the way down to the Heating/AC unit.

Pastor went by the next morning to check on things and the place had been emptied.

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Being the man that Pastor Austin is, he rolled up his sleeves and went to work rebuilding and reconstructing what was stolen.

Using his own money and resources to do the job became too much for him to handle on his own.

Pastor and I walked through the house looking at all that he has done in replenishing what was stolen but there are major needs left to make this place really shine.

Kindness came to the rescue when Tyler Vittitoe from Saint James United Methodist Church stopped by to tell Pastor Austin that their church wanted to partner with him to help minister to the community of Washington Park through this food pantry.

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Tyler gathered up a group to help donate the funds necessary to fix the roof of the house, the walls, and the central heating/AC unit (as well as a guard to keep it protected.^^ as noted above)

My two favorite fellas came by (in the blazinnnnnn Alabama heat) with their hard hats to check the foundation of the house and try to figure out some plans to level the floors and secure the house.

Y’all these two are pros. Southern Foundation Solutions for the WIN!

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We walked through the house and let Pastor show us the needs.

As he showed me around, I looked over to see a sweet mother from the community organizing the place and two young girls hanging out with one another and finding a haven at this house.

This place matters and makes a huge impact to the people who live in the community.

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Pastor looked at me and said “LauraBell, tell everyone you can! We want to make this place great for the community!”

So I am. 

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So much has been sacrificed in the process of making this place wonderful, but there is so much more left to be done.

Two full bathrooms need toilets, sinks, and showers.

The floors need to be redone with new tile.

The exterior of the house needs a little fixing with uneven sidewalks (easy to trip/stumble on).

The foundation of the house is in need of repair.

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We have a hope and desire to see people from the city come together to rebuild something really amazing.

Adopt a bathroom with your small group at church, help gather resources to provide a toilet, sink, and tub and help dozens of families in need.

Adopt a floor and donate tiles with your friends to create a living room space for a fun, safe place for people to gather together.

Adopt a sidewalk Bring a group together to fix the sidewalk of this home to make it easily accessible for those bringing boxes of goods through the door.

Collaborate with your family, friends, and church congregations to fund the new foundation on the house so that it stands strong and stands OUT in the community.

We need you.

This community needs you.

In a time where our world wants to divide, let’s work together!

Montgomery, Alabama, let’s extend a hand of help to a man who has refused to relent in loving this community.

When love collides with love, you don’t have to look any further to see Jesus.

If you have an interest in getting involved in helping this food pantry rebuild itself, please let me know! Comment below or contact me at Laura@CGMLife.org

Valiant Tutors

I spend my Tuesdays and Wednesdays tutoring my sweet, hilarious, and a really awesome student at Valiant Cross Academy.

Some days I wonder if he really needs my help or if I’m coming weekly just to learn from him.

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Isn’t he a darlin’?

He and I were working on a paper together, well really, he was focused on his paper and I would occasionally chime in to talk through the definition of a word.

Seriously, this kiddo is so independent and smart! 

As we were sitting together, I overheard my brother-in-law, Todd, talking to his student across the room.

“You can be ANYTHING you want to be. Work hard, stay focused, dream big.” Todd said, as his student stared up at him.

Their height difference is rather humorous.

Todd continued,

“It doesn’t matter where you come from or where you’ve been, you can be whatever you dream of being!” 

His student stared at him mesmerized by the truth that Todd said over and over and over to him.

Honestly, I wish I could have recorded their entire conversation.

It literally gave me big goosebumps just watching their interaction.

 I could see this moment being one that Todd’s student would always remember.

I could see that precious boy 10-15 years down the road, in all of his success, thinking back to the day that someone looked him in the eyes and said,

I believe in you, you should believe in yourself.”

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That adorable kiddo is never going to forget his Valiant Tutor. 

The one who relentlessly showed up week after week, the one who stuck through the hard days and the good days, the one who never stopped believing in him. 

Watching those two every week inspires me something serious, and then my focus zooms out and I look around the room at all the stations of tutors and students.

It seriously is a sight to see.

Tutoring at Valiant Cross is an opportunity to dive in to a position to encourage young minds to dream big dreams and let those young minds remind you that you can still dream too.

Valiant Teachers (Part 2)

Mr. Pettway.

Tall, intelligent, and ridiculously kind.

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A teacher who who came to Valiant Cross knowing his ability to teach, the power of the school, but had no idea what the Lord had in store for his heart. 

“I mean, I love to teach, I love technology, and I love the bible, and I get to excel in ALL of those things as a teacher here.”

By talking to Mr. Pettway, it seemed as if God had fashioned this job perfectly for him, or maybe he fashioned him perfectly for the job. 

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From listening to the way God so intentionally pursued the heart of Adam Pettway it was so evident that the Lord had His hand not only with the kids that became Valiant scholars, but the men and women who became Valiant Teachers.

I didn’t have to listen to Mr. Pettway to know that his heart and mind are so in tune with the spirit of God.

He shared with me that one morning, as he drove to work he asked the Lord “what is the best way for me to educate the kids today?”

He said that he continued to hear scripture in his heart seek first the kingdom.

So that’s what he did…

and continues to do daily.

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He says the greatest reward is being able to see them “get it”. Like when you can look in their eyes and know that something just “clicked”.

Isn’t it amazing?

To see and hear that teachers actually care?

They care that their students are educated, they care that they have a future, they actually believe that they can go the distance.

Mr. Pettway is one of those.

“I seriously believe that every student can succeed, it’s just all a matter of figuring out the best way to help them achieve that.”

Not many teachers are willing to search for that perfect way to educate their student.

Not many teachers are willing to stay as late as these teachers do.

Not many teachers are willing to seek first the kingdom.

Not many teachers are patient enough to help each student rise above whatever their individual struggle may be…

But Valiant teachers do.

Valiant teachers create Valiant scholars.

Valiant Scholars create Valiant leadership.

Valiant leadership creates a Valiant world.

Let’s not forget that it starts with teachers who are willing to rise above the call of duty to be Valiant themselves.