Always Lots of Smiles and Hugs on ESL “Graduation Day”

It all began almost 9 years ago with a conversation with ROP’s Refugee Outreach and Resources Director, Lucy Bruser, in a parking lot outside a nearby apartment building. A couple weeks later, Donna Godfrey began teaching ESL classes in ROP’s building. Since that time Donna and more than a dozen teachers have partnered with her in teaching hundreds of immigrants in our community to speak better English.

Yesterday was “graduation/celebration day” for the students in ROP’s ESL program. It was a great time of celebration as each class received certificates of achievement, shared a song or reading and exchanged gifts. There was also a special time of recognition and affirmation for Donna because it appears as though it may have been Donna’s “graduation day” too.
After 9 years of faithful service as ROP’s ESL Director, Donna is feeling called to focus her skills and energy on helping refugee mom’s to learn how to be more effective in discipling there children. She is also feeling called to become a tutor in ROP’s after-school tutoring program which makes us very happy because this means some kids are going to be very blessed and Donna will remain an active member of the ROP family.
As far as ROP’s ESL program is concerned, things are a bit up in the air. At this point, I know a couple of our teachers plan to “retire” from the program along with Donna, but I also know a couple teachers plan to keep teaching. We will see what God will do, but if you or someone you know has any interest in teaching English as a Second language, point them in my direction.
To see more photos from Thursday’s ESL Celebration click on this link.
We have received several more donations from our Annual Dinner, $800 of which qualify for the $10k match, but that still leaves $2.4k remaining to receive the full $10k. For anyone who believes in and supports ROP’s ministry with an occasional donation but has not made monthly or quarterly commitment, this would be a great time to consider making that commitment. Its benefit to ROP and those we serve will be immediately doubled! Click here to make an on-line donation or simply send me an email confirming your commitment to give regularly for the next year. Thanks!

$3.1K in Qualifying Donations Needed to Maximize Matching Grant

In retrospect it was a wonderful 10th Anniversary celebration, but the evening got off to a “rocky” start when the main video system failed an hour before the dinner began – yikes!  With many elements of the program dependent on video (lyrics to praise songs, 4 ROP videos, a slideshow and a PowerPoint) it looked for a while like it could be a very short evening. But God answered our prayers and the church’s Audio-Visual technician managed to cobble together a solution which allowed most elements to work. Thank you, Lord, and thank you, Jeff.

Frankly, I admit to being more than a little stressed, but with the help of a wonderful time of worship, led by Christie Gerwinat and friends, and an outpouring of the Holy Spirit, I think our 200+ attendees enjoyed a beautiful evening together and, I am glad to report, so did I :-).

Many thanks to all those who chose to celebrate God’s faithfulness with us last Friday, and to all those who helped to make it happen. I also want to give a special thanks to Jenny Passchier and Keely Rochford, Principal and Assistand Principal from Crawford Elementary School, who were kind to share the evening with us and share a few words of affirmation and support for ROP. Our partnership with Crawford is a very important and strategic part of ROP’s ministry.

Of course, I also want to thank all those who chose to make a financial donation in support of ROP’s ministry. I am thankful to report that to date we have received $23.6k in donations related to Friday’s dinner, not including the $10k matching grant. At this point, we have received $6.9k in donations and commitments that qualify for the match, but of course, we would like to take full advantage of the entire $10k match. And that is still possible, and a great opportunity to double your donation for anyone who was unable to attend Friday’s dinner.
Here are the four kinds of donations that qualify for the match:*
  • Any donation from someone who has not previously made a donation to ROP
  • Any donation from a donor who has not made a donation to ROP within the last two years
  • Any monthly/quarterly donation commitment from a donor who has not previously made such a commitment. (The amount of the commitment for one year will apply to the match.)
  • Any increase in monthly/quarterly commitment from a donor who is already giving on a monthly/quarterly basis.
Thanks for your consideration and support. Click on this link to make an on-line donation and remember to write “ROP Dinner” in the comment box.
In case you are interested, the four short videos shown for the first time at Friday’s dinner have now been loaded onto ROP’s website. I hope you will check them out at your convenience. Just click on this link to ROP’s website.
* Donations to staff support do not qualify for the match.

