YMCA of Greater Oklahoma City

Monday Morning Joe: Transform the Community

The Book of Nehemiah is an interesting historical perspective on the rebuilding of Jerusalem after the exile. It is a very personal, specific account of rebuilding the wall of Jerusalem from Nehemiah’s point of view. The story goes like this:
The words of Nehemiah: In the month of Kislev in the twentieth year, while I was in the citadel of Susa, Hanani, one of my brothers, came from Judah with some other men, and I questioned them about the Jewish remnant that had survived the exile, and also about Jerusalem.
They said to me, “Those who survived the exile and are back in the province are in great trouble and disgrace. The wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates have been burned with fire.”
When I heard these things, I sat down and wept. For some days I mourned and fasted and prayed before the God of heaven.
Four months later, Nehemiah found himself before the king, and an opportunity was presented for him to share what he felt God had called him to do. The king gave his permission to Nehemiah to go to Jerusalem and rebuild the wall.
After traveling close to 900 miles, Nehemiah began to secretly inspect the wall around Jerusalem. After his inspection, he crafted a vision to rebuild the wall, shared the vision with those in the community, recruited those in the community, used the resources within the community, and began rebuilding the wall around Jerusalem.
I share the story of Nehemiah because it relates to a program with our YMCA known as the Y Clubhouse. The Y Clubhouse was birthed out of the pandemic, a time when the world was shutting down to prevent the spread of Covid-19, and one of the most vulnerable groups affected by this shut down were children. What started as an early Spring Break turned into a logistical nightmare when the public school system shut down and created virtual learning. Families needed to figure out how to go to work as places of work began reopening, and be responsible for the continuing education of their children. While some jobs made space for parents to work from home or bring their children to work with them, there were communities within Oklahoma City that those were not viable options.
Seeing a need in the housing authority communities, the YMCA of Greater OKC’s social responsibility department reached out, and partnering with others, created Hope Centers in these communities to provide childcare services, free of charge. As our understanding of Covid-19 grew, and schools began to reopen, these hope centers were transformed into after school care program called Y-Clubhouse.
The Y-Clubhouse offers meals, homework help, games, crafts, and other activities for kids within their own communities. The Y-Clubhouse provides more than what I just listed. The staff provide a safe space to care for kids who would normally be left to their own devices. They help make sure they are fed, their homework done, and they have a place where they are welcomed and protected. In my own opinion, from my perspective, the Y-Clubhouse is transforming the community by creating a new system where kids are able to break free from vicious cycles of violence, poverty, and isolation.
The beautiful thing about the Y-Clubhouse is that the director (Yesica Gonzales), coordinators, and program staff are people within those communities. It is a community developing its community by loving them, serving them, and caring for them. For me, the Y-Clubhouse is a sacred space in which agents in God’s mission to heal the world are actively transforming their community.



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