Today we're sharing with you an interview we did with Clarissa. Clarissa is Project Director of In the Gap, a ministry that teaches character in the inner-city schools of Oklahoma City. Join in our conversation and be prepared to hear what our great King is doing in and through her...
Clarissa, tell us a bit about your journey of living for Christ.
I was saved when I was four years old. However, as I became older, I started to doubt my salvation. After struggling through several years of fear and doubt, I reconfirmed my salvation when I was about twelve years old. I always remember my parents being involved in ministry, and I was blessed to grow up seeing their example of what it meant to serve God and others. Because of their example and the fact that my spiritual gift is serving, I thought that the way to live for Christ was to do things for Him. When I went to Oklahoma and began working with In The Gap, I realized that God is not so much interested in me doing things for Him as He is in me having a relationship with Him. It is easy for me to get caught up in doing the "stuff." I think God wants each of us to be caught up in a personal relationship with Him.
What has been a hard thing that God asked you to do?
When I was in high school, I played the pipe organ, and I absolutely loved it! God provided an organ for me to practice on and two years of free lessons on a church pipe organ. I would practice 2 - 4 hours each day. I always wanted to learn a harder song. I did several competitions, and a local university that had an excellent organ program really wanted me. Like I said before, I loved playing the organ. I liked to go around and play different organs, and it looked like I had a promising career and future ahead of me. I had a year and a half left of school when God asked if I was willing to give all of that up. I didn't know what God wanted me to do, but I knew that he was calling me to commit five years of service to Him. It was diffidently a struggle! (By the way, I was deeply involved in the "organ community", and the peer pressure was incredible.) Even though I didn't understand why God would bless me so much in this area and then ask me to give it up, I decided to commit the next years of my life solely to His service. I look back now, and I realize that had I gone to that university, my life would probably be a mess, and I would not have the countless blessings of the work I am doing.
I have to laugh, because every day is new, different, and full of surprises! Generally, after breakfast I take a team to a school. A few days a week I actually teach in the schools myself. Back in the office, I work on general correspondence with our school and Bible club sites. It is my goal to make sure that we are meeting their needs and expectations. After I pick the team up from school, I have a little bit of time to get ready for that afternoon's Bible club. Then, it's off to club as coordinator. As a club coordinator, it is my job to make sure everything is kept on schedule, deal with discipline issues, assist parents as they come to pick up the children, and overall, just make sure that everything runs as smoothly as it can. So, that would be the usual day-to-day work. I also take care of school schedules - making up the schedules, assigning teams, and keeping up to date on any schedule changes. If someone on the team cannot go to school, I have to make sure that their classes are covered. Also, if we need more locations (schools or Bible clubs), I go out and talk to principals to see if they would be interested in having us.
What is one of your favorite things about where the Lord has you right now?
Although I am not as directly involved with the children as I used to be, I have the great joy of hearing about how the Lord is using the others in the ministry. My favorite part of the day is when I go and pick a team of workers up from a school, and they share all the exiting stories of how they saw God work!
There are so many stories! I worked with one kid who was autistic. At first, when my teaching partners and I went into his class, he was not at all interested in what we were saying. He would get up and go to a different part of the classroom. He would play with toys, and he never answered our questions or even talked to us. Since he wasn't interested in what we were doing, we decided to become interested in what he was doing. Instead of going into the classroom and trying to get him to listen to us, we decided to listen to him. At first it was really hard, because he didn't talk. But we pressed on trying to find out what his interests were and what he liked to do. Eventually he began to open up. He wouldn't say much, and what he did say, he would repeat over and over again. It was a little hard to understand him at times, but we were patient, and it paid off. Soon he became very excited to see us. He would come and greet us and then take us over to a special place where we could talk (or look at his plastic bug collection). It was still hard to have a real conversation with him, but I could pick up enough bits and pieces to see what kind of life he had and the fears that he lived with every day. Once he told us that he couldn't play in the park because the gangs were there. In the end, we really became friends. He has gone to a different school now. It is sad to think that I will probably never see him again, but I will never forget the hug he gave me one day. Those with autism generally do not like any kind of physical contact.
As you encounter children and families in desperate need of God's love and redemption, how do you seek to share that with them?
I see that need every day. It gets to you after a while, and you wonder if you are really doing enough. When we are with the children in school, we are not allowed to speak of God's love and redemption (unless the children bring it up). I find that many of the children just need someone to love them and spend time with them. There are many opportunities to interact with the children - classroom time, tutoring, lunch, recess....
My prayer is that I would be a reflection of God's love to them. I know that God has promised that His Word will not return void. When I am able to share God's truth, I am sharing His Word even if I am not showing them the Bible. The children (and teachers) do notice a difference in us. We have at times been called the "Sunday School people", and children have quoted verses that go with what we are teaching while we're in the classrooms! At Bible Club, we are free to discuss God and the Bible. At every club we explain God's redemptive plan. It is amazing to see the results! Many children will come over to discuss things. Some want to know more about salvation, some have a difficult situation at home, and others just have questions about something they read in the Bible. There is nothing greater than watching a child place their faith and trust in Jesus Christ alone!
A few of Clarissa's favorite things...
playing music :: sewing :: Ultimate Frisbee :: reading :: soccer