At the Church Health Center (CHC) in Memphis, Tenn., I got to work alongside some of the kindest, most truly compassionate people to walk this planet, as well as interact with the most courageous children I have ever met.
Church Health Center (CHC) was founded in 1987 by Dr. Scott Morris with the idea of reclaiming the Church’s biblical commitment for our bodies and spirits. As Dr. Morris frequently states, we are repeatedly called to teach, preach and heal throughout the Scripture, and the church does a good job with the first two, but struggles with the latter. Thus, CHC was created. CHC originally began as a medical clinic, but has grown to include a wellness and prevention branch that offers everything from nutrition classes to a workout facility and aerobics classes.
I worked within the wellness branch of CHC in the Child Life Education and Faith Community Outreach Departments. The Child Life program is a short-stay educational daycare that encourages better eating habits and exercise for children. In the Faith Community Outreach department, I worked to develop the various curricula used in the Child Life program so it can be used in other congregations nationwide.
During my time at CHC, I never knew what to expect each day. One day, a child drew me his favorite bug, a Hercules Beetle. According to him, this insect was as big as his head and could carry 5 lbs. on its back. That same day, another child challenged me to a Hula-hoop contest and begged me to play basketball and soccer with him. The most inspiring moment I had was with one of the toddlers, who only spoke Russian. We were doing flashcards with pictures of toothbrushes, pencils, utensils and other simple items. She answered almost every one of the flashcards correctly, which excited her so much that she just started jumping up and down, giggling and screaming, “Yay, yay, yay! Miss Jenny, yay, yay, yay!” As she was getting ready to leave that night, her mother quickly turned to me, thanked me and explained, in her broken English, that she hadn’t seen her daughter that happy in months.
I was blessed to witness many of these “ah-ha” moments, whether it be from a child finally figuring out how to tie his shoe for the first time, or a little girl who was able to convince her mother that it was better to buy the whole wheat bread instead of the white bread because “wheat bread is closer to the natural way that God grows food for our bodies.”
Needless to say, I left work exhausted almost every day, but I also left feeling full. Full of the love and wonder of a child, the accomplishment of being a positive influence on the youth of Memphis, the incredible knowledge bestowed upon me by my co-workers and supervisors about all things regarding the process of development in children, and especially filled with the love of God whom I see more and more each day within the children.
Some days were harder than others, the kids occasionally shared life experiences that I cannot even fathom living through, yet they seemed to have a more optimistic outlook on life than I often do. Even in my short time there, the kids made an amazing impact on my life. CHC has definitely made an impact on Memphis and continues to transform my heart and soul.