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A child can be eager to start school—but is he prepared? If the school does not have his enrollment papers and immunization and health records, he will not make it to the classroom.
Sadly, this is a reality for far too many children living in inner cities across America.
But in St. Louis, Missouri, many children who might otherwise go through similar experiences on their first day of school are instead starting the 2011 school year prepared and ready to learn, thanks to the partners and friends of Joyce Meyer Ministries.
The St. Louis Dream Center, a ministry funded by Joyce Meyer Ministries, has been hosting the Back to School Blast in St. Louis, for 10 years now. What began as a straightforward backpack giveaway to needy children has developed over the years into what Dream Center Senior Pastor Jeff Allensworth calls a "one-stop shop" event.
Here's why: First, children still get an opportunity to receive school supplies. And at this year's event, backpacks were donated, along with three-ringed binders, colored pencils, markers, rulers and notebooks.
And, in addition to receiving schools supplies, children and families in St. Louis also received:
One local mother of three girls who attended the event said, "Getting the girls set up for doctor's appointments is a load off my mind. Taking care of three girls is not an easy job. All three of them go to different schools. So having all this together is really helpful."
Helping parents overcome these obstacles parents face is the vision Pastor Allensworth has had for this event for many years. He has been a part of the Back to School Blast all 10 years now. Along the way, his team has been working towards a comprehensive event that covers all the bases to help children succeed in school while glorifying Jesus Christ.
"It's been a process. We're building relationships with teachers and partners that can commit to this long term. That's the greatest challenge—finding the right partners."
"Something that continues to shock me are the hurdles in life our community faces. When low employment causes you to have to move three to four times a year, keeping track of paperwork on multiple children is tough.
Many families need help digging themselves out of this situation. I think the church's role is to come alongside them and remove obstacles," Allensworth said.
This Back to School Blast is progressively becoming an excellent source for promoting the importance of education to this community. Children see that school matters while parents are encouraged to develop relationships with local teachers and school administrators.
Despite the summer heat, an estimated 2,500 to 3,000 children, parents and other relatives came to the event on August 6.
What makes this event special to these children and families is all the fun that's included. Along with the "serious side" of helping children get off to a great start in school, this year's event definitely had a carnival atmosphere. Children (and adults) found many ways to have a blast.
Many parents noticed how much of a good time their children were having.
One young father of three boys said, "It's been fun seeing them have fun." His 12-year-old son chimed in, "I like the snow cones and running around having fun. And seeing my friends."
A grandmother, who sat along the sidewalk by the church, watching all the activities taking place, said, "This means a great deal to see the kids enjoying themselves. These kids are not able to go to Six Flags or the zoo. But here, with the carnival, the train ride and the pony ride, this gives the kids something to do. Face painting…I'm going to get my face painted." She smiled.
Volunteers in the Back to School Blast were also available to pray for people. A tent was set up where they stood ready to pray with anyone who wanted prayer. Many did.
Brochures also were on hand, covering issues like depression and hope from a biblical perspective.
The evening closed with a free concert performed by the Christian hip-hop group Young, Fly & Saved. Everyone had the opportunity to accept Christ at the end of the performance, and volunteers were available to pray with those who did.
Partners, your giving is doing so much good for so many of these children living in St. Louis. They need help not only getting into school but succeeding in school, and events like the Back to School Blast help make that happen.
The Back to School Blast wouldn't be possible without you. God is reaching the inner city through your giving. Thank you for your continued prayers and support!
You can still make a donation to provide inner city relief including the many outreaches of the St. Louis Dream Center.
Hand of Hope is the missions arm of Joyce Meyer Ministries. Our goal is simply to help as many hurting people as we possibly can, to alleviate human suffering and to help Christians grow in their faith.