Washing dishes at By The Hand—Englewood, 23-year-old Rebekka feels right at home as 240 kids raucously finish their dinners just outside of the kitchen. She is part of The Solution. And there is no better time for you to be, too.
Changing a child’s life has a way of changing your life, too. It has for Rebekka. During her first week at the University of Chicago, Rebekka felt lost and homesick. Why did God send her so far away from her friends and family? She prayed for an opportunity to plug in somewhere—perhaps where she could tutor children and do ministry at the same time—something that would provide an anchor in this new city.
Soon after, while at an InterVarsity Christian Fellowship meeting, Bekka heard someone from By The Hand talk about helping children who live in high-risk, inner-city neighborhoods have abundant life. He also explained how college students like Bekka could be a part of The Solution to the violence and disparity in Chicago by volunteering with By The Hand.
Two weeks later, Bekka began volunteering at our Englewood location. That was 2014.
Now, the fourth-graders she met on her first day are eighth-graders. They have bigger and deeper questions this year—questions about life and faith.
Just recently, after eighth-grade teacher, Ms. Kim, opened up the floor for questions, a lot of students had questions about the Bible story they had just read. Spotting nine-year-old Makayla holding her hand high, Bekka walked over to her. “Why did Jesus die on a cross for us?” she wanted to know. “Why did he HAVE to do that?” she paused, “and I’m mean to my sister sometimes—does that mean I don’t count?”
Bekka paused and prayed quickly that the conversation wouldn’t be interrupted. “I was equal parts excited and nervous because this whole thing exists not only to provide a safe place to learn but also to allow us to have conversations about Jesus and eternity.”
I was equal parts excited and nervous because this whole thing exists not only to provide a safe place to learn but also to allow us to have conversations about Jesus and eternity.
As Bekka walked through a few Bible passages and as they talked about what it looks like to walk in faith and what is forgiveness, Bekka realized “It was the first time with Makayla that I could see she had really important questions. She is still processing, but it’s a huge thing that she brought these honest and raw questions into the light.”
By showing up nearly every week, the depth of Bekka’s relationship with students has grown. Often times—even on hectic nights like the one in which this conversation took place—she is reminded that she is making a difference that will last for eternity.
As Makayla and others like her continue to mature, they are The Solution to the challenges that inner-city communities like Englewood face. They are defying the odds of growing up in Chicago’s most dangerous, under-resourced neighborhoods. And it’s only possible with God’s blessing and people like you. Supporters, volunteers, staff and many others each play a role in making The Solution possible.