This school year, committed Hope for New York volunteers will make a difference in the lives of children all over our city as mentors.
Leslie Larson, a journalist who lives in the Financial District, is a volunteer team leader with Kids with a Promise, a program that serves NYC’s at-risk children and youth by lovingly providing a caring, nurturing environment where they can learn and grow. Leslie answered some questions for us recently about her volunteer experience as a mentor and what she’s learned through service.
Leslie, tell us a little bit about KWAP.
They are very up front and clear that it is intentional about the kids’ spiritual development. There are a lot of programs that help with homework, college and career advice. But at KWAP we always begin with a devotional prayer to show them what it means to have a personal relationship with Christ. Just to present to them that God has a perspective and an opinion about what’s happening in their life, or this decision they might be faced with is really important. Though we don’t force that on them, we do want them to know that it is the path to life.
You mentor two pre-teen girls. How do you connect with them?
Since most of the girls struggle with self-worth, I make sure to remind that that they are wonderfully made by God and that he hears their prayers. But it’s a relationship, and not just coming to Him demanding things. We recently had our closing ceremony and gave an exhortation of encouragement the girls. We chose Proverbs 31:30: “Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.” Living in a city bombarded with ads, it’s great to pull back and see that God values our worship of him.
Have you had any challenges in the past year?
It’s so hard with kids, and the emotional energy takes a toll. When you get a bunch of kids together, you have issues like bullying, and many times I find myself coming to the Lord admitting that I lack wisdom and ask him to give me wisdom. These kids have their own stories and since there’s not a lot available to them in the city, they face a lot of opposition. But being at KWAP has given me a heightened awareness of that. The way I see it, seeds are being planted in their hearts. Just as Paul says, we can plant a seed but God has to make it grow. I pray that God will open their minds and hearts at the right time.
What do you appreciate about KWAP?
It’s a lot of fun being with the kids and I enjoy hanging out with them as friends. They have strong opinions and say a lot about pop culture or Facebook. It’s really interesting. I would also say I appreciate the spiritual impact and fellowship among us mentors. Just to be around other believers who are striving to honor God over their schedule or time is encouraging to see. Iron sharpens iron.
Interested in mentoring at-risk youth through Hope For New York? Check out Kids with a Promise or some of our other affiliates that serve the youth like Chinese Christian Herald Crusades, Morris Academy Mentoring Program, and Operation Exodus.