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Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Pursuing Peace

I structure the Dream Keeper's writing time around themes. In January, the young people read many of Langston Hughes's poems about dreams. Then, they wrote about their own dreams for the future. They read these poems for the church's celebration of Black History Month.

In the spring we wrote about ending violence in our lives and in our communities. Natalie created this moving devotion during one of our writing afternoons. I think it is a powerful story about how we can choose to change the way we act and react, even in the midst of violence. It also reminds me of how God is at work for good in our lives.

A New Life
by Natalie Branch

Let us then pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding. Romans 14:19

I don’t pursue violence, but it wasn’t always like that. When I was younger, if I didn’t like the way someone looked at me, I would gather my clique so we could fight. If your outfit looked better than mine, I would fight you. I spent the early years of my life trying to prove to everyone how tough I was.

Not anymore! Now I think before I speak. Now I give to those in need. Why? One night, God used a bad situation to teach me a better way. I was good that night, but that didn’t matter. I didn’t disrespect anyone that night, but that didn’t matter. That night, on my way to a friend’s house, I got jumped by a group of men. I didn’t know these men, but that didn’t matter. I went home to get all my people together so we could jump those men back. But when I saw myself in the mirror, I changed my mind. When I looked in the mirror I didn’t see myself. God showed me the girls and boys that I had beaten up. So instead of pursuing revenge, I prayed that God would change my life around.

Ever since that day, I attend church four days a week. I volunteer at day care centers and nursing homes. But most importantly, I don’t fight. All I can do is thank God.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Role Models

“You can't do a fine thing without having seen fine examples.” - William Morris Hunt

I've been thinking about the need for the Dream Keepers and other young people to have role models. When we meet someone who has done what we want to do, we see that our dreams are possible. When that person has overcome obstacles to reach a dream, we are encouraged to press on. It's especially important for teens who live in challenging situations to see people who have experienced difficulty and still succeeded. It empowers them to believe in themselves and their own ability to move forward.

Last night I took three of the Dream Keepers to the first Summer Reading Circle meeting. This week's book was, I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou. (Talk about a role model!) Afterwards, we had ice cream and cookies at my house. I showed them the Web site and the blog. One of the young woman said, "Pastor Rochelle, we're going to be famous!"

I'd love nothing more. Wouldn't it be something if these young women and men could be famous role models for other teens?I'm inspired by their interest in reading, their willingness to put their lives on paper and share it with me and other people, and their ability to engage with popular culture. They push me to engage with my own world--and theirs. I'd love for them and their writing to inspire other young people to vision a wild and amazing life for themselves.

Friday, June 1, 2007

Books!

Last Monday, I took the Dream Keepers and my five-year-old daughter to a picnic. On the way, we started talking about our summer writing plans. I introduced the idea of joining the Seedfolks Summer Reading Circles and then writing afterwards. (Seedfolks is a ministry located here in Milwaukee.) The girls loved that idea. But, they wondered--what could they read now, before school got out? One of them suggested The Diary of Anne Frank. We had read about the diary when we read Freedom Writers.

On the way home from the picnic, we stopped at the bookstore and I picked up a copy of Anne's diary and also a copy of Zlata's diary. I wish you could have seen the look on the girls' faces when they received their books! Today I go pick up the other copies. I think they will be pleased. I can't wait to read the books again as well! Hopefully our next post will be from them--their reflections on the writing!