Wednesday, October 14, 2015

When Guilt Creeps In

I almost didn't blog tonight, but I am already behind. I am exhausted. I spent all day at a school function, attended a football game, helped a family with groceries and took a friend to work. It was just another day in our life. Glenn and I opted for a late night fast food dinner which we don't like to do, but we are flat worn out.  This is where bad eating options usually happen.  Glenn mentioned how he couldn't believe he was so exhausted and I have a similar sentiment.  I have a list a mile long to complete but I have hit a wall. I have started and restarted this blog twenty times because my mind just can't settle on anything and I decided..."oh well, I'm just going to be completely honest about where I sit tonight because this is real life."

It looks like a garage sale exploded in our house. I'm not sure that there is a single room in this house that is actually clean and organized right now. By the time I get around to it, I'm too tired to tackle it. There's laundry, donated items, things that need to be stored, dishes, bathrooms to be scrubbed, etc. There is also a tremendous amount of canvas, paint and various related items all over the dining room table because I'm trying to crank out orders before we leave on our vacation so we can actually have some spending money. It's the craziest thing because in order to get a break, I have to work extra long hours painting and doing paint parties to fund the break. So, I am imagining by the time I step foot onto the cruise ship, I may just sleep for a week. And then there's the guilt of actually going on a  cruise.

We are working with families right now that do not have food, are having their electricity being cut off or facing eviction and I'm counting down the days to our tropical vacation. I feel like no matter how much we may struggle right along with some of our families on a daily basis we will always been seen as the ones who have plenty. People around us think we are rich. We have saved our extra income from paintings and crafts for almost a year to experience a week of breathing room. Even now, I stress about it not being enough and worry about pinching pennies, but the thought of that even feels shameful.

I worry about people thinking their donations are funding our tropical getaway, which is totally not the case and in most conversations people actually say they are GLAD we are going, but it doesn't stop the voices in my head of guilt and fear of what others may think. It's stupid and it's ridiculous, but I'm just being honest.

There are days when I just want to keep the door closed and hide. There are moments when I covet a night without gunshots or sirens, a big comfy sofa to just binge on movies and dinner with my husband without a knock on the door.  Sometimes those thoughts can lead down a big path of "woe is me."

But then I look up and see this sign. I keep it in the dining room because this is where I spend most of my time working, painting, tutoring or eating and it is always in my view. These are the dreams of hundreds of kids in our community. When I think I can't handle one more knock on the door, I remember that we asked God to make this a place where kids could trust us. When I am just about over the constant sound of basketballs, yelling and requests to pump up balls, I remember that we made a court so there was a safe place for kids to hang out. When I feel the threat of guilt creeping in, I remember that breathing is necessary to a life where we are constantly pouring out. Sleep is good. Time away will keep us sustained for the long haul and ultimately remind us that we really aren't the ones in charge.

And just because God loves to give me winks everyone now and then, one of our students just video called me to say hello and tell me he got an A on his project we worked on together.

Thankfully...those moments outweigh any of the others.

*If you would like to learn more about our ministry, The Dream Campaign or to give a tax deductible financial gift to support our work in the community, please visit

** If you would like to start from the beginning of this blog series, click here.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

31 Days: Day 13 - Got socks? Give Thanks.

Glenn and I have been doing urban ministry together for almost 5 years in some way, shape or form. We met while working at a homeless shelter in Savannah, we moved to Atlanta for a little over a year to work with a homeless ministry there before coming back to Savannah to run “The Dream Campaign”. There are some stories from our first days in urban youth ministry that will stick with me forever. I frequently revisit these stories to remember and stay grounded in reality. I want to re-tell you the story of a little boy in Atlanta who will forever have an imprint on my heart.

