On Sunday, September 20th, during the Living Our Faith portion of the service, Thomas McConnell shared about his experiences volunteering at Randolph Community Center. Here's what he had to say...
Good Afternoon. I’m Thomas McConnell a member here at City Church and I’ve been invited to share with you today how God is moving and working in or city at the Randolph Community Center. About a year and a half ago I was presented an opportunity through my city group to serve as a tutor in an after school program that had just started at the community center. Now, when I first moved here two years ago I had never heard of Randolph. Tucked away south of 195, bounded by Byrd Park to the West and Hollywood Cemetery to the East it’s a neighborhood commonly overlooked. Historically African-American, with more than its fair share of subsidized and section-8 housing, it was a far cry from the rural crossroads of a town where I grew up in Southwest Virginia. Luckily for us, Christ’s love is best experienced out of our comfort zones and in unfamiliar places with people far different than ourselves.
As a new initiative for the city, the after school program was sometimes slightly controlled chaos, but with a dedicated staff that loved their neighborhood, the kids, and Jesus they welcomed me with open arms. While awkward and unsure of my role and purpose at first, God’s persistence in pushing me back there week in and week out began to forge relationships with kids that honestly just needed some consistency and a little help with reading and writing. Many days were a blast, often being spent on the basketball court getting dunked on by 7 year olds. Many days were often hard, spending 2 hours in a room trying to convince a tearful and frustrated person that they can do it, they are capable, and that neither of us were leaving until the book got finished, or their mom came to get them.
God has been teaching me that serving a neighborhood is called “serving” for a reason. It’s hard, slow, awkward and not about my own selfish fulfillment. I don’t know what God’s plan for Randolph, but I do know that Christ calls us to serve and love our neighbors, and that he has given us tremendous opportunity to show a small corner of our city that they matter, they are capable, and that we won’t abandon them until the work is done, or their father comes to get them. I will be in the lobby after the service if anyone is interested in hearing more about the Randolph community center and volunteer opportunities available in the upcoming fall. Thank you.
If you're interested in volunteering at Randolph, you can sign up here. If you'd like to learn more about the experience, email Thomas at firstname.lastname@example.org.