Our group wasn’t the first such program in this area of Charlotte. Before I came out there, the church already had a Wednesday evening meal for area children. My husband and others had also helped facilitate several programs among Southeast Asians in neighborhoods not far from our site, one in a large downtown church, another in a small church fairly close to ours. Before I became involved, there had been a ministry to older teenagers from the area in the downtown church gym with a basketball team and other activities. The participating programs were overseen by a Board of Directors where concerns and problems could be dealt with and the important need for funding addressed. Some of the other ministries moved to our site, drawn not only by the playing field but by the large building behind the church with its excellent commercial kitchen and rec hall. A Cambodian pastor moved to the site with his congregation and was soon followed by a Hmong pastor and church.
Other volunteers began renovating a ramshackle scout hut on the site and before that was finished, I and my group of guys began to meet there on Sunday mornings. At the time, I was still struggling to keep some semblance of order among the kids and one cold wintry Sunday morning, things went from bad to awful. There was no heat in the Scout Hut so we sat around a kerosene heater, a big mistake I quickly realized when I handed out class materials typed up the night before, which by the end of the hour the kids were sticking into the heater! Fortunately, they didn’t burn the place down, but as I was leaving that day, I vented my frustration with angry words “You think you’re going to run me off, but you’re wrong!”
I then got in my car and cried the whole way home.
Yet that day was an awakening for me because I realized that just being there would never cut it with these guys. I and others at the church had to find ways to make this program something of benefit to them, something they would want to be part of.
Not long afterwards, my initial response to that understanding came from an likely source: Andrew Lloyd Webber.