If you are just joining us as we read through <a href="Whatever It Takes: Geoffrey Canada’s Quest to Change Harlem and America, be sure to check out Part 1.
It Starts With Story
What is your story? Or what is the story of the families in your church? Chapters 3 and 4 of the book, Whatever It Takes, reveal a lot of stories that were pivotal in the launch of Geoffrey Canada’s dream to change the lives of poor children in Harlem.
Telling stories, whether it’s those of individuals and families in your church or it’s your own story, can have a profound impact on casting vision for ministry. In Chapter 3, author Paul Tough eloquently tells the stories of several parents who enrolled in the first cycle of Baby College in Harlem. Canada saw the need—there wasn’t a single program in Harlem that helped parents understand the importance of the first years of a child’s life and then guided parents on their role in their children’s development. The telling tale of these first parents enrolled in Baby College reveal the need for the program, the change it made in Harlem, and the heart behind each person involved in the program. The end of the chapter sums up the story beautifully, “In the end, the real goal of Baby College was not to impart information. It was to change the parents’ whole vision of themselves as parents, to encourage them to accept the idea that their child’ education and intellectual development began at birth, if not before, and that they, a parents, had a crucial role to play in that development.” (p. 96,97)
In Chapter 4, we get a much more intimate look behind the man of Geoffrey Canada. At the beginning of the chapter, the author describes Canada’s mission as one not just about saving Harlem, but also about delivering his race—black America. We read more about Canada’s upbringing and it helps us better understand his passion. The chapter entitled, “Contamination,” is exactly what Canada set out to do: he wants poor children in Harlem to stay exactly where they are so they can change the neighborhood and the neighborhood can change them. As Canada said, “If you are surrounded by people who are always talking about going to college, you’re going to end up thinking ‘Hey, maybe this is something I could do, too.’ You can’t help but get contaminated by that idea. It just seeps into your pores, and you don’t even know that you’ve caught the virus.” (p. 125)
The Orange Connection
Geoffrey Canada saw that it wasn’t about just changing the children in Harlem, he knew that he needed to help parents understand that they were an integral part of the equation that added up to their child’s success. Canada developed a strategy with the end result in mind; then built programs to help that strategy succeed. Instead of focusing on kids alone, he partnered with the parents. And the result was not only good for the kids; it was good for the parents and the family.
Canada’s idea on contamination is to incorporate values that ultimately become part of the cultural DNA. “And that kind of contamination can spread. If we touch enough kids at the same time with the same message, then it won’t be unusual to think, ‘I should do well in school, I should speak proper English, I should do my homework.’ (p. 125)
Geoffrey Canada understands the combination of significant adults in the life of a child and partnering with parents can result in a child’s academic success—and ultimately a cultural change in Harlem and black America.
Think On This
What stories can be told that communicate the passion and vision of your ministry? What are you doing to equip parents and partner with them in their children’s faith journey? How can you encourage those already involved in your ministry to “contaminate” their neighborhoods and communities with your mission?