“This Gives Me Goose Bumps!” – Community Development Can Be Fun!

What a difference a week makes.  The previous Saturday it was snowing and raining, but yesterday the weather was perfect for a picnic. Thank you, Lord!

With the jumping castles arriving a little late, things got off to a bit of a slow start, but with the great weather and the smell of burgers in the air, a crowd slowly started to gather. It probably did not hurt that a few days earlier we distributed more than 800 fliers around the neighborhood or that our neighborhood elementary school stuffed 512 of our fliers in the back packs of all of their students.  Hard to count how many people came, but we know we served 370 hamburgers and 250 hotdogs, so maybe 300 plus. Part of the entertainment was also proved by street artist, Hector, who painted the attached painting in about 1 hour as we watched.  Last year, Hector painted the word “DREAM” for us. Can you read this year’s word? If you cannot read it and want to know, just email me. (No fun telling you without even trying :-).

But the best thing about this year’s Neighborhood Party was the opportunity it gave Flourish East Colfax (FEC) – in which ROP partners with Agape Missionary Church in our neighborhood and 4 other organizations more broadly – to engage more people in our Asset Based Community Development (ABCD) process. Gathering in the park, watching kids play and enjoying freshly grilled hamburgers and hotdogs was the perfect setting to talk about Flourish East Colfax’s mission of making our neighborhood a better place to live and work and to invite people to get involved and come to our next Neighborhood Meeting on May 10th.

Many participants responded quite positively to the invitation to get involved and all seemed thankful just to be there. My favorite reaction came from a lady who has lived on the western edge of the park for 8 years. She remembered seeing last year’s “Neighborhood Party”, but did not join us. This year, she chose to take a chance and see what we were up to. After experiencing the positive energy of the event and hearing why we were having the party, she told one of our FEC partners that she was so excited it gave her goose bumps.

Truly, it all made for a great day with a special shout out of thanks to the International Section from Cherry Hills Community Church who did much of the hard work of set-up, clean-up, food preparation and service and monitoring the games and jumping castles for the kids. This was a huge blessing as it freed up us FEC types to engage with our attendees, get to know them a little better and invite them to our May 10th Nieghborhood Meeting.

Of course, with ROP’s Annual Dinner comming up this Friday, May 4th, I also want to take this opportunity to make a “final” invitation for you to join us. In addition to celebrating the last 10 years of God’s faithfulness to ROP’s ministry, we will be anticipating some of the directions God is leading us as ROP moves forward and especially in the area of Community Development. See below for the time and place*. If you decide to come, please RSVP to [email protected] by Tuesday evening.

To see more photos from Saturday’s Neighborhood Party click on this link.

* ROP’s Celebrating God’s Faithfulness dinner is being held at Colorado Community Church’s Upper Room, 15445 E. Iliff Ave., Aurora 80013. Doors open at 5:30 p.m. and dinner will be served promptly at 6 p.m.
** If you cannot attend, but would like to make a special gift in support of ROP’s ministry, click on this link, and remember gifts from first time donors, new monthly donation commiments and increases in monthly commitments all qualify for a $10k matching grant.

