Tag Archives: at-risk kids



I was living and working in a migrant labor camp in Texas – above are pictures of myself and husband (who I met while serving there). We were VISTA (Volunteers In Service To America) Volunteers, part of President Johnson’s war on poverty.  I was just out of college and had such huge dreams of making a difference. 

 Never will I forget the day that Lupe knocked on our door and asked if I would like to accompany her to court.  She was going to court with two boys, both 12 year olds. They had put bricks on the railroad track and derailed a train. 

 I didn’t hesitate – to get out of the heat of the Texas sun and sit idly in the back of an air-conditioned courtroom sounded like an enjoyable afternoon.  LITTLE DID I KNOW WHAT GOD HAD IN STORE FOR ME. As we entered the court I sat in the last row while Lupe went to the front to be with the boys.

The judge came in and asked the two boys to stand in front of him.  Caesar wore a filthy, worn baseball cap. Pedro stood with his head bowed and never looked at the judge.

“Take that cap off!” the judge demanded in a gruff voice.

Pedro and Caesar didn’t move.

“I told you to take that cap off!  Take it off now!.” the judge said in a slow gruff voice.

Again, neither boy moved.

Shouting this time, “Did you hear me?  I told you to take that cap off!  Do so now!”

Again, neither boy moved.

“You, you sitting out there,” the judge shouted pointing at me.  “You’ve come into our small community thinking that you know everything.  You think that you can tell us how to run our community.  Well we’ll see.  We’ll see if you have all the answers or not!  I’m putting these two boys into your custody!

He hit the bench with his gavel.  I sat there not able to move.  What had just happened?  This was supposed to be an easy afternoon, a little time out of the heat.  Now at 21 I had custody of two twelve-year olds.  What do you do with two boys who are about to become teenagers? Were they to live with us?

As we drove back to the Labor Camp Lupe and I talked about the options available to me.  We decided it would be best for the boys to spend nights with their parents and spend days with us.  Joe and Ellen, my two roommates and fellow Vista Volunteers, had a good laugh as I explained what had happened –  that is until they realized how this impacted them too.

One of the first things we learned was that Caesar wouldn’t remove his cap because he had a scalp disease and his hair was all patchy.  Joe took him to town to pick out a new, clean cap.  A daily routine was making sure his head and cap were clean.

We checked with the school to see how they were doing.  Because they were the children of migrant laborers and moved a lot the school was basically warehousing them.  We requested they be tested.  It took a little pressuring but eventually the tests were administered.  Caesar had an IQ of 69, Pedro’s was 48.

Caesar and Pedro had no idea what the consequences would be when they placed those bricks on the railroad track.  They were merely having fun trying to balance the bricks.

For the next few months I worked hard with the school and their parents figuring out what would be best for them.  In the end we were able to get them enrolled in a residential school for mentally challenged children.

I remember the day I took them to the school.  They were excited and I knew that they were going to receive training that would give them skills to function as adults on their own.

As I drove out of the school grounds I had a sense of accomplishment, a sense I had done something good. 

Caesar and Pedro were American invisible children – there was no one in their lives who cared enough or had the sophistication to get them the help they needed.  Little did the judge realize what a blessing it was for those boys when he placed them in my custody.

But as the years have passed I have often felt that those boys may have been left behind. 

Not once did I speak to them about Jesus.

What did I truly give them if I gave them the whole world but they lose their souls?  Mark 8:36

Years later, when I was concerned about the outcome of my own children the Triune God taught me what motivates most of us in what we do as we serve others. Motivation for What We Do   In the years that I served in inner cities I saw this motivation over and over again. Just one example of what I observed.



Church Based After School: Opportunity To Learn From A Man Who Once Was An At-Risk Kid


Below is an interview which anyone who serves at-risk kids must listen to.


Rob Bryceson, Pastor of First Covenant Church Spokane, WA interviews a member of his church who grew up an over the top at-risk kid. It is amazing that he is alive today – even more amazing that he walks with God.

You may want to have a Kleenex handy.

We, who serve kids from dysfunctional homes, can learn what not to do from this man’s story. He accepted the Lord as a child, however due to mistakes the church made he walked away from the Lord in the week after entering the Family of God.


Church Based After School: Is It Worth It All?

    When you begin to wonder, IS IT WORTH IT ALL?

The giving, giving, giving of yourself.

STOP and take a few minutes to write out the little changes you have seen in kids over the past year.

Here are a few from directors I’ve trained.

Keon, 7 years old, used to get in fits and crawl up in a ball and hide in the corner. He would get mad if things didn’t go his way or if he had to do his homework. After one month of having people pray for him daily this behavior stopped. He hasn’t got in a ball like that in months. He has learned to be more responsible according to his teacher and grandmother.


