By: Faith Ruebke, IMPACT Intern and Front Porch Mentor
“What are we doing today? What’s today’s snack?” These are the usual questions that await me, each Monday and Tuesday afternoon, as middle school and elementary age kids breach the doors of Fort Turley, sling down their school bags, greeting their personal mentors with a smile and hug. It’s always a race to the sinks so we can wash and be first in line for prayer and snack time. We make sure to always sit together so we can talk.
School was little harder today; she’s kind of tired because she had gym class early this morning; so and so did this or said that; her teacher assigned a bunch of homework, but she proudly finished it all before she came, so she’d have more time to hangout. She can hardly sit still – we’re riding the horses today!
It’s another sprint down to the large red barn, usually piggyback style; we’re the only girls today, so we make an extra effort. She whispers encouragements into my ear and practices her horse kicks on my hips. The horses acknowledge my efforts with a turn of their graceful heads and perking of tall ears. She’s ecstatic; this is our favorite activity and she links her small arm around mine we stroll down the walkway, stopping to greet each of our equine friends by name. We already know which horse we hope we get assigned.
She’s confident as she mounts the huge animal and turns him out from his place at the rail to join his friends in the circles round the arena. “Am I doing it right?” she asks. I reassure her that she’s doing an excellent job, perhaps lowering her reins a touch may help. “Oh, right!” she smiles, proud of her acquired horsemanship.
“Do you think we’ll ride again next week?” she asks after our ride as we start are journey back down the long green field. “It’s a possibility, but I can give you another ride now if you like,” I reply and its chorus of horsey chants and nudges until we reach the big building.
“Today we’re polishing pennies,” I say as we gather our supplies and set ourselves up at the round tables in the large air-conditioned building. We pour vinegar into a small bowl and start rubbing our soiled pennies with cotton balls, which does little good until we add the required salt and continue our rubbing and scrubbing. Finally, we’re rewarded with two bright and shiny coins. I then explain to her how the dirty money represents us and our sin – the vinegar is us working on our own to try to clean and purify ourselves, and how just like with our copper currency, it could only do so much. It’s not until we add the salt or God’s forgiveness and mercy that we are actually made clean and like new. She nods and admits to times when she has tried to be good but has been unable to succeed for very long without help. As a reminder of the lesson, she gets to keep the gleaming penny.
We spend the next few minutes working on memorizing verses until its time to join the others in a lively game of tag. Naturally, I’m the first one she chases down once she has become the tagger. We run and leap around the wooden forts and swinging hammocks, dodging the crowded trees, laughing as we evade each others tags and touchbacks along with the other mentor and mentees, until the bell rings calling us back inside for closing time.
She takes my hand and leads me to the row of chairs she has deemed ours, and keeps ahold of it as we listen to the Mentoring Director go over our lesson and a take home verse for the kids to memorize for next week. She squeezes my hand and squeals with joy at the thought of another verse to learn. As we’re asked who would like to close, she quickly raises our clenched hands into the air to volunteer me, “You do it! I like it when you pray, you do such a good job!”
After prayer, it’s time for them to load into the vans to go home. She’s worn out after our running around but is reluctant to leave. “Have a good week at school, Honey! I’ll be praying for you,” I tell her. “Thanks, can’t wait until I get to come back to Front Porch next week!” We share a smile that taught me more than words, as I close the door and the van pulls out. Until the next smile, next week, I think, as I wave goodbye and anxiously await next Monday and Tuesday. Front Porch is definitely a highlight of my week – to get to spend a few hours with two awesome and beautiful girls, who are themselves teaching me to be a better person!