Blog

AR Kids Read

Another school year is about to start. Lauren is going into 5th grade. This should be an exciting time for her. Except she doesn’t want to go back to school. She says the work is too hard and the other kids tease her.

You see, Lauren doesn’t read at a 5th grade level. She really barely reads at a 2nd grade level. So keeping up with school work is next to impossible for her.

AR Kids Read - Reading at Grade Level
But there is hope. This year Lauren will have a tutor work with her on her reading skills. With that help and some hard work on Lauren’s part, she will be able to greatly improve her reading skills and catch up.

All this is thanks to AR Kids Read, a community organization that has an in school tutoring program where volunteers meet with students, working one-on-one or in small groups to assist students to read at grade level. AR Kids Read is supported by many churches, as well as businesses and organizations in the Little Rock area.

Click here to volunteer as a tutor or learn more about AR Kids Read.

As little as 30 minutes a week with a student can change the course of their life. Help make this a great year for Lauren and her fellow students.

Making a Contagious Difference in Central Arkansas

Scott Ford“Little Rock is famous for racial segregation …,” says Scott Ford, co-chairman of the 2009 Central Arkansas CityFest and partner in Westrock Capital. “I think it is terribly unfortunate, but it doesn’t make it any less true.”

Ford has a dream for Central Arkansas and it begins with the Body of Christ—the church. He imagines a community where African Americans, Asians, Caucasians, Hispanics and other nationalities are united and functioning as friends. “And then that ripples out in the city and Little Rock would be known as a place … that healed itself and united as a community.”  Ford says only could God could do this. “And I’d like to see it happen.”

Born and raised in Little Rock, Ford grew up in public schools—in a neighborhood where the rich, middleclass, and poor all joined at the football field. Although he recognizes the sincere efforts of our political and legal leaders, he says there’s a lot of work that needs to be done. “… and I think it has to take place on a one-on-one level.”
When he and Dr. Fitz Hill (co-chairman of the 2009 Central Arkansas CityFest and President of Arkansas Baptist College) first prayed in Dr. Hill’s office about CityFest, he sensed that God could use it as a way to reconcile people across racial lines.

The difference CityFest can make

Looking back at the 175 Season of Service projects that were done in Central Arkansas in 2009, Ford doesn’t think there was a school or neighborhood in the area that wasn’t touched. As people got out of their comfort zone to help others, our community saw the difference that Christ makes. “They [non-believers] are really interested in seeing if Jesus is alive in people.”

Ford believes the root of real change happens one-on-one: to serve … to mentor … to encourage … to uplift. The difference happens, he says, when people come “alongside of people and help them up so they can stand up and walk on their own.”

As he thinks back on the 55,000 people who came to the 2009 CityFest event, he recalls a diverse crowd of individuals who represented the community. “It was about half white and about half African-American and Hispanic. They worshipped together and they enjoyed one another’s company and friendships were built.”
Those ongoing friendships are what Ford thinks will make a lasting change in our community. “I saw it happen at the pastoral level. It happened to Fitz [Dr. Fitz Hill] and me. I saw it happen in the business community.” Ford now mentors some African Americans businessmen; they became friends because of CityFest. “I think those are the kinds of things that really matter.”

Ford recalls the men and women who made a difference in his life by their individual investments. They took time to personally get to know, encourage, and hold him accountable. “That made an impact on my life and that’s the way I think the church has to act. And when it does, I think it’s contagious.”

Becoming a Blessing to Central Arkansas

“My mother had the most impact on my life,” says Dr. Fitz Hill (co-chairman of the 2009 Central Arkansas CityFest and President of Arkansas Baptist College). He says she modeled a life of faith and service to others. “She just believed in serving the Lord outside the walls of church and that has been imbedded in my heart.”

Hill says his mother knew no strangers in his hometown of Arkadelphia. When she took community children to various school and church events, she talked to them about life. Hill says that was her way of giving them a life map for positive choices. “Because the life map for negative choices are right there, too. If you don’t know any other road you will usually take the one that is most accessible … and not the one that is best for you.”

2009 CityFest

When Hill was asked to be a 2009 co-chairman for Central Arkansas CityFest, he felt that he had been called by God to serve in this role. He said that he trusted the Lord to work out all of the details. Hill recognized CityFest as an opportunity for community churches to get out of their individual walls for the glory of Jesus Christ. “CityFest is about reaching out and bringing people together.”
He really liked the Seasons of Service prior to CityFest, with its emphasis on community projects. He was encouraged as he watched different churches interact in the community. “Each church has to find what … their mission field will be,” he says, adding that the choices for the Season of Service were endless. They included reaching out to the homeless, teaching literacy, and partnering with area schools. “This is not a cookie-cuttter [outreach] where everything has to fit,” Hill says. “You just have to find the best method to make a difference for the Lord Jesus Christ.”

As churches come together for the common good of the city, Hill says they are a catalyst for positive change in the community. Three hundred to four hundred churches working together for the common good of the city can accomplish much more than churches functioning as isolated silos working in their own capacity. As churches have joined with one another, there has been a sense of a common goal of improving our community.

Hill says it’s important to be in line with what God has called us to do, which is be a blessing to others. He believes that we have an opportunity to be a very special community. “When you try to bless yourself, you block God’s blessings,” he says. “When you try to be a blessing to somebody else, then the blessings will automatically come back to you. If we can become a community that each day wakes up and tries to be a blessing to somebody else, everything else will take care of itself.”

CityFest

Below are some articles regarding CityFest, a foundational project of the Nehemiah Network, and the desire of members of the Network to see the city of Little Rock transformed.

Catch the Vision

Harry Li, Campus and Teaching Pastor at Mosaic Church of Central Arkansas, has the vision that the Body of Christ should be a picture of unity.

When asked why unity is important to him, Li said, “It goes back to my theological understanding of the Body of Christ. If we really are one Body, and I do believe we are, then we must make extraordinary efforts to ‘be one Body.’ We can’t just claim it any more than we can claim that our individual church is unified. It takes constant effort and corporate, citywide prayer to build and nurture the process by which unity amongst the churches in the city can be built.”

Cityfest has played a role in creating unity within the Church and the effects of that unity can be felt all over central Arkansas. Li said that Cityfest, “served as a catalyst to bring churches together unlike ever before in all areas of ministry. We see things like the Esperanza [free medical] Clinic in southwest Little Rock. No singular church could have pulled off what has happened there, but collectively, many churches were able to get it to this point. It will take as many churches to sustain the effort and to continue to build it. Instead of one church doing a little, there is a synergistic movement, which I believe comes from the Holy Spirit, when churches work together. ”

Li believes if the Church in central Arkansas could really capture the vision of unity and cooperation, “There will be interdependence on one another, instead of competition between us. There will be a new identity that is based on who Jesus is, instead of what comes before the word ‘church’ on all our signage. There will be a level of cooperation that will allow much more to be done together as one body instead of the sum of individual parts. And there will be no division between parts of the Body, instead we will pull for one another and help each other in humility.”

No division between parts of the Body. Pulling for one another. Helping each other in humility.

Are you ready to catch the vision?