I’m Daniel Watson, Executive Director of The Restoration House, a CSPC local missions partner. We walk alongside low-income, single parent families, helping them be restored back to God’s good intent for their lives through transitional housing, ally teams, family advocacy, and youth development. We’ve been at this for 15 years now, and what I love about what we get to do is this mission of restoration. It’s a mission that impacts not just the families who come through The Restoration House -the moms and kids- but my wife Mandy and I, the staff, our board, and volunteers are all on this journey together. God’s at work bringing restoration to all of our lives. Over the last couple years, we’ve seen Him doing some great things. Just last year, we launched a Village Lead Team. These are lower-income single moms who are leading their own community, The Village. Their peers selected them and they’re planning and leading community events, helping set policy, even helping families navigate conflict within the community. They’re really owning it. Recently, they even threw a back-to-school bash for themselves. It wasn’t them saying to staff or the board, ‘Hey, we need you to throw this for us.’ It was like, ‘Hey, we’re going to do a big party and we’re going to welcome the kids back to school, get an inflatable, eat together and have fun.’ When you see that sense of agency, that realization of dignity that prompts these moms to say, ‘Hey, we’re made in the image of God, He has endowed us with gifts, and we can own our own community and invest in it’, to me that’s a really beautiful thing.
I’m excited to see how God leads us over these next few years. We’ve had the pleasure of working with moms and kids over the last 15 years, but the age group we really haven’t been able to connect with much is birth to 5 years old. We know how critical those years are developmentally. 80 percent of all our neural connections form before the age of 5. I’m an elected official on the local school board, and we talk all the time about third grade literacy rates. But if we don’t start to think about that until kindergarten, we’ve missed the boat for some kids. It’s a lot harder to help them stay on track if they don’t get what they need at those youngest ages. So, God has been challenging The Restoration House about whether we should step into that and come alongside those members of our community more intentionally. We’re investigating the possibility of launching an early education center. A lot of things are coming together, and we’re excited about the possibilities. One of the options we’re looking at would even allow us to engage families who don’t live at The Village (in addition to those who do), giving us the opportunity to connect with many more single parent families throughout Knoxville! This has all given Mandy and me new energy at this point in our journey. Definitely pray for us on the early education front. There are a lot of strategic decisions to be made, so pray for wisdom for our board and staff. We’d also encourage you, if you feel the nudge to help families, to come visit us. Come out to The Village and take a tour of what we do. We’ve had people from CSPC serve in a lot of capacities- from board members to volunteers to prayer warriors to funders, and we’re so grateful for those relationships. There’s always room for more people from CSPC to get involved.