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Reading Club

The Word of God is Living and Active

I know positively that “The word of God is living and active.” I know because I cling to the promises of God in his Word and because my God is so gracious to show me his wonders. I got to see his wonders yesterday at Reading Club…

      We began Family Meeting with a game and then settled into our study of the Fruits of the Spirit. We were continuing our study of ‘peace’. I pulled out my Bible, marked with several scriptures, saying we were going to find out what is God’s definition of peace. I began with Isaiah 9:6.

 “A child will be born to us. A son will be given to us. He will be called Wonderful Advisor and Mighty God. He will also be called Father Who Lives Forever and Prince Who Brings Peace.”

      Long before Jesus was born, God told Isaiah that he was going to send his son and he would bring us peace.

 We moved to the second verse, Luke 2:13-14.

 “Suddenly a large group of angels from heaven also appeared. They were praising God. They said, ‘May glory be given to God in the highest heaven! And may peace be given to those he is pleased with on earth!” 

Jesus has arrived and the angels declare that peace is coming.  

            But then, why don’t we have peace with God? Do we? We talked about what it means to have peace in our relationships with each other and then I pressed on with Romans 3:23.

 “Everyone has sinned. No one measures up to God’s glory.” 

And Romans 6:23.

  “When you sin, the pay you get is death. But God gives you the gift of eternal life because of what Christ Jesus has done.”

            We paused here and I walked over to one of the boys and said that it is kind of like me saying, “I’m not doing anything you say! I’m going to be mean to you; I’m going to be ugly to you! Then you turn around and saying, ‘Ok Ms. Halie, I’m going to die for you.'” It doesn’t make sense, but that is what Christ did for us! We said “no” to him and then he died for us!

            I continued reading Romans 5:1-2 and Romans 5:6-8.

 “We have been made right with God because of our faith. Now we have peace with him because of our Lord Jesus Christ. Through faith in Jesus we have received God’s grace. In that grace we stand. We are full of joy because we expect to share in God’s glory.”

 “At just the right time Christ dies for ungodly people. He died for us when we had no power of our own…While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” 

            I briefly reiterated that we have all sinned and said “no” to God, but that he died for us. But at that point, it was as if a flood gate of questions had opened in the room. One 4th grade girl looked at me and said, “When have I said ‘no’ to God? I haven’t said ‘no’ to God.” This thought was echoed across the room. It was as if all of a sudden, they heard me say they were sinners for the first time against God!

             I talked about how when we disobey what God has said, we are saying no to him, like when they disobey their parents. And the questions came again, “How am I saying ‘no’ to God when I disrespect my mom? I don’t understand how that goes together.”

          The Bible says that God has given us to our parents as gifts, he has put them in charge of us and told us to obey them. When we disobey, or disrespect them, we are telling God with our actions that we don’t think he made a good choice in picking our parents, that he was wrong and we shouldn’t have to obey.

             Then the conversation began about when we begin to sin and why do toddlers know how to say ‘no’ to their parents. One student has a baby sister, who is so tiny and yet knows how to say ‘no’. I asked this student if her mom had taught her sister how to say ‘no’. She giggled and said she hadn’t. Students all around the room began making suggestions as to how the baby could be disobedient:

             “Some people just hang out with the wrong people.”

            “Maybe she heard it from her siblings.”

            “She just doesn’t have any patience.”

            I don’t know about you, but I don’t know of many two-year-olds that hang around with the wrong crowd! At this point we have reached the end of our time for Family Meeting, but there is no way I am stopping this conversation!

           Finally, one of the teen girls, who works as a Reading Buddy, whispered to her first grade buddy, “We were born into sin.” He proudly reports it to the room and so begins the conversation of original sin!

           We are all sinners because we were born sinners! Do you remember Adam and Eve, when they sinned in the garden?

             “Yes, Satan was there and gave them the apple.”

            “So, did Satan make them sin?”

            “Yes” “No” “Yes”

            “Did Satan shove that fruit in their mouths and make them swallow?”


“Adam and Eve sinned all by themselves and we sin all by ourselves. We don’t need anyone to help us sin; we do it all by ourselves.”

         Another of the teens, pipes in and asks, “Well has anyone ever been born without sin?” I am so excited that I get to answer, “Yes, one man” and before I have a chance to continue many kids start saying, “Jesus” all around the circle. Yes, Jesus was born without sin because his father was God, not an earthly father.

         But, praise God that because of what Jesus has done, we are not left in our sin. He came to save us. While I don’t want this to end, the questions have died down and everyone begins to fidget, so relishing the moment, I flip open my Bible to see the last verse I had marked. It was John 3:16.

 “God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son. Anyone who believes is him will not die but will have eternal life.”

Little Victories

Someone asked me the other day what ‘victories’ I had seen working in Marks Village. What was that one story that let me know that I was doing what God had sent me to do? It was a difficult question to answer. I couldn’t think of one story and certainly not one big victory. Big victories take time, they take perseverance, they take stumbles, and a few failures to make them stand out as that one memory. I don’t have that one big memory…yet. But I do have little victories, moments that I can see God working in my life and in the lives of those in Marks Village. 

This past Tuesday at Reading Club, one student read aloud for the entire DEAR (Drop Everything and Read) Time without his buddy reading at all and he enjoyed it! Another student finished her work in order to be able to read a new Dora book. Yet another student sat down and read a book about Monster Cars and was able to share what he read! There were smiles and giggles. These are victories. 

One student has been having trouble with respect but had a fantastic day! I shared with my husband saying, “She had a great day! She spoke in a British accent all day, which was interesting, but such a great day!” What a fun victory!

