Wednesdays with Gabe: A One + One Mentor’s Story

Billy Gray tutoring a boy


Andy Lewis tells how he and a shy second-grader began to look forward to an hour a week

In the spring of 2013, I reached out to the principal of Lakeland Elementary School in the Lewisville school district to explore the possibility of becoming partners. Four years later, First UMC Lewisville and the Lakeland community have developed a beautiful partnership that has changed the lives of students, parents, teachers and more than 100 members of the church. It has changed mine as well.

Truly one of my most treasured experiences while serving as the senior pastor of First UMC Lewisville was being a One + One mentor at Lakeland, a nearby school that serves a diverse student body, most of them qualifying for free or reduced-price meals.

Last school year, I mentored a second-grade boy I’ll call Gabe.

Andy LewisGabe is a soft-spoken, fun-loving boy who likes to play soccer. His family comes from Mexico, and Spanish is the language spoken at home. He’s a good kid, and sometimes – much like me when I was his age – he has a hard time sitting still and being quiet all day in class.

Each week on Wednesday, I made the five-minute trip from the church to Lakeland to spend an hour with Gabe. We would eat lunch together, and then we would usually play board games – Battleship, Sorry, Checkers and Connect Four. He even developed an interest in Chess.

After a couple of months of him beating me at board games, he relaxed and started to open up about his life. He shared about different situations with his friends and family, and because of the time we had spent together, I was able to offer encouragement and sometimes advice. We talked about the importance of school. Once or twice, I was in a position to echo messages from his teacher about behaving in class.

Gabe and I grew to look forward to that hour on Wednesdays, and I know that having a mentor improved his attendance, behavior and performance at school. Being a mentor put me in a position to witness the work of God in Gabe, the teachers and staff, and in my own heart. It was a gift to both of us.

The new school year does not begin until late August, but now is the time to work toward beginning or resuming a partnership with your neighborhood school. The first step is as simple as making an appointment with the principal and asking, “How can the people of my church help you and your school?”

The good folks at First UMC Lewisville and I learned many valuable lessons over the years about how to develop a church-school partnership and build a vital One + One program.

About 40 people have served as mentors, and the rest have read books with students, prepared food and served at teacher/staff luncheons, and helped build and maintain an outdoor learning environment at the school.

If you are interested in engaging with your community and being a part of God’s life-changing work among students, parents and teachers, don’t hesitate to contact me.

That’s what the Center for Missional Outreach is here for – to equip churches to reach their communities in the name and power of Christ.

For the 2017-18 school year, Gabe will have a new mentor and the Rev. Andy Lewis, newly appointed as the director of the Center for Missional Outreach, plans to find a school near the NTC Ministry Center in Plano “where I can connect as well.”

Published: Tuesday, August 1, 2017