A mother’s statement about her son with fetal-alcohol syndrome, “In all the years my boy has come to church I’ve NEVER seen him grow so much as he did this last year at the center. Thank You.”


We have a six-year-old who believes in God with her whole heart and is completely unashamed of the Gospel. She includes God when she is playing with her friends; I overheard her the other day laying out the plan of salvation as she and another child played. She concluded with, “At the center we learn about God. EVERYTHING is ALL about God!”


What At-Risk Kids can receive from adults committed to intentional, individualistic Discipleship.

Where Is The Church, Christ’s Body?

By Wanda Parker

I visited a different KidTrek Associate Center yesterday.

I’m still fighting back the tears from yesterday.  My heart is so heavy.  I want so bad to communicate to you the great need that is just within miles of where you live.  In Matthew 18 Jesus warns us about how we will be judged if we don’t care for the children.  Where is the Church?  Why isn’t the church more proactive?

I sat eating snack with a group of 5th and 6th graders when the Secondary Nurturer asked, “How was your Thanksgiving?”

“Horrible!” was the simple reply of one child.

“Horrible?  Why was it so horrible?”

“My aunt got in a big fight with another woman over a man.  They were hitting and pulling hair.  It was horrible.  I just wanted to get out of there.”

You had to hear her voice to get the total impact of this child’s pain.

A macho 6th grade boy dressed in his low riding pants commented, “Roy, I’m going to visit my dad in Georgia. I wish I could live with my dad, but then if I lived with my dad I couldn’t come to the center. I don’t want to leave the center.”

I had to fight back the tears.  I felt the pain of these kids. 

Then there was another kid who sat across from me who never spoke – a 6th grader also.  My heart kept being tugged towards him.  I learned that the school is at the point of just passing him forward because they don’t know what else to do with him.  His parents don’t have the sophistication to know how to get him more help.  He has some type of brain damage but no one knows what it is nor how to help him.  The Secondary Nurturer is doing research and is fighting for him in the school district and beyond.  (The tears are coming as I write – what if this was my child?  What if this was your child?  You’d probably have the sophistication to fight for him, the education to know places to go, a support system to fight for him.)

These kids are the lucky ones – they have a Secondary Nurturer who is walking through life with them.  Someone to fight for them.  But what about all the kids who have NO ONE!

Are you a follower of Jesus Christ?  What are you doing about the Invisible Children of America?

I truly believe the Lord is going to ask you one day what you did.

These kids don’t need “drive-by evangelism.”  They don’t need a drop-in after school center.  They don’t need only a tutoring center.  They don’t need a once a week Bible Club.

This is what they need:

  • Long term quality relationship with a godly adult.
  • An adult with the education and sophistication to fight for their real needs (as opposed to felt needs).
  • An adult willing to get emotionally involved in their lives (Secondary Nurturers shed many a tear in the fight for these kids.)
  • An adult committed to becoming a friend of the kids parents/primary nurturers.
  • An adult committed to building a relationship with every Social Service Professional involved in the family’s life.
  • An adult willing to work alongside of the child’s school teacher to make sure s/he is receiving the best education possible and is following through on all assignements – just like you would do for your own child.
  • An adult willing to spend so much time in prayer for the child that s/he is giving up things s/he wants to do for her/himself because s/he is pouring into the life of the child.
  • An adult who is fully committed to Jesus Christ.

Several years ago I was speaking at a conference of Inner City Workers in Philadelphia when a huge burden came over me.  I awoke in the middle of the night and I couldn’t get back to sleep.  I got up and took out my Bible and began reading, crying and calling out to God.  I wrote the following in my Bible that night, “Raise up an army of servants to work with the children in the cities.”

That was impossible!  Or is it?  If you are a follower of Jesus Christ also, do we not serve the God of the impossible?

Now our Heavenly Father has given KidTrek the vision of putting missionaries into churches across America.  You may not be able to be a missionary but you can:

  • pray that the Lord will raise up the missionaries and provide for their support,
  • give to support the missionaries,
  • volunteer a couple of hours a week,
  • spread the word – tell friends, family, everyone of the potential if we reach the children.

Where is the church? Together, you and I can make a difference in the lives of thousands of children across America. Will you join KidTrek in this “impossible” task?

Yes, for those of you who know me best, I’m still fighting the tears and emotions as the passion to reach the children overwhelms me.  I know it is a passion the Holy Spirit has placed within me.  May the Lord bless you as you ponder what the Lord’s will is for you to do in this battle to reach the Invisible Children of America.  No Child should be Left Behind because we were too caught up with the business of our own lives.

Fighting for the “Invisible Children of America” a couple of stories

by Wanda Parker

All names are changed in following stories.

Jammal was really struggling in school – in fact he was failing. 

