“Pastor Stanish…is there swim today? I want to come; please wait for me, okay?…,” was Abishek Gurung’s plea when he realized that he and his group of friends were a little late. The bus taking them to the Summer Swim Program at the O’Fallon Park YMCA was about to leave. He was among the 60 New American youngsters registered for an event that was designed not only to teach swimming skills, but also to strengthen relationships between CFNA and New Americans in the south St. Louis area.
With students from nine different birth nations (Eritrea, Ethiopia, Sierra Leone, Sudan, Iraq, Nepal, Syria, and Congo), the program definitely provided a genuine cross-cultural experience for all involved. In addition to the students and a half dozen well-qualified, service-oriented YMCA staffers, 10 CFNA volunteers were also available to assist with logistics and provide valuable mentoring. Every swim class featured a devotion during gathering time at the Peace Center.
Three weeks later, the program concluded with a fun ice cream party, also at the Peace Center. Swimmer Gojam Tuka declared the entire program to be “really good” and asked, “Will we go next week too?” “Maybe next year” was my reply.
A sincere thank you to the O’Fallon Park YMCA for the use of their facilities, to Carol Buckman for having made the arrangements, to Lutheran High School South for the use of their bus, and to Pam Fox (Ascension Lutheran Church) and Laura Jostes (Lutheran Church of Webster Gardens) for obtaining Thrivent grants to help cover the cost. Thanks also to the CFNA volunteers who took time out of their busy schedules to mentor and care for the young swimmers.
To God alone be the glory!
By: Rev. Stanish Stanley
Executive Director – CFNA