Pablo Picasso once said, “The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away.” Preston Taylor Ministries, PTM, encourages the youth of the Preston Taylor community in West Nashville to pursue their God-inspired dreams, despite how their individual situations may stand in their way.
This summer I am working in the PTM RISE (Realizing I’m Someone Extraordinary) Program. The summer RISE program consists of eighteen rising fifth and sixth graders, who come to Park Avenue Baptist Church Tuesdays through Fridays. Each one of these students has so much potential with extraordinary dreams. On our first day of summer programming we created a dream cloud. Kourtney wants to be a dancer, A’maya wants to be a rapper, Deonsha wants to be a teacher, JaDarious wants to be a football player, and Nevaeh wants to be a nurse. Every time someone said a dream, they said it with so much enthusiasm and hope. Each one of them truly believed in their dreams, and as such, I did too. The central idea behind the RISE program is to rise up from the circumstances that have fought against the Preston Taylor youth throughout life.
My first week working was very action packed. On Tuesday we had a speaker from the Schermerhorn Symphony Center, who brought in instruments the kids could try. On Wednesday, the group doubled in size because Dwight brings his group from Calvin House over in order for all the junior high students to be together. We made trail mix, constructed cars out of Legos that had to be propelled by a balloon, and played basketball. Thursdays are field trip days. We bused the students to the Schermerhorn Symphony Center for a private tour, where our tour guide took us everywhere from the Hall to the basement. On Friday we had a relay race and made ice cream sandwiches. Throughout the entire week of programming, we studied the story of Daniel in the Bible. Daniel, along with nearly half a million Isrealites, were taken to Babylon, where King Nebuchadnezzar wanted to force them into Babylonian culture–spiritual and physical corruption–by changing their Hebrew names. The students thought that was extremely rude, but Mrs. Lisa, the head of the RISE program, explained what the king did is similar to what society does to us: society corrupts us and forces us to be something we’re not, if we don’t keep our eyes focused on God. Daniel rose up and focused on God.
At the end of each day this week, Summer JAM (Jesus and me) took place. Summer JAM is a Vacation Bible School West End Community Church puts on for rising kindergarten through fifth graders in both their community and the Preston Taylor community. Each night was filled with rotations of snack, crafts, games (I think I enjoyed tug-o-war just as much as the kids did), and Bible. The kids that participated studied Joshua 1:9 “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid, do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”
My first full week at PTM was exhausting, but extremely eye-opening. It’s amazing to see my city transform from Brentwood into the Preston Taylor community in one drive. Similarly, the kids in the RISE program are uncovering their gifts, while I’m uncovering mine. I never knew I could build strong relationships in the community like this. Picasso claimed the purpose of life is to give our gifts away, and I believe I’m beginning to give some of mine to PTM.