My name is Farah Armstrong and I wanted to share my story with you about my experience mentoring at Emerson Elementary.
I didn’t have any initial plans to volunteer to be a mentor. Kristy Elmore told me about the new mentor program that was starting at Emerson but I didn’t think the timing was right for me at first. However, as she continued telling me more about it, I kept feeling God’s nudge to sign up.
I was paired with a third-grade girl named Dayana and I came to the school weekly on Wednesdays during lunch time to meet with her. At first, I wasn’t sure how to break the ice, but Kate Ghazi gave me wonderful advice to take Uno with me to make it more fun and take off the pressure for forced conversation. Dayana was shy at first, but she immediately lit up when I asked her if she wanted to play Uno together. When the lunch period was over, I told her it was time to go to recess, but she didn’t want to go. She wanted to stay and play Uno together for as long as she could.
Each week, I came back to spend time with her and as we had fun playing games, the conversation flowed naturally as we talked about school, her family, and all the things she enjoys. One week Dayana told me that she loved our time together because I played with her. She said she wished that I could come see her every day.
This spoke to my heart on so many levels. Consistently showing up each week and devoting attention to her showed her that she mattered and was important to me. And it also taught me that I need to take a break from the business at home and devote more time to simply play games with my own kids.
Dayana and I continued to develop a special connection over the course of the semester. One week, I was moved to tears as she shared the details about a heartbreaking encounter she had with another student. In that moment, the Lord opened the door for me to share His truth with this precious girl. We talked about what is true and what is not….and I told Dayana that her family loves her, that I love her, and that God loves her more than anyone else ever could! Right after that, she picked up a small marker board from the table, she drew me a picture and wrote I love you on the board. It was such a special moment for both of us.
Towards the end of the semester, Ms. Leal (the teacher) asked if I could also spend time with another girl who would benefit from having someone to talk to about some difficult things she was facing. It was truly amazing to watch this sweet 5th grader become comfortable sharing more and more with me each week while we played games together. The Lord used our time together to give her a fun escape, to help her heal from the pain she had experienced, to increase her confidence, and to give her joy.
Throughout the semester I would tell my family about how much fun I was having with the girls at Emerson and my kids started asking me on Wednesdays how they were doing. I know without a doubt that my kids saw how much I cared about my mentees and the Lord started sparking interest in their hearts as well. During the last week of school at Emerson, I was able to get permission to bring my kids with me to have lunch with Dayana and Karleja. We had the best time talking, laughing, and playing games together. I teared up as I rejoiced about all the Lord had done through one hour a week with these girls.
My prayer is that more people will consider joining us as a mentor. Friends of Westchase could really use your help to grow our mentor program at all three of our partner schools. When we started mentoring at Emerson, Larry Hussman and I were the only two mentors at Emerson, and at last count the number of mentors was up to 12! God is amazing and we would love to increase the number of students we are able to help even more!
I didn’t have any special skills or experience to make me “qualified” to be a mentor….but the Lord gave me the opportunity to play games with these girls, to consistently show up to love them, and to be a listening ear for anything they wanted to share with me. I know that the Lord can use each of you to make an impact on other students too.
As a church when we participated in Stuff A Bus, we provided students at our partner schools with basic needs like uniforms, shoes, school supplies, and backpacks to ensure that all students start the year on equal footing. These are first steps to help bring stability to students so mentors can do the deeper work of building relationships and loving students well.
Please join me in praying for these students, for new mentors to support our program, and that the Lord would be glorified as we go out to love and serve the community around us.