I was sitting in a worship service when I looked to my right and on the very end of the row was a child sitting by himself. He had a jacket on, and it was zipped all the way up covering half of his face with his head down, avoiding looking at anyone. His clothes were almost filthy. His jeans had dirt all down the front. His shoes were worn and covered in dirt. I wondered when the last time he had a bath might have been. I scooted to the end of the row and said,

"Hi, I'm Morgan. What's your name?" (and stuck out my hand).
"Sam." (and he shook it).
"Well, it's nice to meet you Sam. Would you like to come sit in the middle so you can see better?"
(He shook his head and walked over and sat right next to me even though there were several chairs to choose from.)
"How old are you, Sam?"
"I'm 8."
"Did you come with anyone this morning?"
"No, I came by myself. My older brother usually comes but he isn't here today."
"Oh, So the Kids bus picked you up?"
(He shook his head, yes).

We talked some more and I found out that he likes football and sports and is in the 2nd grade. He eventually removed the hood of his jacket to reveal cute little braids, beautiful eyelashes and an adorable smile. He then carefully unzipped his jacket revealing yet another dirt stained shirt. He was the most adorable, precious little boy. My heart was gripped.

As praise and worship started, he clapped and sang along. I could not focus. I had to do something. I scooted out the door and ran down to the clothing closet. I grabbed him a long sleeve thermal shirt. When I came back into the sanctuary I said, "Would you like a long sleeve shirt for when it’s cold?"  He looked up with big eyes and shook his head rapidly and I handed it to him. Another minute passed by and I whispered in his ear, "Do you know what size pants and shoes you wear?" He told me his sizes and I ran back to the clothing closet, but we were out of most things his size. I grabbed what I could find along with a pair of shoes I was sure were too big. I put them in a bag and ran back to the Sanctuary. I handed them to "Sam" and whispered in his ear again. "I think these shoes are gonna be too big, but keep them because you'll be able to wear them soon.  Next time you are here I will have a pair of shoes for you that fit."  

I sat there with my arm around him and attempted to sing through tears..."This is my desire, to honor You, Lord with all my heart, I worship You.” I looked over and Sam was singing with his hands out, palms upward." He looked towards a lady next to us who was "Praise Signing" and he started to mimic all of her movements. It was devastating beauty.

The first thing Glenn said when we talked after the service is..."Who let's an 8 year old go anywhere alone?" There are many answers to that question, but what I kept thinking was..."What 8 year old, gets on a bus by himself to go to church across town?"

 The next Sunday, as soon as the Children's Bus arrived, I went outside to look for him. I found him playing tag in the back of the building with some other children. He ran over to me and I said, "Do you remember that I told you if you came back this week, I'd have something for you?" He smiled and I said, "Come with me." We had bought the following for him: a new shirt, pair of jeans, bag of socks, 2 pairs of gloves, a pack of underwear, a pair of tennis shoes, and a pair of waterproof boots. As I unpacked each item he almost looked in a state of shock. When I pulled out the socks he exclaimed, "WOW SOCKS! I didn't have socks to put on today! I had some yesterday, but I didn't have any today!" (There are many of our students today who are always asking us for socks and underwear).

With that, I looked down at his dirt covered shoes and said, "Sam would you like to wear one of your new pairs of shoes?" He nodded and I asked him which pair he would like to put on.  In the sweetest little voice he said, "'s kinda wet outside so I think I should wear the boots."  After he put on his new socks, I knelt down and tied his shoes tight. He then wanted to put on his gloves and hat right away. We snapped this picture before he went into the Sanctuary. I never wanted to forgot that moment and what Sam taught me. This truly is one of my favorite pictures of all time.

When I went into the Sanctuary, Sam introduced me to his brother and his cousins. I found out today they all came from similar circumstances.  I went and sat on the front row and left Sam sitting with the kids a few rows back.  A few minutes later, Sam walked up to me and said, "I want to sit up here next to you."

Sam found JOY and thanksgiving in new socks.

When is the last time any of us were truly thankful for socks?

**If you would like to learn more about our ministry or give a tax deductible financial gift to the work we do in our community, please visit

To start this blog series from the beginning click here.