Stories Also the Center Piece of ROP’s Annual Dinner on May 4th

Every month, ROP staff are asked to prepare reports answering the following:
  • Please share a story of life change or Kingdom impact with your participants;
  • Please share a story of how volunteers grew spiritually or in the development of ministry skills;
  • Please share a story of something really cool that a volunteer did this month;
  • Is there anything else you would like to share about something that happened in your ministry this month (negative or positive)? and
  • Please share a couple prayer requests (ministry or personal)
Most of the answers are very encouraging and poigant reminders of why ROP exists.  Of course, answers to the last couple questions are often not as encouraging, but are needed reminders of where prayer and other actions may be needed.
On Friday, May 4th, ROP will be holding our Annual Dinner at Colorado Community Church where we will be celebrating God’s Faithfulness over the first 10 years of ROP’s ministry.  The evening will begin with some awesome worship, expressing our thankfulness to God for His faithfulness. Most of the rest of the evening participants, volunteers and staff will be sharing some of our favorite stories over the last year and last 10 years. But you should now that wonderful  stories are happening every month.  Here’s a brief glimpse of a few of the stories shared by our staff just last month (March).
  • The students in one of our ESL classes decided to pray for one of their fellow students struggling with vision issues.
  • The husband of a student in another ESL class was tragically killed in a work related accident. Several ROP staff and volunteers attended the funeral and ROP was able to provide our building for the reception.
  • A Work Readiness student is working hard to improve his reading skills.
  • A regular participant in our Wednesday lunch outreach to the homeless asked for prayer from several volunteers that God would help her leave her life of addiction and bad decisions. Another participant was convicted of his need to return to Jesus and a good church.
  • Refugee Outreach Director, Lucy Bruser, had the privilege of leading 3 ladies into a relationship with Jesus at a TUMI related Resurrection Day evangelistic outreach. (TUMI is a seminary level program for urban church leaders.)
  • Work Readiness had an Easter Party in which 2 Mormons, 1 Muslim and 2 Christian students chose to participate.
  • Another ESL teacher reports that more of her students are coming to class twice each week because she is helping them work on gaining their US citizenship.
  • A Work Readiness volunteer blessed the Director and the program by preparing solution keys for new curriculum.
  • A Wednesday Lunch Outreach volunteer is considering expanding the program by leading a similar outreach on another day of the week.
  • Numbers are decreasing in our ESL program mostly because students are getting day jobs.
  • One of our strong male volunteers in the food bank is moving out of town. We are praying for a replacement or two.
  • One week, several teens decided to play soccer which gave Teen Ministries Director, Matt Smith, and lead volunteer, Rick Randall an opportunity to spend more time in prayer and then work with one student and teach him a Bible story which he was able to share back.
  • Kids who earned enough stars in our children’s ministries were able to go ice-skating, many for the first time
I love reading these stories every month and hope you too are encouraged by these brief snap shots from ROP’s ministry. At our dinner on Friday May 4th, attendees will be able to hear directly from volunteers, participants and staff about how God has used their involment with ROP to impact their lives. It promises to be a great evening of celebration. Hope you will consider joining us. To RSVP simply send a quick email to [email protected]*.
* ROP’s Celebrating God’s Faithfulness dinner is being held at Colorado Community Church’s Upper Room, 15445 E. Iliff Ave., Aurora 80013. Doors open at 5:30 p.m. and dinner will be served promptly at 6 p.m.
** If you cannot attend, but would like to make a special gift in support of ROP’s ministry, click on this link, and remember gifts from first time donors, new monthly donation commiments and increases in monthly commitments all qualify for a $10k matching grant.

Check Out the Latest Happenings at ROP

The latest bi-monthly edition of ROP’s eNewsletter – Urban Voices – is now available on ROP’s website. 
 
This 2-page edition of Urban Voices includes the following articles:
  • ROP’s May 4th Dinner – A Celebration of God’s Faithfulness – I, Kent, provide a brief preview of why the appropriate response to reflecting on the first 10 years of ROP’s ministry is Thankfulness*.
  • Youth Ministry Pursuing Its Own ABCD Process – ROP’s Youth Ministries Director, Matt Smith, shares how a very diverse group of teens is coming together to address the issue of violence in their schools.
  • Story of a Christian Paradox – We are the Ones Most Blessed – ESL student from Central African Republic, Joel, comes to ROP for help with English, and teaches us about blessing others.
Click on this link – Urban Voices – April 1, 2018 Edition. (If you cannot see the embedded version, just click on the link below it to access the current and older editions of Urban Voices.)

Hope you enjoy this edition of Urban Voices.
*By the way, we would love to have you join us for our May 4th Dinner as we celebrate 10 years of God’s faithfulness. Please RSVP to [email protected]

I know Halloween was 10/31, but Hey, it’s a Good Story

I confess – I blew it.  I asked ROP volunteer, Jeff LoCricchio, to write a story about taking a bunch of Karenni (Burmese tribe) kids trick or treating, and then I forgot to publish it. But it is a great story and I am pretty sure you will enjoy it even if Halloween was several months ago.  Check it out.
 
“What time does Halloween start?” asked Neh Reh dressed in his ninja costume nervously pacing back and forth. 
 
“When it gets dark.” I replied.
 
“Do I have to wear the ninja mask? Will I still get candy if I don’t?’’ he asked. 
 
