The impacts of poverty are well-documented. Children, of course, are the most vulnerable victims. In Orland, Florida, the poverty statistics paint a dismal picture. With nearly 35% of Orlando children living in poverty, the need to “do something” pierced many hearts. Putting feet to faith takes more than compassion and good intentions, though. One group of determined Orlando residents set out to make a difference. In the process, they created a program that not only changes individual lives, but also paves a road for your feet of faith!
Rebecca’s Garden of Hope grew out of a tutoring program started in 2007, at the Our Savior Lutheran Church. Founder, Sanya Parson, worked with a grassroots group to create a holistic plan for children that addressed body, mind and spirit. Volunteers began by inviting children to come for free tutoring that was followed by Bible Study and a meal. Recognizing the difficult realities of life in impoverished communities, Parson’s program determined to help children recognize a more powerful truth:
Jesus looked at them and said, ‘With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.’ ” Matthew 19:26
Planting seeds of hope and providing the tools to produce success is the mission of RGOH. The local vision focuses on individual lives. The larger vision expands to providing a branded template to anyone interested in creating a similar ministry in their own community. As Parsons says, “Any congregation can implement this program. It will impact their community and the lives of the congregants.”
The vision is pursued one child at a time in the Orlando program. Dedicated volunteers nurture hope by building caring relationships with every student. Personalizing strategies according to individual needs, RGOH helps children see possibilities—and assume the privilege of setting their own goals. Tutoring takes place in a structured environment with established daily expectations and curriculum goals. Life skills such as timeliness, perseverance and money management weave into the program. Fun Fridays emphasize the joy of the Lord and the pleasure of earned rewards. Believing that lives built on a foundation of Jesus Christ can overcome any hardship, RGOH helps children learn what it looks like to walk out the truth “I can do all things through Christ.”
Confident that revitalizing communities, churches and children rests on common principles of love, perseverance, discipline, and structure, RGOH developed a branded template of their program. To date, over 180 other communities across America have put feet to their faith with a Garden of Hope. The team of RGOH invite you to browse their website, use the free resources (Change Your Life in 90 Days, Love Letters from God and more) and pray about starting a Garden for your community!
What will you do to help the impoverished in your community?