December 21, 2020

 

“Don’t you see that I’m doing something new?

You can trust that I’m working for your good.

I’m not doing what you’ve seen before—

My favor is on you for so much more.

Do you perceive it?

Get used to different.”

 

“Get Used to Different”  Mandisa & Ronnie Freeman

https://youtu.be/MdDttLJ2T-Q

 

Dear friends,

These lyrics perfectly describe our year. His favor has been on us for so very much more than we could have imagined! But it sure has been different!

First, we decided to change our name to Opportunity Tribe! Long story short, people tend to refer to us as “Op Camp” or “Opportunity Camp,” but as you know, we are much more than a camp. To encompass who we are and end the confusion, we are now Opportunity Tribe. Our tagline, “Mentoring Tomorrow’s Leaders” represents our mission to raise up leaders. We hope it clarifies our identity and makes it easier for you to describe our ministry to others!

So a little about our unusual year (in which God revealed some wonderful and useful things to us!)… We began 2020 with Op Camp and Fun Academy plans and recruiting in full swing, and we were rolling along with Fun Club and Op Champs mentoring groups. 

Then March came, the pandemic began, and life came to a screeching halt. No more school. No more camps. No meeting in large groups. Everything was canceled. Students were stuck at home. And God began to reveal a new thing!

Our summer reading program, Fun Academy, has been maxed out at around 200 students for a few years. We knew we needed to find a way to grow, but we were stuck. With Op Camp off the calendar, we poured more energy and prayer into how to make Fun Academy happen safely for our students in this crazy year. Instead of one big group at one church building, we asked 3 churches to host smaller groups and managed to have 25-30 kids at a time in 3 places at 2 different times each day and hired more interns than ever (a side benefit of college students being stuck at home!), all safely socially distanced—and we still were able to serve about 200 students! Every intern/mentor had a tiny cohort of 5 kids each morning and 5 more each afternoon. They showered them with lots of love and creativity and attention. Students thrived in the care of their mentors, improved their reading proficiency, and gained all kinds of new hands-on experiences. We even had an “Opportunity Market” where student artisans sold their handmade goods. And God gave us a vision for how we can reach more students in 2021--go smaller in more locations to grow bigger!

As school started, we were not surprised to find out our school district would not be allowing visitors to campuses, so Fun Clubs was not an option. The district also chose to begin the year fully online. Again, we gathered a team of volunteers and watched God do another new thing. Every day for 4 weeks, students came together in small groups with volunteers who helped them complete their online schoolwork. It was AMAZING to see an ARMY of volunteers pick children up, provide them with breakfast and lunch, teach them how to do school online (as we learned too), and get them all home! We all learned A LOT! One of the most essential takeaways was that online school is not a good model for many of our at-risk students, many of whom struggle academically anyway. And another “different” dream was born.

We started a microschool! Oaks Academy is our current “different.” Each school day, 21 2nd-6th graders gather in 2 classrooms at Golf Course Road Church of Christ, where they are growing and learning in a small, safe school. We don’t know yet if this will be a short-term adventure or if the Lord will lead us to more academic pursuits, but we are giving our very best efforts to helping these children progress academically. Someday we are going to have stories to tell about our mighty oaks!

Our other mentoring programs have continued with some adaptations for safety during this unusual year. We are planning for a busy summer in 2021, full of camps and great experiences for our kids to develop mentor relationships. And the best part is, in 2020 God brought us a whole bunch of adults to mentor our students!

Your faithful support makes our work so fun! God has shown His faithfulness again and again in the most different year ever. Thank you for partnering with us to mentor kids in tough circumstances. You are changing the world, one great kid at a time! 

Grace and peace,

Ben & Trisha Wall & the Opportunity Tribe

 

Thank you to the following organizations for partnering with us in embracing “different” this year!

Golf Course Road Church of Christ

Living Way Four Square Church

Midland Independent School District

Downtown Church of Christ

Mid-Cities Community Church

Fairmont Park Church of Christ

Stonegate Fellowship

First Presbyterian Church

Educate Midland

United Way of Midland

Abell-Hanger Foundation

Jumburrito

Jack & Jill Donuts

Chickfila

Rosa’s Cafe

Henry Foundation

Warren Foundation

Fasken Foundation

Helen Greathouse Charitable Trust

Pioneer Natural Resources

Pevehouse Family Foundation

Yarborough Foundation

Wayne and Joann Moore Charitable Foundation

Diamondback Energy

Klassen Well Testing, Inc.

James A. “Buddy” Davidson Charitable Foundation

True-Lite Christian Fellowship

Franklin & Son, Inc.

Cheyenne Tire Company

Los’s Oilfield Services

Texas Roadhouse

Aggie Tech Energy Services

Permian Basin Area Foundation

Moriah Foundation

 

Thank you also to the many individual volunteers and donors who gave generously in 2020!