Monday, October 12, 2015

31 Days: Day 12 - No School?

One of the things that I have thought about more since becoming an urban missionary is the simple fact that I have taken so much for granted in my life. I'm not sure why I was born into a family who had the resources to provide pretty much anything I ever wanted or needed. I am thankful, but completely recognize that was PRIVILEGE and I need to always be aware of that. Today, being Columbus Day, the kids were out of school. When I was a kid, I looked forward to ANY and EVERY chance to get a day out of school and also counted down the days till the summer when I could hang out with my friends and do more fun things. There is a completely different vibe here in the inner city. Most kids HATE being out of school for a day and especially the entire summer.

As a child, I knew that when I was out of school there would be food to eat and things to do. Never once, did I open up our pantry to discover there was nothing to eat and I certainly never missed a meal. Summer time meant trips out of town or movies and sleepovers.
I was shocked the first time a student complained about being out of school.  I assumed everyone loved a holiday break. I quickly learned the complaint was usually because of two things:

1. Boredom. Utter and complete boredom of being stuck at home. This was especially true of the students whose parents did not have transportation to take them anywhere.

2. Hunger. Most of our students are eligible for free lunch which means that they can get breakfast and lunch for free every school day. When school is canceled there are some kids who go without those meals. (Let me interject here that I will always say some and not all. I know it is not 100%). This was never on my radar.

How many of us can say that? And if you can't, then it is a great time to be thankful and aware.

I can't stand it if a kid is hungry and many times they will just go about their day expecting not to eat on those days. I never want a student to have to ask for food, so on days like today, we tote out the PB and J and all eat lunch together. I probably made 20+ sandwiches today. Now, I know that not every student who ate one did so because they didn't have anything to eat at home, but I don't want to single any student we all participate. We had sandwiches, chips, capri sun and a cutie orange. The thing that kids wanted more of was the fruit. Fresh fruits and veggies are a luxury, even for me and Glenn at times because they are not cheap.

The most consumed foods in the inner city are chips and juice because it is cheap. I have met babies who are conditioned to eat that over baby foods. Next time you make a side salad for dinner, or grab a piece of fresh fruit as a snack,  thank God for the blessing of being able to do so. Truly. Access to fresh foods is a luxury in our world.

** If you would like to start from the beginning of this blog series start here.

31 Days: Day 5-11

So..I went to a conference and forgot my computer...therefore..I will have to come back to these! My apologies.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

31 Days: Day 4 - When the Cops Come

It's no secret that many of the kids and even adults in our community have a negative opinion of cops.
There are many slang names thrown around and I have even had tiny children tell me that cops are bad. (Guess where they are getting that from?)

Savannah has been plagued with crime lately. We are an incredibly beautiful city with a toxic disease that is rampantly moving through our streets. There have been so many shootings and lives lost this year and many of them are teenagers and young adults. Officer involved shooting stories have seemed to hold a top spot in the news this past year. I'm not excusing behavior when it is wrong, but I also believe that not all cops are bad cops. I also don't think that it is helpful for little children to be taught to fear them.  I believe that Savannah is around 150 cops short for our city. That is a lot. There are Facebook groups and opinions flying everywhere about what to do with the "problem kids" causing all the problems.

Might I suggest a step in the right direction?

We were inside tonight helping students with projects when we heard a ton of cheering coming from outside. We opened the door to see some local officers shooting hoops with some of our kids. It was not the game alone that made my heart was all of the high fives happening with all of the neighborhood boys afterwards.....some who have told me that all cops are bad.

Check out the video here.

I'm not posting this to glorify the police or say that it makes any pain or wrong doing done by law enforcement acceptable, but what if we stopped using  the words ALL or NONE with these men in uniform? What if some of our at-risk kids learned to engage with them on a basketball court rather than in the street?

I personally know one of these guys and he is good people. This is not the first time he has done this and he does not do it for ANY recognition, but because he cares about each of these kids in our community.