Robert, Jammal’s “Secondary Nurturer” was to meet Jammal’s mom at the school to meet with Jammal’s teacher, the principal, and school counselor.  The discussion was to be in regard to Jammal’s being admitted into a special class for children with severe learning disabilities.  The state would fund it but Primary Nurturers had to request it. 

Robert was running a little late because of complications at his second job (he has to work a second job to provide for his family) kept him longer than usual.  He called the school to let them know he was on his way.  The principal came on the line and told him he might as well not come because Jammal’s mom had not shown up.  A Secondary Nurturer is trained, and soon experiences once on the field, that s/he must fight for the kids part of which is often parenting the parents.

Robert drove to the apartment where Jammal, his mom and siblings live.  There was no answer at the door but as Robert was getting back into his car Jammal’s mom drove up. 

“Where have you been?  We are suppose to be at the school.”

“Oh something else came up so I just figurered we could reschedule.”  mom replied.

“No! This is too important.  Jammal deserves to be in this program. We are going to the school right now. Get in the car.” Robert challenged.

When they got to the school the principal said it would take a couple of hours to get everyone back together to meet.  Robert told him that was fine – they would wait! Robert and Jammal’s mom sat down in the reception room to wait.

Fighting for the “Invisible Children of America” often means parenting the parents.  It means walking through life not just with a child but with an entire family.  It means getting to know the teachers, principal, counselors so they trust you.  It means going to school events, volunteering at school, working with not against the school.


The call came late in the afternoon, “Myra we are going to be taking the Jones children into protective custody tomorrow morning at the school.  Would you like to be there so it is a little less traumatizing for them?  You can ride with them to the foster home.”  The call had come from a social worker whom Myra had spent time getting to know.

A Secondary Nurturer becomes the constant in a child’s life.  To do that they work on building a relationship with all the social service professionals in a kid’s life. It is about team work.  This takes a lot of time and a lot of effort.  It takes perseverance.

It is the vision of KidTrek that by getting “Missionaries,” also known as Secondary Nurturers, into churches fewer children will have to go into the foster care system. By building relationships with the Primary Nurturers and walking with them through life as they parent a lot of subtle parental training just happens.  Because the Secondary Nurturer is a trusted friend, not an authority figure, the Primary Nurturer listens. 

There are many different levels at which you can Join the Walk to fight for the “Invisible Children of America.”  Will you join us? 


by Wanda Parker

Did you have the opportunity to read Amos over the past couple of days? I reread it and wow! What a challenge.

Amos 5:24 “But let justice roll down like waters.

What is justice for a child?

I believe we are told what justice is for a child in Deuteronomy 6:7 – as I read this I see each child with an adult who is walking through life with him/her. An adult available to nurture him/her spiritually, physically, mentally, emotionally, socially.

As mentioned in the previous post – I believe that the Body of Christ is given the responsibility to do this. We CAN do this IF WE ARE WILLING!

Amos warned the people that God didn’t want to hear their praises or listen to their music because they weren’t following Him. A sign of their lack of “seeking Him” was their lack of care for those with needs in their society. America has thousands and thousands of children who are growing up with little or no nurturing. What greater need, what greater poverty is there? Where is the Body of Christ?

Will the church “stand in the gap” for them? If you are part of Christ’s Body are you willing to “stand in the gap” for the “Invisible Children of America?”

If you are at a loss of how to “stand in the gap” KidTrek has some ideas. You can become a Missionary/Secondary Nurturer and acutally serve at-risk kids and their families full time; you can be a Giving Warrior supporting the missionaries on the front lines; you can be a Prayer Warrior holding up to the Lord the needs of the missionaries, the kids and their families. You can also pass the word and get others to Join The Walk meeting the needs of the “Invisible Children of America.”

I have never met a child that deserved to be left behind – but thousands in America are.


By Wanda Parker 

No child left behind is a term with which most Americans are familiar.  But what does it mean?

Of course “education” is probably the immediate response.  But I believe if we are truly sincere about not leaving a child behind we must address the needs of the whole child – spiritually, emotionally, physically, intellectually, socially. 

Who can do that? 

  • The school can’t – they aren’t allowed to provide the spiritual (and I wouldn’t want them to).   Plus how much time does a teacher have to spend in the home getting to know the family, or interacting with social service professionals?
  • Social Service Providers can’t – they aren’t allowed to provide the spiritual.  Plus do they have time to get out and play games with the kids?
  • Secular programs can’t – they aren’t able to provide the spiritual. 
  • The government?

 Whose responsibility is it?

If you haven’t read the book of Amos lately you might want to do so.

The Body of Christ is able to do it – IF it is willing.

I’ll continue this later in the week when you’ve had a chance to read Amos.