Black Lives Do Matter

2020 has been a year overflowing with conflict: the pandemic, the economic and social shutdown, politics, and racial injustice. Perhaps by this point you, like many, have reached the point of conflict fatigue. Perhaps you’d just like 2020 to come to a very quick—and quiet—end.

Unfortunately, the suffering continues. Last Monday afternoon, a young man named Walter Wallace, Jr. was shot and killed by Philadelphia Police in the Cobbs Creek neighborhood of the city. He was shot as he threatened police responding to a 911 call. You see, Wallace’s mother called 911 after she was unable to calm her son, who had a knife and was experiencing some sort of psychotic episode. But she called for an ambulance, not for the police. Her son had a mental illness, and had not taken the medicine to control his condition.

At that time, Wallace had no ability to respond rationally to the police’s order to calm down. He couldn’t control his behavior. Because of his disease, he had temporarily lost the capacity for reasonable thought and impulse control. He needed medical intervention. Unfortunately, the intervention he received was not aligned with his needs.

Wallace was a father, a son, a friend. He was loved, and loved others. He had an intellect, interests, and made an impact on the community in which he lived. And he was African-American…the latest in an all-too-long list of African American men and women killed by police just this year.

But he was also a man. A man created in God’s own image. He had value, and his life had value because God chose him to exist, to impact and to influence the lives of others. That life was tragically taken from him and as a result his parents, children, friends, and community have all suffered incredibly. We at Children’s Jubilee Fund grieve with them the loss of Walter Wallace, Jr. And we pray he is the last to senselessly lose his life.

Students of color compose the vast majority (97%) of students who received Jubilee scholarships in the last fiscal year. And of that group, the majority identified themselves as African-American (71%). Imagine what impact the deaths of at least 164 African-American people at the hands of U.S. police in 2020 could have on the minds, the hearts, the self-images of the hundreds of students of color whom we serve annually.

Imagine the self-talk that might develop in those young hearts and minds. Here are some reasonable examples: “The world isn’t fair.” “White people don’t care about me.” “The police don’t care about me.” “God doesn’t care about me.” Imagine what it might feel like for that young person not only to decide that he or she is unworthy of care, but that it’s because he or she is worth less than others. Those thoughts can lead to worldviews that wind up limiting that young person’s potential.

But the damage goes much deeper than limited potential and self-image. The damage impacts us all—because more and more people in an already deeply-divided society withdraw from that society because it’s too risky, too unsafe. When any part of society withdraws, it weakens us all.

As Christians, we at Children’s Jubilee Fund call for others to stand up and defend Black lives—and to defend all lives—because Black lives do matter. Not just to other Black and Brown people, but to all people, no matter the color of their skin or their racial identity. This is what it means to be human. This is what it means to be Christian. Whether we like to admit it or not, God created us to depend on one another, to build one another up, to help one another, to love one another. To the extent that we fail to realize the consequences of systemic racism, we fail to love our Black and Brown brothers and sisters. To the extent that we fail to put an end to systemic racism, we do violence to the youngest generation—and doom them to repeat the suffering and sins of their forebearers.

I’m not at all suggesting that the path away from systemic racism is simple. To the contrary, it will require patience, forbearance, and forgiveness on behalf of its victims, and repentance, compassion, and empathy on the part of Caucasians. Caucasians will need to commit to a zero-tolerance policy regarding racist thoughts, words, and actions. Predominately White churches will need to build relationships with predominately Black churches. Historic injustices must be undone. Law enforcement must adapt, and work to restore trust among all citizens. We must all seek the Lord’s help to recognize the image of God in the other, and to honor and respect the Father of all through honoring and respecting all of His children.

It will take time, cost us all a great deal, and at times, it will be painful. But we must begin now to heal the deep wounds of 400 years of injustice. That begins today by choosing to actively love our neighbors, and to affirm that the lives, dignity, and significance of Black and Brown people do matter.

Tim Geiger (M.Div.) is Executive Director of Children's Jubilee Fund. Born and raised in Philadelphia, Tim has lived in or around the city most of his life. His undergraduate studies done at the Community College of Philadelphia, Tim went on to earn a Master of Divinity Degree from Westminster Theological Seminary. He is ordained as a Teaching Elder in the Presbyterian Church in America. Prior to serving at Children's Jubilee Fund, Tim worked for the Internal Revenue Service, The Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals, and Harvest USA, where he also served as Executive Director and then President from 2012-2019. Tim lives with his wife and daughter just outside of Philadelphia.

