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December Letter 2016


He whispered, “This is too hard. I can’t do it.”

December 2016

Dear Friend,

There’s a famous story in the Bible where the Prophet Elijah is discouraged. God tells Elijah to expect an encounter with Him; He’s about to pass by. There comes a rock shattering wind, followed by a ground rending earthquake, and then a scorching fire. All loud, powerful, attention grabbing events you couldn’t miss – not unlike the turbulent year we’ve all just passed through. But God did not speak to Elijah in those attention grabbing, powerful displays. After the fire, there was a gentle whisper, and Elijah recognized that God was speaking to him.

Art class is not where you expect to encounter painful evidence of academic failure and its consequences. You kind of hope it’s a safe place where a child can get encouraged, have fun, or get a chance to express themselves. James Russell is the art teacher for our high school, UrbanPromise Academy. No one loves kids better or more skillfully, nor better knows how to make art a healing place for our kids.

Upon inquiry, the
two eighth grade students shared in a whisper that they didn’t know what an inch was.

George and Kadiyah are new eighth graders in our Academy. One came from a large charter school, and one from a large regular public school. Sitting in art class last week, James, asked the class to take their rulers and draw a line a half inch on either side of a point. After a bit, James noticed that George and Kadiyah were struggling.

Friends, you have to wonder. What did the kids feel like? Stupid? Afraid? Incompetent? How long have they felt that way? If they’re afraid of what people will think, or worse yet, afraid of what they think of themselves, why would they risk learning at all? Where would they go for help, let alone as a 13-year-old have the awareness to ask. Worse, their lives at home are full of stress and chaos, and they don’t have anyone to go to.

That’s why there is an UrbanPromise. And that’s why there’s you.


You can imagine James’ surprise. George and Kadiyah did not know how to use a ruler. Pulling them aside one at a time, he patiently and discreetly helped them learn. Kadiyah seemed to grasp it.

But George couldn’t face it. He put his pencil down, hung his head, and sadly whispered, “This is too hard. I can’t do it.”

In George’s whisper, I hear the voice of God. Not as a statement but as a plea. While the world makes much noise about failed education, violence, poverty, and opportunity, every child I know is whispering, Help me, one small voice at a time.

How can you and I help George? He is not alone. The vast majority of the children we serve are not close to having a basic education nor behaviors (for example, homework) needed to pursue higher education. I don’t blame the schools. They are not equipped to address the need. The nations may roar, but if we don’t help every kid we encounter, I can predict the future.

I know George and Kadiyah personally, I saw them today. I know how hard their lives have been despite their families’ best efforts. I share their story, because I want you to know them. I know if you looked in their eyes like I did today, you too would see what I saw, a spark of hope that wasn’t there just a month ago. An innocence that isn’t dead yet. A soft heart that, with love, is willing not to give up.

It’s Christmas, an important season of joy and an important season of giving. I call to you on our kids’ behalf, Help them.” Look at the response card and consider how you can help. Choose a giving level that will allow you to enjoy making an impact. The teachers at our high school are absolutely amazing in their love and commitment. Support them. The kids can’t afford tuition, scholarship them. The resources we need to repair this are great, give one. Find a way to give joy.

As a society we have said, This is too hard.” It is hard, but not too hard. Please help us keep a promise to George, inch by inch.


P.S. Support a teacher and we’ll give you their name so you can pray for them.


Wondering what to buy for that person who has it all?

Check out UP’s Alternative Gift Market to knock out your Christmas shopping and benefit kids in Wilmington at the same time!


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