For members of the Fellowship body who desire to deepen their walk with God while serving Him and blessing others, you need look no further than a local elementary school. Fellowship has enjoyed a presence at Sallie Cone Elementary since 2006 that, according to our ministry coordinator there, has been God-initiated and God-led from day one.
Mike Saucier has served as Coordinator for Fellowship’s Sallie Cone Ministry since its inception in 2006. At that time several factors came together to give our church the opportunity to serve at Sallie Cone. When that happened, “I knew immediately this was a God-inspired endeavor,” he says.
Fellowship has helped with landscaping and cleaning projects in the past and continues to support the school staff with the “Angel” project, although “mentoring is now the majority of what we do,” Mike says. In his role, he meets with prospective mentors to discern their expectations and experiences and then introduce them to the child they will mentor, again a seemingly Spirit-led process.
Mike continues, “God has never failed to lead us to loving and caring individuals who want to give their hearts to these children. “We have seen remarkable turnarounds in behaviors and have observed some incredibly ‘led by the Spirit’ mentor-child connections and bonding.”
Sharon Brandt, now in her fifth year as Mentor Coordinator, takes student referrals from the teachers and matches them with volunteer mentors. She then refers the mentors back to Mike for their personal orientation to the ministry. Sharon’s experience has given her this perspective: “How awesome is it that God has opened this door right here in our community to touch the life of a child? For just 30 minutes a week you can make a difference their lives! And, you might never know how great an impact you will make for the rest of a child’s life by being the light in his life once a week.”
A few of Fellowship’s current mentors echo similar sentiments.
Michael Pate, husband to wife Brandy and the father of two young children, began mentoring at Sallie Cone a year ago when Senior Pastor Ken Wilson’s sermon addressed Christian service. “(Ken) said it was ‘time to stop auditing life and start getting involved’,” says Michael, who is a district manager at Incite Rehab out of Conway and schedules one hour a week at the school “just like … a weekly meeting.”
That hour enables Michael to mentor two boys, usually playing board games or basketball, reading, or helping with homework. “I always try to encourage and praise them; knowing that someone is coming each week just to see them means the world to them,” he says. He also points out that mentoring is “more of a blessing for you than it ever will be for the kid you are mentoring. It has helped me grow in my walk with God and is a great way for me to be a role model for my kids — for them to see me serving in the name of the Lord.”
Laura Fahr is a wife and mother who works outside the home part-time and also schedules 30 minutes every Thursday for a Sallie Cone student. She, too, was motivated to serve when an appeal was made during a worship service. After indicating her interest on the “Connection Card”, she was contacted by Mike Saucier, and almost immediately saw God at work when she was introduced to her mentee.
Unknown beforehand to both Mike and Laura, her student was Hispanic and spoke practically no English. “God had a hand in this because I grew up on the Texas border and know some Spanish,” she says. Last year she was able to spend an hour each week with her student, playing games, reading, and just interacting to help him with his English.
His ability to communicate in English has “greatly improved,” Laura says. “It’s the difference between night and day.” She has re-connected with the same student this year. “He knows me well enough now that he jokes with me and is really a funny kid.”
Bryan Head is a senior pre-med student at UCA and a mentor since his sophomore year of college who shares that: “I fell in love with the kid I was mentoring; … and I learned that I had a passion for helping him read. It was such a pleasure to watch him grow and learn to read and write and to be a part of it. I watched him go from a struggling reader to one that was close to on par with the class. More importantly, I was able to watch week to week as his confidence and speaking ability increased.”
Although he is active with several different organizations in addition to pursuing his college degree and admission to medical school, Bryan volunteers up to an hour each week at the school, usually helping with some constructive learning exercise before rewarding his student with playtime – “just having fun”. As he puts it, “’Most every college student has one hour they are using watching TV or playing video games.
“Spending time with the kids is a small commitment that makes a huge difference. These kids need love and encouragement. Many are struggling in some areas of education or normal social interactions and need people to spend time with them one on one.”
Additionally, Bryan has helped with the annual fishing derby held each spring for the students. “It’s a three- or four-hour commitment that is so much fun you can hardly call it a commitment,” he says.
The potential significance of mentoring might best be summed up by an incident that a Sallie Cone staff member related to Sharon a couple of years ago and which she now shares with us. “A fourth-grade boy who was being mentored had a REALLY TOUGH situation at home. His mentor came to see him each week and spent time with him. When the day of the class’s Valentine’s Day party arrived, his mentor arrived without realizing (about the party), so when he saw the party going on he quietly left, not knowing that his student had seen him. The student stepped out into the hall before he got away, however, and said to him with a big smile, ‘Hey, man, aren’t you going to come have a cupcake?’ I understand … that this was the first time they had seen this child smile that year.”
For anyone considering mentoring, Sharon says, “God isn’t concerned about our ability; He just desires our availability. If you feel Him knocking at your heart’s door regarding (mentoring), please say ‘yes’. I pray that for the 2011-2012 school year, every student who needs The Light of the World in his or her life will have a mentor from Fellowship Bible Church.”
Over 30 children currently are in need of mentoring, according to Mike, who emphasizes that “WE REALLY NEED MEN!” If you desire further information or know God is calling you to serve at Sallie Cone, please contact Sharon Brandt at 329-5414 or firstname.lastname@example.org or Mike Saucier at 472-0200 or email@example.com.