ow had the Fellows Program changed me? As I completed Year 1 of the Fellows Program, I struggled to answer the question. I knew that the texts had challenged me, the lectures convicted me, and the people pushed me, but it was hard to put my finger on what had really changed.
During a phone interview for Year 2 of the program, I was finally ready to answer the question.
A New Perspective
A few months into Year 1, all Fellows participate in a day called Urban Plunge, an opportunity to work hands-on with an inner-city ministry. Through this, Fellows learn about urban poverty, have chances to serve and converse with those in need, and walk away with a keen awareness of the impoverished population. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I wasn’t expecting to be surprised. The truth is, the poverty didn’t surprise me, the statistics didn’t overwhelm me, and the experience wasn’t all that foreign. In spite of that, God used that day and the reading during that month to change my life entirely.
I cannot recall which text I was reading when God nudged me. But there I was, one weekday evening, reading for the program. As I sat in my room, God confronted me with this idea: if I continued to teach at my current high school, I would only ever make rich people richer. The thought was not mine, for I had been at this wealthy and high-achieving school for five years and hadn’t considered that thought even once. In fact, I had spent nearly all of my short time as a working professional with one goal in mind—comfort. So, as my reading was interrupted by the thought, I did what any normal person would do: I politely ignored it. I’m sad to say that the conviction had to cross my path more than once for me to pick it up and consider it. Yet, as I pursued that conviction, God was clear in not letting me back out of the new life to which he was calling me.
Initially I had no idea what obedience to that prompting would look like. Did it mean becoming a high-school teacher in the inner city? Did it mean stepping out of the great schedule I had received at my current school? Did it mean something in between? In the months to follow, I wavered between pursuing God’s calling fully and passively wondering if I’d heard him incorrectly. In this, I was reminded of the words that John Calvin lived by: prompte et sincere. Promptly and sincerely echoed loudly: both my mind and heart needed a pep talk to pursue the life to which I was being called and to lay down the life from which I was being called away. Promptly and sincerely in this case meant full and immediate obedience, moving forward in fear and on faith, waiting for God to answer.
Through the spring I interviewed at several schools. I entered dilapidated buildings, walked through metal detectors, stepped over dead rats, and answered the question, “Why would you want to come here?” more times than I can remember. To be honest, I wasn’t sure what I had to offer apart from a willing spirit and conscience confronted by Christ himself.
Facing the Prospects
At the end of it all, God brought me to a school that qualifies for Title 1 federal funding, meaning that more than 40 percent of the students come from at-risk homes, in which they are living at or below the poverty line. Many as well come from the undocumented population of society.
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