BY EMILY JACKSON, GRACE ATTENDER
When I take a rare moment to be still and quiet and reflect on the journey I’ve walked the past two years, it still seems so unreal at times. When I look at where I began and where I am now and where I will continue to follow, God’s hand is so evident throughout. It seems so obvious to me in hindsight that none of it would have been possible if it was based on my effort alone.
A little over two years ago, I went down to Circle City Relief (CCR) for the first (and I thought only!) time, to sign up kids for Grace Kids Camp. During that visit, I “happened” to engage in a conversation with a young boy who asked me if CCR had any books to give away. Being unfamiliar with CCR at the time, I quickly learned that books were not something that they provided the kids in the community on a regular basis. This boy wanted just one book that was his own. He wanted one book that he could hold, and keep, and that would be all his. I’m embarrassed to say that until talking with this young man, I was blissfully ignorant of the fact that there are large communities of children who live in book deserts – areas that have extremely limited access to books. I had always assumed that even if a child had limited access to books in their homes, they at least had access to books through their school or public library. So, you can imagine my dismay when I discovered, by talking with this boy, that the kids at his school were not allowed to take home the books they checked out from the school library. And to my – as I understand now – naive suggestion that he check out books from the public library, he told me that his mom worked most of the time and he was by himself a lot and didn’t have a way to get to the public library.
I thought about that young man for many days following my visit to CCR. He kept coming back to my mind time and again. That’s when I realized the Holy Spirit was softly nudging me. I thought about all of the books my own children have access to – the books they bring home every week from their school library, the books we check out together at the public library, and not to mention the hundreds of books that we have in our own home. I thought surely there must be a way to gather books from an area that has an overabundance of books and get them to a community and the children who desperately need them. But the Spirit nudged further, and I thought that perhaps there was a way that I could get enough books donated that we could begin a little bookmobile that could provide books to the kids once a month. I had no idea how I was going to do it, but I knew I had to try.
So, a couple of weeks later, I began with a little post on my personal Facebook page, telling everyone of my idea and my desire to collect some books to perhaps start a little bookmobile. Three weeks later, in September 2015, we held our very first bookmobile at CCR. In that three weeks from when I sent out that first post on Facebook until we held the first bookmobile, I was able to collect over 1,000 books! And it didn’t stop there – the books kept pouring in! Before I knew it, we had taken over an entire room at the CCR warehouse and had thousands of donated books in storage! (A huge thanks to Matt and Sandy Gay, the founders of CCR, for giving me the opportunity, space, and support to follow God’s call!)
The past two years have been a wild ride to say the least! About a year after starting the monthly bookmobile at the CCR serving site, we had so many books just sitting in storage, I realized that I needed to find other opportunities to get more books into the hands of other kids and communities who needed them. That’s when I approached Marcus Casteel and we decided to partner with the Grace Care Center to provide another monthly bookmobile site to our friends at the Care Center. I’ve had lots of other awesome opportunities as well. I was able to provide almost 1,000 books to several teachers at Broad Ripple High School who were in great need of books for their classrooms. We supplied hundreds of books to create a small library in a charter school in Ohio that was established to meet the need of the large, local population of Somalian refugee children. Additionally, with the help of my dear friend Nailah, who has been a huge asset to the bookmobile almost from the beginning, this is our second year being able to provide school supplies to all the children at CCR. Last fall, we were able to give away 100 new backpacks filled with school supplies to the students in the community.
And this past Christmas, we had our second Christmas book giveaway, where we gave away wrapped book bundles to 364 kids! That was a total of about 1,550 books! It was amazing!
And the most exciting part is that I know God is not done with our little bookmobile yet! I have a dream of purchasing an enclosed trailer so that we can make the bookmobile actually ‘mobile.’ This would allow us to be able to bring the bookmobile to other areas and surrounding communities in the central Indiana area. It’s been so exciting (and yes, a little scary too) to follow God in this journey. And I just can’t wait to see where He leads us next! Because, you see, we’re not just giving books to kids. Yes, that’s a big part of it and books can truly change a child’s life. But just as importantly, and perhaps even more so, we are loving on these kiddos in a way that many of them may not have experienced before. We are so blessed to be able to be the hands and feet of Jesus to these sweet kiddos – and I can tell you without any doubt, they are so worth it.
Donate. Donate children’s books, Bibles (adult or children’s), and gently-used clothing (all ages) in the collection bins in the lobbies of the 146th Street and Fishers campuses during April.
Serve. Volunteer by distributing pizzas and supplies, pray, build relationships with the people in the community.
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