Showing items filed under “July 2016”

Mission and Outreach: Chaplain Life

Things had gone well in the morning. The drive into Dallas, morning prayer at St. Matthew’s, staff meeting at the diocesan offices – all were great, and I was finally in Garland at a senior-living home to visit Deacon Alyce Schrimsher. I was carrying a belated birthday gift and card in one hand and my large communion kit in the other as I walked down the street toward her apartment. Water draining across the street looked innocent enough. But it covered an invisible layer of slime. And soon my feet were out from under me, the full force of my body eventually meeting the concrete on my right knee alone. How embarrassing! My slacks were a muddy mess. Then, sitting down on the grass, I sank down a few inches into the turf, which must have been freshly watered! Now both the back and front of my slacks were soaked! Inching up to the curb, I tried to stand. But the right knee would have no part of it, the bones and cartilage voicing their displeasure.

“OK, David. What do you do now, sitting on the curb in the hot sun, in soiled clothes, unable to walk?” Thank Goodness for cell phones. Deacon Alyce summoned officials from the senior-living home, who helped me and the large communion kit into a golf cart, took me to the front desk, and settled me into a wheel chair. I called my wife, Laura, to meet me at the hospital with fresh clothes. Brookside summoned a non-emergency transport.

While I was waiting, Deacon Alyce came to the front desk in her motorized wheel chair and asked if she could do anything. I requested prayer. Fighting the multiple sclerosis that slowed her speech, Alyce held my hand there in the foyer and prayed a beautiful prayer for me. Needing a restroom, Alyce escorted me down the hall to the men’s room, two wheel chairs heading down the hall. On the way she asked me if I’d like a free ride, and she began pulling my manual wheelchair with her motorized one! Her friends, gathering for lunch, had more than a few questions for their neighbor about her rather disheveled friend!

The transport arrived. But before leaving, I entrusted the Body and Blood of Christ to Deacon Alyce for safekeeping. In spite of all the pain and embarrassment, it was a joy to see this deacon, robbed of so many life functions, still carrying out her vocation to the best of her ability. God was present in the love and compassion of everyone who helped me during this very unusual day!

Let's Start with Respect

“Look at me when I’m talking to you.

Sit up straight.

Say your name with pride, when you introduce yourself, don’t mumble it.

Look at me son. I’m not mad at you, I’m trying to help you succeed.”

These tough-love words are repeated over and over again during the four days of Dallas Champions Academy, by Coach Bob Fello, a gruff but lovable former defensive coach at Kansas State University who spends his summer, along with a team of others, working with at-risk children in the hopes of getting them into college.

The academy is a nationwide program, which includes a stop in Dallas, and is led by current and former college football coaches and teachers from throughout the nation. The four-day camp packs a punch in terms of influencing about 200 youth in a deep poverty pocket of South Dallas. The kids get a hearty dose of academics, goal setting, athletics, character development, life skills, nutrition and Christian formation. Basically, the academy team tells youth ages 8-18 that they can achieve their dreams with the mantra of discipline, respect, trust and hard work. They get them to believe in themselves so they can believe that college is possible and they can break the cycle of poverty in their families.

Many of these kids don’t see their futures going beyond their own neighborhoods, said Rhonda Smith, who is a teacher in the program. “We try to help them believe that whatever they want to accomplish, they can get there,” she said. “The biggest thing we see is that they don’t believe they are important enough for adults to take an interest in them. Their parents are busy trying to put food on the table. Someone has to say, ‘you are worth my time.’ Kids are malleable, and we need to build them up.”

Each camp starts with these words: “God does not make junk. He made you for a purpose. We are here to help you find that purpose,” Ken Heupel, who is president of the program, and former head football coach for Northern State University, tells each group of boys and girls.

The Dallas academy is funded by a variety of donations and sponsors. The Episcopal Diocese of Dallas partially funded the program this year, and Bishop George Sumner served as co-chairman along with Bishop J. Lee Slater from New Millenium Bible Fellowship. Carrie Headington, evangelist for the diocese helped bring the Champions Academy to Dallas seven years ago and has served on its leadership team every year.

“This Dallas Champions Academy has served as a catalyst to bring together churches across racial, economic, and denominational lines in an effort to help South Dallas youth know their value and know how loved they are by God,” Headington said. “We’ve all grieved the recent events in our country. This is a powerful way to unite as a city and help our boys and girls achieve their dreams. It changes lives. It changes families. It changes communities.”

The coaches show the children what self-confidence looks like, physically, by instructing them to make eye contact with people they are talking to, stand tall, shake hands with confidence and introduce themselves with pride. “We tell them, ‘be proud of yourself. Sit in front of the class,’” said Coach Allen Wilbon, who coaches at Eastern Arizona College. “Be a leader, and be confident. If you want to be successful, this is what you have to do. Have that hope and speak it into existence. Whatever you want to do in life – go for it. Do it. Work hard and keep at it.”

During the camp, Wilbon talked to the youth about bullying and how to appropriately speak up about it on behalf of others and themselves. There is also a hearty dose of Christian values added to the program. “We talk about Jesus Christ, and we talk about prayer with the kids and have devotionals,” Wilbon said. “We help each other get better and we help each other grow.”

The children also get plenty of exercise during the camp days with running, stretching, calisthenics and games. The coaches keep an eye out for potential football standouts, which is a vehicle to get them into college. “We could not care less whether they play football,” said Justin Iske, who is a football coach at Southwestern Oklahoma. “We just want them in school.”

At the end of the four days, one of the girls told the coaches she used to cut herself to make her feel better about the pain she was experiencing in her home life. She had no confidence and was depressed. After a few years of attending the camp, she turned her young life around and achieved her dreams of playing softball, getting good grades and becoming a cheerleader at her school.

Program leaders estimate that 67 percent of the students go to college, and about 70 percent of number graduate. The best way to get them into college is telling they can do it, and then giving them life skills to handle roadblocks, Fello said. “They need to know that they are going to fail, but it’s OK, they can get past it and keep going toward their goal.” Failure doesn’t mean it’s a deal-breaker, it just means there is a hurdle.

“Everybody has a story. If it’s a bad story, make sure that’s not the ending,” Fello said. “The goal is to multiply the healthy families. That changes everything.”


This blog aims to highlight mission and outreach in EDOD parishes