Almost Home…

This morning we started the day at Garden of the Gods. First we took a gorgeous hike among the rock formations. Then we spent some time in the visitor center looking at exhibits, buying souvenirs, and celebrating Luke’s 15th birthday.

After all that fun, we hit the road. It’s been smooth sailing most of the day. We’re now past Topeka, but have slowed down some because of the storms rolling through the area. Will be home soon and (at the very least) Rev. Lara will see you all in worship tomorrow morning!

Work Day 5: Fruit Ninja, Goodbyes, and Colorado Springs

Today was our final work day at Tennyson. The day was celebratory in a lot of ways: most kids were having good days, there was a special “Fruit Ninja” activity where the kids got to watch adults slice up fruit with real swords, and many classes took hikes or watched movies.

It was also a hard day because goodbyes are hard. In debrief we processed the different ways the kids received our goodbyes, and also spent a lot of time talking through the ways that our week st Tennyson has changed us. In many ways we are different people for having known and worked with these kids and staff — and we aren’t sure how those differences will play out when we return home.

After debrief we loaded the vans and headed south to Colorado Springs. We’re spending the night at FCC here in town so that we can pop over to Garden of the Gods in the morning. Tonight, after settling in, we went to a Jamaican/Italian fusion restaurant (surprisingly delicious!) and a fabulous ice cream parlor. Now we’re headed to bed early so we can start early tomorrow. We’ll be on the road for home by noon (Mountain Time).

Work Day 4: Classrooms, Field Trips, and the Mountaintop

Today our group hit the classrooms again. For some, the day was broken up by field trips to places like Red Rocks Ampitheater. Others remained on campus all day. The exciting part was that, in the midst of many breakdowns and disturbances, we were able to really begin noticing the many little victories that can happen in a day. It’s those tiny wins that help Tennyson staff to keep from burning out or losing hope, and that help students to begin believing that change is possible.

Debrief was incredibly helpful this afternoon. We focused on the ways we notice the positives more now that we have been in community with these kids. It is so much harder to believe stereotypes when you know someone, and that has certainly been true here this week.  

When asked the question “who would Jesus hang out with,” we answered without hesitation: Tennyson kids. It is an immeasurable privilege to hang out with them too. 

After our post-debrief nap, we went into downtown Denver for dinner at a Mongolian BBQ restaurant. Then we drove out of town to Lookout Mountain. The view was absolutely gorgeous! While on the mountain we hiked and then spent time praying for our Tennyson family. 

Now we’re back at Tennyson getting ready for bed. Tomorrow we work and then head south to Colorado Springs. 

Work Day 3: Classrooms, BBQ, and Water Play

Wednesdays are half days at Tennyson, so when volunteers are here we get to do something special. After a couple of morning hours in our classrooms, we all headed outside to start setting up a barbecue lunch for the kids and staff. 

Umbrellas went up, tables came outside, food was prepared, and the grill was lit to cook burgers and hot dogs. Then the kids arrived, classroom by classroom, and we served them an excellent lunch. When our class was there, we got to eat with them. Then we’d work the serving line so others could eat with their classes. It was noisy, joyful work and the kids (and staff) were pretty happy!

After lunch, all the day students headed home. We then set up for a special treat for the cottage kids (children who live on campus): an afternoon of water play! From slip and slides to kickball (with wading pools for the bases), kids and volunteers got plenty wet — and had a wonderful time.

When everything was cleaned up, we had debrief. During that session, we were asked to think of things in our daily lives that are privileges for kids at Tennyson. From privacy to new clothes, extra curricular activities to stable family life, our list covered lots of ground and helped us to think through what it is like for the kids who live and learn here. We also listed the resources they have that we don’t: things like constant teacher support, endless grace from teachers/staff/peers when they make unsafe choices, and acceptance with no strings attached. Tia reminded us that there is no reason why the grace experienced here can’t exist outside of Tennyson. But for it to exist, we have to choose it and share it.

After debrief we said goodbye to our friends from SCCC, as well as to Jack. SCCC headed south to Colorado Springs (we’ll join them on Friday night) and Jack flew to a family wedding. Everyone else napped for a bit before heading out for a night of pizza, ice cream, and play time at Sloan Lake.

Now we’re showering and heading to bed. We’ll check in again tomorrow!

Work Day 2: Settling In & Iron Chef

Today was our first full day in our classrooms. Because it is summer, that meant field trips for some (Sloan Lake, splash park, etc.) and outdoor activities on campus for others.  

Some of the kids we’re working with are slowly letting us in, while others likely won’t all week. Some of our classes were on track all day, while some of our kids went on run or made other choices that were unsafe. All around, it was a good and tiring day.

In debrief we spent time thinking about the kids we feel a connection with as well as the kids we find ourselves keeping at a distance — much of that has to do with our own “stuff” rather than truly being about the kids. Tia challenged us to consider why it is easier for us to show grace to the kids here than it is to show grace to people at home and school.

After debrief, we rested and then joined our SCCC friends at the church where they are staying. We broke into four teams, drew dinner courses (appetizer, entree, side, and dessert) and were given a secret ingredient to use in our dish: cereal. Then, after deciding on a recipe and shopping list, each team went to the grocery store. We could spend up to $50 on our course, so teams had to be savvy shoppers. 

Back at the church, we then had an hour to cook our courses while sharing the church kitchen. It was cramped and busy, but it smelled delicious! At the end of the hour, we started working our way through the meal. A judge from each church took notes and ultimately decided the winning team: Team Dessert. They made snickers rice crispy bars with ice cream, and it was delicious!

After all the dishes were done, we also had a special birthday celebration for Alexander, who turned 19 today. The party included a special handmade card from the whole group and cookies from his mom delivered by a local bakery. 

It’s been a full day, a great day, and an exhausting day. We’re headed to bed because we know tomorrow will require just as much energy and grace. 

Work Day 1: Orientation

Today was all about getting acquainted with the Tennyson Center, the children who live and learn here, the adults who teach and care for them, and the classrooms in which we’ll be working all week. 

The first half of the day was spent in an intensive orientation and training session in which we learned about the effects of trauma on children, the ways that trauma causes people to act out or withdraw, and the therapeutic methods used to help kids build strong and safe coping skills so they can thrive in the world. We also learned about some of the things we may see or experience this week that can be troubling, appropriate ways to respond, and how to show grace in our actions.

So far, out mottos for the week are:

  • Practice the ways of Christ instead of talking about him.
  • Fair is not equal. Fair is giving each kid what they need in the moment.

At lunchtime, we split into groups and joined our classrooms. For the rest of the school day, we started getting to know our kids and teachers by helping in the classes — this includes playing games, helping with snacks, visiting the community garden, and doing playground duty. 

When the school day ended, we had our first daily debrief session. During this time we have the chance to process the things we’ve seen, heard, and experienced. Every classroom has kids who experience crisis in any given moment, so there are a variety of things to debrief. Our volunteer coordinator, Tia, is excellent at helping everyone process the day with depth and empathy.

After work, we rested for a while with naps. Then we went to a local restaurant and entertainment institution: Casa Bonita. We ate dinner, explored, and played in the arcade before heading back to Tennyson for showers. Now we’re ready for bed so we can get the rest we need for a full day of work!

Denver, Safe and Sleepy!

We made it to the Tennyson Center at about 11 pm, Mountain Standard Time. After unloading the vehicles, carrying everything upstairs, and getting settled into our classroom, everyone is properly worn out. 

Our orientation is at 8:15 am tomorrow, so we’re all in bed. It’s been a long and good day, and we want to be rested for tomorrow’s work. We’ll check in tomorrow at the end of the day. Goodnight!