Last Tuesday night was the final night for Red Door (the neighborhood tutoring/mentoring ministry we’re involved with) to meet at Duling Hall. We didn’t intend to be sentimental about it. In fact, we didn’t even realize that it was going to be the last time we met there until about two hours before it started. We had already planned to share a meal–not because it was the last week, but because a sweet woman had blessed us by cooking one.
So there we sat, at 5:30pm on a Tuesday night: 16 adults and 14 kids, 3rd grade to 40 years old, black and white, students and teachers. All around the long makeshift table, in the little plastic chairs that make you think of apple juice and Sunday School songs. We spent about half an hour all together, eating red beans and rice, talking, laughing, sharing. The youngest member of our group blessed the food, and I am reminded once again that this Tuesday night space has become a place of love, safety, trust.
We have been meeting together in this way for almost two years now, although many of the relationships go back much further. And just like anything else, we have grown so much with time. From a group that could barely hold it together for a five minute introduction, to kids that listen respectfully to one another. From awkward silence, to sharing deep thoughts. From doubt to trust–from all sides. We have had open conversations about both race relations and dental hygiene. We’ve mourned illness and loss. We’ve celebrated wins and acknowledgements and yet another day of “being on green” (parents of elementary school kids know what I’m talking about).
After we ate, tutors and students broke away to different parts of the building to work together. We had a night of tutoring, in many ways just like every other night of tutoring, in other ways totally special. In those brief 60 minutes we saw relationships restored, victories won, souls bared, safety found. New connections formed. Old bonds deepened. To an outsider it might look like all we did was eat dinner and do homework. But so much more happened. Always.
And so, on that last night, after finishing their homework, all the kids and tutors came back into the same room, putting up supplies and grabbing one of Carrie’s delicious monster cookies for the road. Then Emily and I picked up the last scraps of paper off the floor rearranged furniture, and locked all the doors. We walked out, pausing to stand in the parking lot, saying our goodbyes to the building that has housed so, so many moments we hold dear.
You see, sometimes I feel frustrated and alone. Our water is brown about as much as it’s clear. We live in a neighborhood with boarded up windows and drug houses. I often feel disillusioned because it doesn’t seen like the kingdom is anywhere close to coming. Other days it seems like it’s coming at a snail’s pace, bit by bit. I see it while working with a kid one on one or connecting with a neighbor. But last Tuesday night, that last night at Duling, it felt like the kingdom was rushing in, drowning us in grace, filling us with joy. And I guess that’s how it is. Fast and slow. Here and not yet. Present and future. But even as the kingdom slowly inches forward, I know one thing for sure and that is this: on Tuesday nights we are seeing His goodness in the land of the living. Thanks be to God.
post script: We’ve moved from the Duling Hall facility to the campus of Woodland Hills. We’re so excited about what’s to come. If you’re interested in learning more about what we do at Red Door, check out this article that ran in Find it in Fondren. If you have any connections, resources, or time that you’d like to share to Red Door, please reach out to me. We have some really big dreams for this summer (and beyond) and we’d love for you to be a part of them!