“Don’t worry Bud.” I answered.” You don’t have to wear the mask and you’ll still get candy.”
 
A wave of relief passed over his innocent face followed by that huge bright smile that I have become all too familiar with. And it’s because of that Karenni smile, the one that infects my soul, this is why I come back to them. Volunteering as an ROP mentor to Karenni refugee families has truly changed me.
 
Neh Reh was one of ten Karenni refugee kids, ages six through fourteen that I was taking out trick or treating this year. In their low income neighborhood on East Colfax, Halloween at night is not quite the safe American holiday that most of us are used to. And realizing that many of these kids had never been out on Halloween….well I couldn’t have that. With the help of ROP and their van I brought these kids Halloween – in my neighborhood in Highlands Ranch.
Sure there was the last minute panic of costume details as the kids fought for mirror space in the bathrooms in my home applying their makeup. “You have more than one bathroom?” a surprised Jae Meh asked.
 
Keeping up with these kids was challenging as they ran, often sprinted, from house to house taking in as much of this holiday as they possibly could, as if they were making up for lost years.  Some of the older kids asked my permission if they could venture out on their own.  “Sure!’’ I replied. “Just be careful.” Their excitement was overwhelming. “It’s so fun to be young!’’ Soe Meh screamed.
 
I saw surprised looks from neighbors from the multitude of “Thank you’s” these kids gave. And that made me beam like any proud parent.
 
And at the end of the evening, having finally convinced my crew that two hours of trick or treating was enough, they all gathered in my home like a band of pirates comparing their overflowing sacks of plunder and already reminiscing about their adventure.
 
And there it was again, that Karenni smile. I’m pretty sure I’ll do it all over again next year.

 

We thank God for partners in ministry like Jeff LoCricchio. Pretty sure he would agree with me that when you step out of your comfort zone and choose to invest time and love into the lives of others, you are the one most blessed.
***Reminder – Please mark your calendars for Friday, May 4th (2 months from now). This is the
date of ROP’s Annual Dinner where celebrating God’s faithfulness will be the primary theme for our evening together. We have some encouraging stories to tell. So we hope you will plan to join us. Stay tuned for more information.

Check Out the Latest Happenings at ROP

The latest bi-monthly edition of ROP’s eNewsletter – Urban Voices – is now available on ROP’s website.
This 2-page edition of Urban Voices includes the following articles:
  • TUMI – Transforming Our Community – Director of Refugee Resources and Outreach, Lucy Bruser, shares about The Urban Ministry Institute (TUMI) and how God is using it to equip urban pastors and church leaders to advance the Kingdom of God in the city.
  • Celebrating 10 Years of God’s Faithfulness – I, Kent Scroggs, look back over the first 10 years ROP’s ministry and share a few examples of God’s faithfulness in meeting challenges and preparing our ministry for the next 10 years.**
  • Community Working to Reach Neighborhood’s Youth – Youth Ministries Director, Matt Smith, shares how God is bringing ROP together with others in our community to reach out to and disciple our neighborhood’s youth in a “high context” culture. (If you want to know what “high context” means, you need to read the article :-).
Click on this link – Urban Voices – February 1, 2018 Edition. (If you cannot see the embedded version, just click on the link below it to access the current and older editions of Urban Voices.)
Hope you enjoy this edition of Urban Voices.
** Please mark your calendars for Friday, May 4th. This is the date of ROP’s Annual Dinner where celebrating God’s faithfulness will be the primary theme for our evening together. We have some encouraging stories to tell. So we hope you will plan to join us. Stay tuned for more information.

Two Great Ways to Partner with ROP and Make a Difference

ROP is seeking a few folks to fulfill a couple critical roles with our ministry:

(1) Reading Mentors – ROP’s after-school reading mentor program is one of the most strategic programs we have. I can say this emphatically because when we help a young boy or girl (most of whom speak another langauge at home) learn how to read more effectively, their chances of succeeding academically and succeeding in life improve exponentially. This semester’s reading program starts at ROP’s neighborhood elementary school (Crawford) next Wednesday, January 31st and runs every Wednesday afternoon from 3:15 to 4:45 for 10 weeks to April 25th.

