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Why We Send Our Kids to the Poorest Public School
Image: Courtesy of Phil Roeder / Flickr.com

Why We Send Our Kids to the Poorest Public School

It's not just my own kids' well-being that matters anymore.

Because teams were formed around schools, our kids fell headfirst into a soccer team of African refugees. We now had race, class, language, culture, and religious barriers to navigate. Imagine a phone conversation something like this: "Hi. Mr. Mohammed? This is Jennifer Slate. William's mom? Yes, I'm white. Well, anyway, I'm calling because you'll need to sign up your son online for the fall season by Monday. Do you have a computer? The registration is $100, but we can probably get him a scholarship. But he needs to wear cleats instead of tennis shoes. And will you be able to give him a ride every Saturday? Oh, you work every Saturday. Well . . . I can pick him up and keep him for lunch after the game. We'll just pack some ham sandwiches. Oh, he can't eat pork."

And this was one child in a community of dozens. One of dozens who wore jeans to games because they did not have cool Adidas soccer shorts. One of many who used cardboard from cereal boxes in their socks as shin guards. One of several who asked if they could have chicken nuggets when the team went out for ice cream because it would fill their tummies better that night.

But God was already working in these places too. He had sent two families ahead of us. They had met these African families a few years prior. They had coached their teams, coordinated rides, and found grants for swimming lessons. And swim team scholarships. And extra swimsuits, goggles, caps, and beach towels. They took kids camping, and tubing, and to University of Virginia games. They became family, having kids stay with them when parents had to leave town. And they graciously let me tiptoe behind them, filling in where I could, slowly learning African geography and history, slowly remembering to buy all-beef hot dogs and pizza without pepperoni. Slowly learning how to think about children other than my own.

Is All This Worth It?

I was still crying all the time—and realizing that charity wasn't enough. I had to return to what the pastors had told me to do: Trust. Could I trust God with my children? Could I trust God with my resources? Could I trust that God himself was working for the common good?


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October 09, 2013  9:44pm

Jennifer, we lived and raised our two girls in the inner city & public schools. We also tutoring, served on the community advisory council, and so on. Many were helped; the schools improved. Our girls got hurt (but mostly from other kids in church); they missed out - their education wasn't on par of many Christian kids. Neither finished college - yet. Now they are young adults, married, with kids. One married the most godly young man, an immigrant, who pastors a multicultural church that is seeing lots of people come to the Lord. Our daughter leads the youth group of second generation immigrants - the kids are sticking with God. Our other daughter has radar to seek out hurting people no matter their ethnicity and provide much support. Yea, they missed out on being "successful," if success is lots of money and moving in important circles. But in terms of the Kingdom, their "education" means they move in any circles and understand what "real" life & ministry is all about.

D. McDonald

October 09, 2013  6:11am

We shouldn't look at this article as a one-size-fits-all template for all families, but amen, amen, amen! Parents are never going to create a Christian utopia for their children, so let's stop trying, and let's stop pretending this "ideal" cozy bubble lifestyle is what God wants for them anyway. This selfish 'put-yourself-first' mindset is inappropriate for us, so we shouldn't insist on teaching our children that it should be important in their lives, where we make everything a 'put-them-first-over-everyone-else' mindset. How will they not be influenced by society's materialistic and individualistic tendencies if this is the example they see in us? Yes, we are certainly called to take care of them, protect them, etc. first, but it should not come at the expense of others. We and our children are called to love our neighbors, not avoid them. In the end, this line is worth repeating once more: "What if I stood up for not only what was good for mine, but was good for all?"


October 08, 2013  3:36pm

Jennifer, you have articulated well the fact that we are to actively seek God's kingdom daily in our lives and teach our children to do the same. Too often what we think our kids need is not what they actually need for maturity in Christ, and you are giving your children a wonderful gift of learning to love others that are not like them; Just as Jesus did. You are not "sacrificing your children" per another's comment; You are raising them as God has led you to do and He will bless you and them with spritiual maturity. Thank you for your wonderful article!


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