I asked the students in Family Meeting to finish the sentence “God is…”. They said love, Spirit, savior, all-powerful, and Hero among many more! These are victories! They are learning who God is and can tell you about him

Praying to our Daddy in Heaven

How great a joy it is to spend the morning talking with God! I have been reminded in the past several weeks of the enjoyment that comes from spending time with the Father. Yet it has taken me a long time to come to this point in my prayer life. I remember memorizing the Lord’s prayer as a child, reciting “Now I lay me down to sleep…” and “God is great, God is good…”. I remember being nervous to pray out loud in front of a group, and more recently learning how to pray through scripture. Each little step; however small, has helped me to grow.

Two weeks ago in Reading Club we spent some time asking for prayer requests and praying together in small groups. It was such a sweet and wonderful time. We listened to all of their requests reminding them that God listens to our requests. We prayed for each other, because even Jesus himself prays for us!

Our youngest group asked mainly that they would have different fruits of the Spirit that we have been learning. Praise God that they understand that these come from him! When was the last time that greater love for others or self-control topped your prayer list?

Our older groups asked for more requests dealing with fear, whether wanting to do well in school or wanting the shooting to stop in Gate City. One student wanted prayer to learn to pray out loud. Again, when did that top your list?

I was thrilled to be able to give scripture passages to students and their Reading Buddies the next week based on their requests. In pairs, they prayed through the verses knowing that God knew about their request before they even asked and he deeply cares for them. What a privilege it is to see children learning how to talk to their Daddy! They are reminding me how to pray as much as we are teaching them.

Please join us in prayer here!

Reflections on 2015


2015 has been a wonderful, yet unusual year. It feels like it has spanned two years because of all of the changes that have happened. Halfway through the year, God called me to leave my job as a classroom teacher and step into the unknown with a yet unformed and unnamed non-profit. I thought I would be running a five-day after-school program beginning in the fall and yet God had other plans. Over the next several months, God taught me to trust and love him. When I had no idea what the next day would bring, God was constant. When working from home, instead of among a classroom of children, God was constant. When I missed my students, God was right there. Someone told me recently, “Good for you! You stepped out of your comfort zone, even though it could be uncomfortable.” Well, in some ways they were right, a lot of things about my new life were uncomfortable while God was teaching me, but I have a joy I never could have experienced had God not radically changed my life. So, I think that though it may seem that stepping out of your comfort zone is difficult, I have found joy in letting go. I think not following God is where you will really be uncomfortable.

Our first year as a non-profit, God has truly blessed Oak Tree. These are just a few of the many things that come to mind. During Reading Club before Christmas break, I saw many students during snack time chewing with their mouths closed and one said “excuse me” as she squeezed past me in the doorway. One student walked up to me as soon as she got to club and said, “Ms. Halie, I already had my warning on the bus, so if I be bad today, you need to put me in time out.” I was overjoyed! While manners or even one instance of honesty may seem little, I am so proud of what they are learning so quickly! These 14 students love being with their buddies, they love sharing about their day, and they are excited about reading! What more could we ask?

During Bible Club this fall, every child began learning our new behavioral system and they are thriving! They have learned so much about Jesus and his miracles and I am so excited to see what they absorb through his parables next year. God has given our ministry a building and volunteers to help us clear out the inside. God has deepened our relationships with the families in Marks Village. We are no longer strangers or mere acquaintances; he is making us friends and family.  

While my last semester of teaching feels like a distant memory and the last six months of ministry feels like at least a year, I am thankful for all that God has taught me and all that he has done. God is not done working as midnight rolls around and the New Year dawns. He is busy and I am excited to work with him!

What Our Students Are Teaching Us

God is amazing in all the ways that he teaches us!

Reading Club is off to a wonderful start! We have had so much fun munching on snacks, playing with Legos, writing spelling words in shaving cream, and exploring our new library!

This past Tuesday, the Reading Buddies met together before the students arrived for our Bible Study time. We were talking about God’s attributes, specifically that he is holy, just, gracious, and the Creator. We read and memorized scripture and then talked about ways that these attributes could flow in our normal conversations with our students. Little did we know, but God was teaching our students the same thing!

During DEAR (Drop Everything and Read) time, one student and her Reading Buddy were reading a book about a horse together. The children in the book were making fun of the horse because she didn’t look like the others. I know what you’re thinking, beautiful teaching moment, right? Well, yes! But, instead of the Reading Buddy beginning, the student looked up and said, “That’s not nice. They shouldn’t make fun of the horse because it’s different.” And as her Reading Buddy agreed the student continued to say, “You know, people do that sometimes too. Children make fun of others because they are different. But we shouldn’t make fun of others because they look different. God is the one who created us all that way.”

I couldn’t have said it better myself! That nine-year old girl just spoke Gospel truth to her Reading Buddy! If that isn’t proof that God is working, I don’t know what is. 

It's Happening!

Things are about to finally get started, and we need your prayer! Today is the first training for tutors at the Reading Club which is kicking off next week! The training starts at 2:30 this afternoon, and we'd love your prayer as the tutors get ready to read.

Pray that the Holy Spirit will fill the room with his counsel, so that everyone can absorb what they need to learn. Pray for each and every tutor that they can feel God's presence and joy, with confidence for the work ahead. Pray for the children with whom they will be working, that their hearts will be prepared for a love of reading and of Christ. 

It's an exciting day, and we're looking forward to the future! If you are praying tonight (or anytime as we get started), let us know via email, Facebook, or Twitter! We love to know when we're being lifted up!