(2) Food Bank Drivers – Thanks to the help of Nehemiah Global Foundation, ROP is now able to pick up perishable foods from Whole Foods for our weekly food bank. This is proving to be a great blessing to our food bank participants and especially our refugee neighbors who are much more accustomed to cooking with the fresh vegetables and other foods provided by Whole Foods than the non-perishables we otherwise are able to provide.  The only challenge we are currently having is transportation.  The Whole Foods from which we are picking up food is located in the South Glen Mall at Arapahoe Rd. and University Blvd. which is not a convenient location for any of our current food bank volunteers or staff.  So we are looking for a volunteer or two who would probably live in the Littleton, Centennial or Highlands Ranch area and be willing to partner with us by picking up and transporting the food to ROP.  The timing of the pick up needs to be between 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. on Monday. Drivers would need to have a medium sized SUV or larger.
If you are available during either of these times and feel God leading you to get involved or if you just have questions about either of these opportunities, I hope you will contact us-click here.

Building Relationships as We Partner Together in Making Our Neighborhood a Better Place to Live and Work

One of the “Voice Groups” established at our Flourish East Colfax Neighborhood Meetings is the Pride/Respect Group. The goal of this group is to increase the sense of pride and respect that our neighbors have for where they live and work. A couple months ago the Pride/Respect Voice Group hooked up with Bill Gondrez who heads up the Blockmeister program.  Bill, with the help of a grant from the City of Aurora, provides pretty much everything needed to make picking up trash as easy as possible for any person or group that commits to keeping the area around their home or business trash-free.  That may not sound like much of a commitment to most of our readers, but here along East Colfax Avenue, it is a serious ongoing challenge.

In order to help meet that challenge, ROP has invited our neighborhood organizations and businesses to partner with us in this effort. I am glad to report that all of our nearby neighbors – Boettcher Boys & Girls Club, Adventure Dental and E&J Automotive – have accepted that invitation and formally joined our local Blockmeister team (see attached photo).

One of the side benefits of regularly picking up trash along our street is that it gives us an opportunity to meet more people and invite them to come to our semi-monthly Neighborhood Meetings. It is also our hope and prayer that, as our neighbors see their streets made cleaner, their sense of pride in their surroundings would increase and they would choose to join with us in making our neighborhood a better place for all of us to live and work.

Ultimately, of course, our prayer is that working together with our neighbors would provide God-given opportunities to show the love of Jesus Christ in word as well as deed. This is a big part of what Asset Based Community Development (ABCD) is about. It is not a short-term process, but we are excited about the progress we are already seeing. One step at a time. So far, so good :-).

Amazing December Allows ROP to Finish in Black for 9th Consecutive Year

When I received ROP’s November financials from Mark Knutson, ROP’s Business Administrator, and saw the $72k year-to-date deficit, I remember thinking God would have to do a miracle in order for us to finish the year ‘in the black’ (revenue > expense).  Well, He did. It started with $66k from an incredible best Colorado Gives Day (12/5).  But even after that great start, we still needed to receive at least another $36k to finish the year with a surplus rather than a deficit. And we did.

I think all donations with a 12/31/17 or earlier postmark have now been received, and I am very pleased and humbled to report that for December 2017 ROP received 210 donations, totaling $122.3k. This significantly exceeds December 2016’s previous record of 190 donations, totaling $83.7k. And it means ROP will finish 2017 with a surplus of $10k to $20k. Absolutely amazing!

We thank God and all those who contributed to this incredibly generous outpouring of support for ROP’s ministry. We humbly receive these gifts as God’s affirmation that ROP is heading in the right direction and pledge to continue to exercise good stewardship over all donations as we seek to provide for basic needs and build God’s Kingdom within our community.

We also see this amazing outpouring of support as a wonderful 10th Anniversary gift :-). Yes, it was almost exactly 10 years ago that ROP was launched by Open Door Ministries and began its ministry on East Colfax as an independent non-profit. A lot has happened and changed over those 10 years, but we are thankful for all God has accompished over the last decade and all the volunteers and donors who have partnered with us in ministry along the way.

We are also Excited, Blessed and Looking forward to the next 10 years of ministry. And you are invited to join us because the truth is, we cannot do it without you!