In 2009, the pastor of a church near the campus of Columbia International University approached a CIU student with a vision for an after school tutoring program for children in the Denny Terrace neighborhood adjacent to the CIU campus. Pastor John Bookert of Arise Christian Center said if CIU would provide tutors he would provide the snacks!
Bookert has since gone on to be with the Lord, but his vision lives on as CIU students, serving through CIU’s Christian Service Learning department, wrapped up their seventh semester of tutoring ministry. Lauren Howell, the CIU student who eagerly took on the challenge that Bookert extended, was able to recruit eight CIU students the first semester. But despite extensive planning and advertizing, only one youngster showed up to be tutored. At the next scheduled tutoring program, two neighborhood children showed up followed in succession by four and finally eight children so that all eight CIU students had someone to tutor and mentor.
As CIU students tutor the students and share the gospel with them each semester, fruit is being produced. Last year Howell passed the leadership to Aimee Lindstrom, who has provided leadership for the past five semesters. Lindstrom’s assistant, Whitney Landis, will pick up the baton in the spring 2013 semester as the leader assisted by Christopher Collins.
During the fall 2012 semester, the tutoring ministry, renamed Crane Creek, has been housed at Temple Zion church under the oversight of Pastor Andre Melvin, a CIU alumnus. Ten students from the area met after school with 15 CIU students every Tuesday and Thursday. Professor Dr. Karen Close, who heads Christian Service Learning at CIU, said that each time she visited the tutoring site she was impressed by the organizational skills of the leaders and the kind, caring attitudes of the tutors.
“The children had a significant relationship with their tutors who were intentional about sharing the message of Jesus,” Close said.
That message was in turn shared by the children to their families and their teachers from Forest Heights School at a dessert social at the end of the semester. Forest Heights is the local public school attended by children who live in Denny Terrace.
The evening program included a song performed by the tutored children, the recitation of two memory verses, a skit about the birth of Jesus, and a gospel message from CIU student, Caleb Hamilton. Participation certificates were awarded to the children, and they were given a book, based upon their individual reading level.
Under the God-honoring leadership of CIU students, Pastor John Bookert’s vision lives on through the Crane Creek Tutoring ministry and continues to impact the community for the glory of God!