— Film Transcription —
Narrator: Detroit used to be the city of great opportunity. Everybody got jobs. When the auto industry began to boom, people flooded from the south and were able to build an amazing lifestyle.
As people became more mobile, they left the city. Taxpayers left. Businesses left. Then overtime it became cheaper to make cars overseas and the auto industry collapsed.
Race riots divided the city. Detroit lost over a million people and is still dropping. Now one in three residents live in poverty. Detroit is a city that has had its heart ripped out.
Enrollment in public schools has declined. With fewer schools student have had to walk long distances often through dangerous neighborhoods without streetlights.
If these children get to fourth grade without learning to read, two thirds of them will end up in jail or on welfare. Is there any hope for this city?
Gigi: When the boys came to us, Luke knew only two words: and A-N-D, and the, T-H-E. That’s all he knew, two words.
If you cannot read you can’t do anything. And I want to see them prosper. With God’s help, I know it can be done.
(Prayer) Let them listen, obey, and love their teachers. If I had ten thousand tongues I could not thank you enough. I ask in the sweet name of Jesus. Amen. Amen. Praise God.
Larry: See you later, Mom.
Luke: See you later, Mother.
Alicia Brown: If you can’t read it stunts you for life and it’s disheartening. I’m Alicia Brown, I’m Luke’s mentor with Soar.
I don’t know what he’s missing and what he’s not getting and what made him come to Soar in the first place, but he pushes me to be a better parent, to be a better servant.
Doug Kempton: So early on when we started the literacy program, God gave me this pretty clear vision of teaching every willing third grader in Detroit to read at or above grade level.
When I tell the story of the literacy program, I always talk about a funder that came to us and said, “Hey I found this literacy program. If you’re willing to do it, I’m willing to fund it.” And that donor was Bryce Gray.
Bryce Gray: I just felt like God said, “This is what you’re supposed to do.” You don’t get a lot of those in life, but it was a fun one.
Matt Mancinelli: Soar Detroit is an after-school reading program where for two hours a week, students get to come and receive love, care and focused attention from a mentor, to love them and help them learn to read. And that love and attention is powerful in the life of a child.
14% of third graders can read at or above third grade reading level.
Val: You can never actually say what working with one child will do, but if it takes that child from path A, which might have lead to who knows that did not contribute to society, to path B, which led them towards doing great things for the community and for the Lord, you can’t beat it!
Doug Kempton: What’s become clear, if we can do that, if we can do that one thing, it will change the trajectory of the kids lives in Detroit. It will change the city of Detroit.
Literacy is just a huge gap in the city. It’s an epidemic.
We are called as a church to do justice. The Scriptures say, “I the Lord love justice” (Isaiah 61:8). Do justice. And it is an injustice that children don’t get the education that they need to be successful.
Bryce Gray: I think Doug just had a real resoluteness that “This is what I really feel God’s given me to do.” So it’s hard not to want to support that.
Doug Kempton: It just wouldn’t have happened without his vision to walk in and say, “I think you guys can do this and I’m willing to write the check.” It freed us up to do it without thinking about anything other than doing it with excellence.
Bryce has literally served by my side since we started and I would say in a lot of ways he’s been the one that’s help up my arms as I’ve tried to lead the ministry. When I’m really struggling to figure out how we can move forward, he’s been a voice in my life to keep me going forward.
Bryce Gray: What I felt this was is for one or two hours a week the whole church could get connected. And as you actually helped these kids grow their parents would feel so grateful.
We’ve found a way to really impact the lives of the people in our community and it’s created a platform of access and an experience of faith.
The greatest need is not education, it’s a life transformation of heart.
But until someone really feels that people care, and until they’ve experienced love, they just view it as religion or they just harden their hearts and they go off and pursue what the world has to offer.
Alicia Brown: Soar works. It works! I see a change.
Doug Kempton: The kids really had exceptional results. At the end of the first year when they came to me, that year we were at 2.7 grade levels average increase per kid and I made them go back and test all the kids again cause I didn’t believe them. I was actually worried that we wanted it so bad that we manipulated the scores or something and I said, “I can’t. I just gotta know this is real cause it doesn’t seem possible to me.”
They went back and sure enough that was the result. And that was twelve years ago so we’ve done the tutoring program every year since.
Gigi: The program has had a great affect on Luke and Larry. Luke reads to different classes. He reads to the special education children. He reads far above his level. He’s a third grader, but he reads on a fifth grade level.
Doug Kempton: For Bryce I hope, I pray that he really realizes that this is the fruit of his investment. There’s a kingdom investment that he made that is now reaping fruit a hundredfold.
I think this is one of those cases where I don’t think any of us really knew what God was going to do through this simple investment of wanting to teach a few kids to read and now there’s the opportunity to do it across the entire city.
We’ve seen kids come to Christ. We’ve seen families integrate into the church and find their way spiritually.
We’re trying to give every kid in Detroit what they need to succeed. Kids like Luke. Kids like Larry. This could very much be an Acts moment for the church. I think if we do what God is calling us to do we could literally see 5,000 people added in a day to the church.
Alicia Brown: In church Martin sang hymns. You know what those are?
Luke: Yeah, he sang songs about God.
Alicia Brown: He read from the Bible. He listened to his father preach. These words made him feel good. When I grow up I’m going to get big words too.
Luke: So that means he’s going to be a preacher.
Martin grew up. He became a minister like his father and he used the big words he had heard as a child from his parents and from the Bible. Everyone can be great!