Mentoring Program Creates A Win-Win
|Floyd R. Jones and "little brother" Dontae. Photo courtesy of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Dallas.|
By Louis Porter II
Floyd R. Jones of Hamilton Park United Methodist Church in Dallas cherishes his role as a mentor through the Amachi program of Big Brothers Big Sisters. His "little brother" is Dontae, a bright 11-year-old who enjoys sports and fishing as much as he does.
Beyond what they have in common, the reason may be that Jones himself was mentored, many years ago, as a junior high and high school student. It's important to mentor and be mentored, he said.
"I remember my high school track coach," Jones said. "He is still my mentor. We just have a great relationship. I told him just last week that I don't know how I would have made it without him in my life."
The Amachi program is named for a Nigerian (Ibo) word that means, "Who knows but what God has brought us through this child." The Big Brothers Big Sisters initiative connects children of incarcerated parents with mentors who are recruited through churches.
The Rev. Wilson Goode, former mayor of Philadelphia, was instrumental in establishing Amachi. Goode said a visit to a prison where he saw a grandfather, father and son all in the same institution helped him see the need for such a mentoring program. Today, several United Methodist conferences are participating in the initiative.
"The best chance we have to connect with young men is mentoring relationships," says Larry Malone, director of men's ministry for the General Commission on United Methodist Men. But Malone says it's as important for a man to have a mentor as to be one. Malone has two surrogate sons Ð and a spiritual adviser himself.
"Big brother" Jones has worked in prison ministry for many years. He said although he knew he was making a difference, one thought stayed with him: What if we could help prevent these young men from getting into jail in the first place?
Upon hearing about the Amachi program, he knew it was part of the solution. His church was one of the first to participate.
Each week when he and Dontae get together, one thing is certain. The two will eat. They also enjoy sports events, movies and golf.
More important, during their outings they talk openly and honestly about life, the challenges Jones has faced in the past as well as the challenges Dontae is facing right now. In between the conversations, games and meals, real growth occurs for both of them.
Todd Bristow, president of the North Texas Conference United Methodist Men, says mentoring through the Amachi program mirrors the goals and spirit of the United Methodist faith.
"Look at Jesus," Bristow said. "He actually mentored the disciples and empowered them to do it themselves."
--Louis Porter II, freelance writer and consultant, St. Paul, Minn.
For more on starting an Amachi ministry, visit www.amachimentoring.org.