image2Construction. It is a word that I know, read, and pass over often without thinking twice. Yet, as I sat in the pew at Centenary United Methodist reading with my new first grade friend, the word seemed like an impenetrable wall to the two of us. I looked up to see his face as he got to the word in the sentence. I watched as the joy of making it this far in the chapter quickly turned to confusion and then frustration. We were stuck, caught in a moment between joy and frustration.

The voice of another carries an incredible weight in the moment when frustration attempts to interrupt joy. When it is far easier to quit, skip over something, or get angry, the encouragement of another speaks volumes. As the Church, we are called to be a voice of encouragement. The voice that says “I believe in you” when everything in someone’s world might say the otherwise. A voice that doesn’t seek to simply solve a problem of an unknown word, but cares for and loves the person sitting next to them.

Working together, we were able to sound it out and come up with a definition together. We celebrated learning the new word together by cheering, pumping our fists in the air, and high fiving. I saw his smile come back, and he eagerly returned back to Junie B. Jones and the Stupid Smelly School Bus.

Each day, Project Transformation’s team of college students from around the country partners with two churches in the city to run summer camp. Central to the camp are the three, 40-minute rotations of personal readings with volunteers that the children participate in. Nationally, the group reports that 98% of their kids either maintain or improve their reading levels in the summer, a time of usual decrease due to summer slide. The groups have completed four weeks of camp, serving over 150 kids and already seeing lives changed.

Would you consider being a voice of encouragement by partnering with this organization for the rest of their summer camps? Volunteers are needed to read with kids Monday-Thursday through July from 9:45 a.m.-Noon. Contact grantc@cumcmemphis.org for more information.

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