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A ready harvest

"A ready harvest" Continued...

Issue: "School choice," Aug. 25, 2012

Still, Fuller, Wright, and Reuter said working for TFA provided them an open field for evangelism.

Wright recalled the day several girls started crying one by one in her classroom: "I don't know how it started but one of the girls said, 'I hate my dad because he took away my phone,' or something like that. The next thing I know, I look over and one of our eighth-grade girls is sobbing. So I pull her aside to ask what's wrong, and she says, 'My parents are divorced and my dad just told me this morning he's moving away.' So we talked about it for a little bit, then I look over a couple seats away, and there's another student starting to cry. She says, 'My dad hasn't seen me since I was 6 because he doesn't want to be in my life.' And then the next girl starts crying and says, 'Well I don't even know who my dad is.' And I am not kidding you, I had seven girls crying at the same time. I don't know how you address that without God, because what other solution is there?"

Wright says she felt the Holy Spirit prompting her in that moment to tell the girls that though they've been hurt by unfaithful men, they can be healed through a relationship with a faithful God: "I would never force my perspective on a kid, but I'm going to do what I feel God would want me to do. Even more than I desire my students to get on the right track academically, it is my deepest desire that they come to know the Lord." Later, after one student began coming to her room at lunch to ask Wright to explain Bible passages, more students began showing up with questions of their own.

Reuter, too, said once she made it known publicly that she was a Christian, students began flocking to her. She started a prayer board in her classroom to keep up with all her students' prayer requests, and when she offered to drive students to her church's Wednesday night youth service, she quickly realized she couldn't accommodate all the takers. She had to seek help from her pastor, who started a shuttle service for them. It started with 60 kids, and the number still grows. "I've had students tell me that the environment in our school has changed because of it."

Fuller, Wright, and Reuter all said the biggest challenge in helping students like theirs learn about Jesus is not a lack of interest from the kids, but a lack of Christians willing to go to the mission fields in their own backyards.

"The one thing people need to know," Fuller said, "is that we need believers here in the thick of where the heartache is. I think it's glamorous to say, I'm going to Nepal or I'm going to go to Japan to do a mission. But we need a generation of people who are willing to go, you know, here."

Fuller believes that local individualized ministry, in which Christians invest in young people long-term, is the key to overcoming not just the education gap, but many other societal problems.

"Teach for America comes at it from the point of view that if you just work really hard to provide yourself opportunities, you can overcome anything in your background," he says. "The problem with that is it still doesn't heal the emotional baggage. You just gloss over it with hard work and making a lot of money. So then you become successful and get to be an adult and wonder why you still have pain in your life and why your family's still dysfunctional." He compares it to putting a Band-Aid on an open wound.

Fuller says real change can only come to the inner city once missionaries interested in depth rather than breadth make a commitment to it: "Pick a couple of kids and pour your life into them. Because once Christians start to do that, that's when we'll start seeing a huge difference."

Wright believes one reason churches have done so little is because "a lot of Christians don't realize how valuable their commitment would be in inner cities, or even how much they have to offer because there's not a whole lot of attention directed to it from the church."

Due to worries over government regulation and fear of lawsuits regarding religion in public schools, this lack of church involvement isn't likely to change soon.

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