In a time when there is so much crime and negative news, I thought I'd share a little positive.

This is part of a #write31days Blog series entitled "31 days in the Life of an Urban Missionary." 
To start from the beginning of this blog series click here.
To learn more about the ministry of The Dream Campaign visit our website.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

31 Days: Day 3 - All Education is NOT Equal

Ten. The number of hours  spent helping a student work on a 3-5 page research paper/visual aide for a fifth grade project.

Five. The number of hours I probably have left helping this student finish her research paper.

Three. The number of adults who helped this student tonight, AT ONE TIME.

FIFTEEN HOURS, people. That is close to half the amount of hours a person with a FULL TIME job works. This all took place after school and on the weekend.

I am sure the teacher did not intend on it taking this amount of time, but unfortunately this is not out of the norm in our world. I am left to wonder what exactly would have happened had there not been a support system created for this child.

This project required 3 references one of which had to be internet, the other two books.
A visual aide which required supplies.
A TYPED report, which requires a computer.
Note cards of notes taken from references which have to be turned in with project.
The knowledge of how to write a research paper in the fifth grade.

For a child in a comfortable environment, who successfully passed all previous grades, has a computer, the internet, the transportation and the resources to get all of the supplies, not to mention an attentive parent to's not a super far stretch. Timely, but doable. The average student we work with does not have access to all of those things. There are many adults who never finished school or know how to write a research paper themselves. So, what would have happened to this sweet student ? She probably would have not even tried. She would have accepted the zero, thus potentially failing the class.

Does this mean we give these kids a free pass on hard work and education? ABSOLUTELY NOT! does mean there there NEEDS to be some sort of wake up call about education/resources/opportunities in at risk/title 1 areas. It is not reasonable to think that they can do all of that IN class.

We see more failing students passed on to the next grade because 1) They are too old to really stay held back and  2) The teachers are just tired of dealing with them so they send them on to the next grade. We have students who can't add and subtract, more less multiply and divide in MIDDLE school! Then, they get promoted and told if they will just participate in an after school program they can be promoted again to their "correct grade." What the heck?! Guess what? This is frustrating for many teachers as well who have personally told me that THEY get in trouble for not promoting certain kids.

When a child gets promoted without learning the foundations of the former grade they are being set up to fail. They get into the next grade. They don't understand it. They feel stupid and guess what? They will eventually quit when they are old enough.

This is the only reason I can even in good conscience spend 15+ hours on a research paper with an 11 year old. There are moments when I just want to slide the computer over and do it for them because it is painstakingly slow, BUT I know the time invested in TEACHING them to do it on their own will reap long term benefits. I KNOW this girl will be so proud of herself when all is said and done and that will be worth every minute.

But in the meantime here is what I can tell you.
Abe Lincoln was born in a one room cabin and when you have to collect sticks to build a replica of that cabin in the middle of a monsoon....putting them on a cookie sheet in the oven to dry them out does in fact work.

Friday, October 2, 2015

31 Days: Day 2 - The Scarcity of Weekends

31 Days: Day 2

As I type this, I'm listening to children playing in the street on a cool, by southern standards, afternoon. One young lady has already popped in to give a hug and say hello. It's a Friday night and in our neighborhood that usually means one thing: getting ready for a crazy night and honestly,  I often pray for rain.

When I was a kid, the weekend meant sleepovers, movie theater, football games and generally a good time to be had by all. I'll never forget the first time I realized weekends and summer time for many of our students means boredom and hunger.  Lately, in our community it means children playing in the street all hours of night. I spend many a night peeking out the upstairs bathroom window to the intersection below just to keep an eye out on the kiddos running around with no parental supervision. It means increased car and foot traffic with increased drug deals. The sounds of people coming and going from the clubs. The drunken couple yelling at each other at 2 AM. The ridiculous amount of cars flying down our neighborhood streets throwing speed limit caution to the wind. It is a night when sirens are common and I usually fall asleep with my headphones in, listening to the police scanner on my phone. My prayer life is often increased on the weekends when I know there is ample time for students to get in trouble.

