Over the past four years, I have had the privilege to volunteer with Abundant Life, primarily through their tutoring programs. Reflecting on my undergrad years and now on my life in graduate school, I couldn’t imagine a more rewarding way to be involved in the community as a student and community member myself. In a time where I could seclude myself within the academic world of UVa, the opportunity to work with Abundant Life propels me out into the greater Charlottesville community.
My regular involvement includes tutoring for roughly one hour, two to three days per week. I mainly tutor at Johnson Elementary, but I have also worked at Buford. In my service, I have witnessed and experienced three main themes embedded within Abundant Life (yes they all begin with ‘C’ just for fun!): consistent content, committed care, and connected community. As I elaborate on each of these points, sweet memories come to mind and I hope my enthusiasm and joy in serving with Abundant Life jumps off the page. My thoughts and reflections here are more than just words, but treasures in my heart, and I pray a gift to each reader.
The consistent content that marks Abundant Life tutoring is indeed rather remarkable. Each child has a specific, individualized lesson plan each day that specifies for the tutor and student exactly what to do during the hour. I have personally met the wonderful ladies who write these lesson plans, and I know that they are genuinely concerned for each student’s academic progress, as well as knowledgeable about how to plan academic material for children. Each book is on par with the child’s current reading level, each game highlights what sounds or concepts the child needs to work on, and each lesson plan outlines a “game plan” with helpful suggestions and opportunities for the tutor to give feedback. The intentionality and consistency of Abundant Life tutoring creates a more productive, structured, and personalized atmosphere where kids can excel academically and find security in a regular routine. This atmosphere also excites the tutors, as they can clearly see how each child is progressing and learning.
As the years pass, many students advance through the tutoring programs. It is fun for me to see kids I tutored at Johnson now at Walker or Buford as they continue their education! Yet even amid the turnover, Abundant Life is committed to caring for each individual student that comes through the program. The staff and tutors are genuinely present with the children. To establish consistency and give opportunity for relationship building, tutors are paired with the same student for the entire semester or year. The students don’t simply learn their tutor’s name, they learn to trust their tutors. We share our lives with the children and desire and encourage them to share their own struggles and joys, triumphs and failures, frustrations and excitements. Abundant Life is not just concerned about academic achievement, but cares about the entire health and well being of each child. I am encouraged by the emphasis placed on relationship and this value continues to make my time tutoring worthwhile and meaningful in the short and long-term.
Concerning this long-term perspective, my experience with Abundant Life is marked by building connections in the community. Just living my life around C’ville, I am astounded by how many times I run into people I know through the ministry! These interactions go beyond a friendly “Hello!” or vague remembrance of the person. Because I have built relationships with the students and staff, I feel that I have a meaningful presence in the lives of children and families around Charlottesville, and particularly in the Prospect area, where Abundant Life’s ministry is centered. The sense of community I possess brings me joy and purpose, and makes me feel at home, like I’m apart of a family. In a deep, important way, I know others and I am known. These two realities are the incredible consequence of serving within Abundant Life. As I allow the Lord to work through me to bless others, I welcome the marvelous benefits reaped for the good of myself and others, and for the glory of His name.