Children's Jubilee Fund is a 501(c)(3) organization established in 1997 to provide tuition grants to Christian schools in the Philadelphia metro area that serve underprivileged students. These grants are then awarded by the schools as scholarships to students who meet income and residency guidelines. Each year, Jubilee provides hundreds of thousands of dollars in grants that, in turn, help hundreds of students in Philadelphia, Delaware, Montgomery, and Camden Counties achieve their God-given academic and personal potential. Children's Jubilee Fund is an entirely donor-supported organization.

Meet Jim Sovocool, Head of School for LOGAN Hope

Every school has a story. One particularly rich and remarkable story is part of LOGAN Hope, a K-8 Christian school in the Logan neighborhood of Philadelphia.

The “LOGAN” in “LOGAN Hope” simultaneously represents the community the school serves, as well as its mission: “LOving God And Neighbor.” The school is preparing to start its 19th year of serving the community when the Fall Term kicks off later this month.

According to Jim Sovocool, Head of School since 2017, LOGAN Hope is the result of a mission God placed on the hearts of Ken and Anita McBain. 20 years ago, the McBains were teaching English to Cambodians who had settled in Logan, when they felt called to expand their ministry to the children and grandchildren of these immigrants. They not only wanted to teach children English, but they wanted to give this rising generation a knowledge of who God is. The McBains wanted to see these children develop not only strong minds, but strong hearts, as well. LOGAN Hope was started in 2002.

Jim, who grew up in the Main Line suburb of Wayne, PA, first came to LOGAN Hope when he was a high school freshman. A member of Wayne’s Church of the Savior, Jim went to work at LOGAN Hope’s summer camp for neighborhood kids—a program that continues to this day (even in the age of COVID!). It was there that the Lord developed a heart for these kids, and a heart for urban education. After graduating from school himself, Jim interviewed as a teacher at LOGAN Hope, and taught Grades 3 and 4 for six years prior to becoming Head of School.

When I asked Jim what LOGAN Hope offers its students to help them succeed, he said two things. First is the discipleship that happens with each of the students. “School, at its core, is a discipleship process,” Jim told me. Teachers get to know their students personally as well as academically. This enables teachers to become familiar with the spiritual needs of their students and their students’ families. These kinds of supportive, encouraging relationships make a huge difference in the lives of children and their families, who might otherwise be considered “at risk” and overlooked by the larger culture.

Just from working with Jim this winter and spring, I can affirm that Jim’s approach is helpful. LOGAN Hope’s proactive interactions with students and their families throughout the spring COVID-19 stay-at-home order provided grounding, encouragement, and no small amount of practical help to the school’s students and families. Through regular interactions with students and parents, teachers attended to families’ spiritual needs as well as educational, social, and nutritional needs.

The second thing Jim said helps students succeed at LOGAN Hope is the school’s commitment to small class size. Classes typically consist of 10-12 students, fostering the close, personal relationships mentioned above. That kind of structure enables teachers to guide students based on the students’ own needs and strengths. It also fosters a sense of community within the class and the school—a sense of family.

And family is a strong concept at LOGAN Hope. Jim says that LOGAN Hope is rooted in serving the neighborhood, and to seeing the families in the neighborhood flourish. Students, most of whom come from Logan and two-thirds of whom are of Cambodian heritage, participate in service projects to improve the neighborhood where they live. The school also has a close connection with a neighborhood Cambodian church, and hosts the church’s youth group in the school building.

Looking to the future, Jim and the LOGAN Hope Board want to see the school draw parents more and more into the life of the school, making the school an even greater resource for the community.

Children’s Jubilee Fund is pleased to be connected with LOGAN Hope, and to support it financially through scholarship grants to help keep the school’s tuition affordable. Please pray for Jim Sovocool and for all of the staff and families of LOGAN Hope!

Tim Geiger (M.Div.) is Executive Director of Children's Jubilee Fund. Born and raised in Philadelphia, Tim has lived in or around the city most of his life. His undergraduate studies done at the Community College of Philadelphia, Tim went on to earn a Master of Divinity Degree from Westminster Theological Seminary. He is ordained as a Teaching Elder in the Presbyterian Church in America. Prior to serving at Children's Jubilee Fund, Tim worked for the Internal Revenue Service, The Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals, and Harvest USA, where he also served as Executive Director and then President from 2012-2019. Tim lives with his wife and daughter just outside of Philadelphia.

Children's Jubilee Fund is a 501(c)(3) organization established in 1997 to provide tuition grants to Christian schools in the Philadelphia metro area that serve underprivileged students. These grants are then awarded by the schools as scholarships to students who meet income and residency guidelines. Each year, Jubilee provides hundreds of thousands of dollars in grants that, in turn, help hundreds of students in Philadelphia, Delaware, Montgomery, and Camden Counties achieve their God-given academic and personal potential. Children's Jubilee Fund is an entirely donor-supported organization.