The map on my phone has become a go to app as I listen to intersections over the radio and map the distance from our house. If I hear anything about a juvenile involved shooting, my fingers hit Facebook messenger to get a check in from all of our young men. The scary fact is that most of the time, it is not them, but they know the person involved (more on that in another blog post).

Weekends also mean no free breakfast or free lunch at school, which for some, is the only hot meals they will get in a day. For a good number of kids, their nutrition over the weekend will consist of some sort of sugar filled soda or punch accompanied with a bag of chips or handful of candy. Basically, it is whatever they can get with some change from the corner store. Every Sunday afternoon, we host a youth group for community kids. One of the major parts of it is providing a home cooked meal to the kids that attend. I promise you, to watch the amount of food some of these little kids put away is indicative of just how hungry they are when they arrive. We are not set up to provide hot meals the entire weekend but it is a need. There was an afternoon a few months back when a teenage boy knocked on our back door and said, "Miss Morgan, can I please get something to eat?" It was almost as if he had trouble mouthing the words. Pride. Hunger. Weakness. I invited him in and threw together a quick meal. He was so appreciative and it reminded me just how much we take for granted.

What fun is a weekend more less a summer, when you don't have the provisions to enjoy it?

** If you live in the Savannah area and would like to consider providing a meal for our Sunday afternoon program, please click here to sign up. More spring dates will be added shortly.

*** If you would like to make a donation to our non profit to provide meals or support the programs of our ministry, please visit our website.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

31 DAYS in the Life of an Urban Missionary

Welcome to 31 Days in the Life of an Urban Missionary. Scroll down to read the first post. I will link daily posts to this page as well.

Days 5-11: - I was at a conference out of town and forgot my computer! OOPS!

Once upon a time there was a white girl from suburbia with a background in youth ministry in predominantly affluent churches. Her world was completely rocked over the course of several years. This girl now lives in the inner city with her husband as a full time urban missionary loving kids, loving her neighbor, a student of culture and co-director of a non-profit. Every day is a reconciling of where she came from and where she is today. She is seeing, hearing, saying, doing and experiencing things she never imagined. She often feels misunderstood and is passionate about living out and BEING the church right where she lives.

That girl is me and for the next 31 days I'll be sharing stories from my journey.  It is often a Devastating Beauty of sorts. I'll share the joys, the laughter and some of the heart ache. I am not the same woman I was when I moved into this place. It is not a different that is good or bad, but one that reflects the burden that I carry for so many, as well as the freedom of knowing I am not the Savior in the story.

I never planned to live here. I grew up in neighborhoods that were either gated or deemed safe. I never thought I would get used to the sound of gunshots or hearing parents cuss our their kids on a daily basis. I never expected to befriend an older alcoholic man with whom I would sometimes sing old hymns or a hit by Mary Mary. Considering how I grew up, I never imagined eating rice and beans because that is all we had to eat. I never imagined that I would open my back door at any given time and see young men playing basketball because it was a safe place. I never imagined seeing fake semi automatic hand guns carried by boys no older than twelve. I never believed I would download a police scanner app and listen to it on my phone at night instead of reading a book. I never thought I would identify with my neighbors by living below the poverty line myself.

I also never pictured sitting on my front steps, having little girls  four and five years old, crawl all over me while asking me if I loved my husband and if he loved me. I never anticipated the conversations that would surface in our living room from teenagers who just wanted to have someone to talk to and then listen. I never considered there would be a businessman who would observe what we do and offer us a house to create a neighborhood center for the families in our community right across the street. I never dreamed we would baptize nine students in our yard while people gathered to witness their decisions.

I never knew I could have so little and yet feel so rich. 

I never expected to see the face of Jesus in so many different people and in so many different ways.

These are the types of stories I hope to express to you on this journey.

I hope you will join me here.

For more info on our non profit visit: