On Friday, October 9, CHESS held a forum at the First United Methodist Church to address concerns that have recently been expressed to the Board. The forum, open to all CHESS families, was attended by CHESS office staff and Board members.
Panel members included Leighton Mekeal, pastor of First United Methodist, Steve Ong, and Mike Brockmann.
Pastor Mekeal shared a brief slice of First United Methodist’s history. The church was one of the first five original churches in Greeley, with a continuous presence since 1870, and has always had an active missional focus. The Greeley church is an open facility, hosting various community activities nearly 7 days a week. With respect to the GRC, the organization occupies the 3rd floor under a 5-year lease. There are currently 2,200 east African refugees in Greeley, from 23 different countries, speaking 8 different languages. 50% of the refugees are from Somalia. Approximately 120 students per week take ESL classes, along with classes designed to help with assimilation into a new culture. There are no Syrian refugees. The refugees at the GRC have jobs, are tax-paying members of the community, have kids in schools, and just need some help adjusting to a new life. CHESS students have excellent opportunities to learn about a different culture and language by volunteering in ESL classes or working on short-term internships. GRC students are screened and accepted or rejected on the basis of that screening. The church staff is aware of security issues and who comes in and out of the building.
The forum moved on to discuss issues of social media and how it affects CHESS students and families. Pastor Mekeal noted that social media is a poor choice to express concerns because it can be so easily misinterpreted.
Pastor Brockmann urged parents to teach their children to speak carefully, training them in the use of social media. He likened it to giving a child a sharp knife – it certainly can be a valuable tool, but can cut if the child is not properly trained in its use. He added that social media can be a great outlet for homeschool moms to connect, but isn’t really the place for discussion of issues, which is much better-accomplished face-to-face.
There was a discussion of a chapel-type educational opportunity for students to teach them the proper use of social media.
Pastor Ong recounted part of a recent sermon – “perfect love casts out fear”, and suggested that we can’t use Jesus to ensure our family’s safety, as then the family becomes an idol.
In conclusion, all those present recognized the need for parents to lead by example. We also asserted that each of us has an individual responsibility to recognize concerns, address them, and then help remedy those concerns.
Look for upcoming CHESS forums as issues arise, and periodically just to promote fellowship and good communication among all CHESS families. Hope to see you there!