April 26th 2018
Whatever is true...whatever is lovely...dwell on these things.
I recently watched a TEDx talk by retired National Geographic photographer Dewitt Jones entitled "Celebrate What's Right With the World!"
As a brilliant career photographer, Jones talks about "putting on a lens of celebration"—a lens that intentionally looks for beauty, for goodness, and for the things that are wonderful in the world. Breathtaking photos punctuate his presentation. I'd recommend you listen. Dewitt has got me thinking about being more intentional in choosing and securing this "lens of celebration" that he maintains will fill my soul and help me live more gratefully.
With this on my mind, I was thrilled to read a letter this week from a former UrbanPromise Academy student named Jessica. Her life was transformed by our high school Trekker program.
"Trekkers taught me to find beauty in every situation," she eloquently wrote, "even unfavorable ones."Jessica gushed about paddling a canoe in the Pine Barrens, climbing Mt. Washington in New Hampshire, and kayaking in Maine.
"Being able to walk around the Pine Barrens and smell the scent of the trees and hear noises other than car horns and trains was amazing." For a city kid like Jessica, exposure to nature is a really big deal. It changed her view of the world. It changed her self-perception. It fed her soul.
"When you step away from what's familiar to you, you gain clarity," she philosophized. "I learned to stop and absorb all the good things God has put around me."
It has been 10 years since Jessica graduated from our high school, but her experiences hiking trails, identifying birds, and pitching tents still guide her decisions, shape her faith, and bring meaning to her life. After high school, Jessica graduated from Bloomfield College with a BA in Psychology. She now works for Bancroft NeuroRehab which serves individuals with various developmental and intellectual delays. She hopes to go back for a Masters of Psychology one day and work with young people in Camden.
Jessica is living proof of the work we do at UrbanPromise. Our staff gives Camden's youth more than just an education. We provide skills and experiences that build faith, character, and a deeper understanding of God's purpose for their lives—we help them find that lens of celebration.
The apostle Paul makes a promise to the church in Philippi. Paul assures that if the community of saints is intentional about focusing on truth, beauty, and honorable and praiseworthy things, the "God of peace will be with you."
That's a promise we want for every kid at UrbanPromise. Please keep our UrbanTrekkers trekking by sponsoring an upcoming trip.
May peace be with you.
Dr. Bruce Main
PS. We made a decision 10 years ago that if we wanted to be successful in preparing our students for college and life after UrbanPromise we needed to do school differently – the classroom would be without walls. “Thinking Outside” would become the tag line. Whether paddling a canoe you built with your math teacher on the tidal Cooper River that flows through your city as you learn about the ecology and history of the Delaware River Watershed or hiking the nation’s capitol, visiting Arlington National Cemetery and the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum - we would call it school. These experiences are all privately funded - help us to continue to transform the lives of kids by sponsoring our unique and powerful Trekker program.