So today is September 26, 2014. It’s the last Friday of this September, which means that the best month on the calendar is not far away. Nothing really impressive or of significance has ever happened on this date for me. But September 25th is a different matter. It was on that date 3 years ago that I celebrated a huge moment in my life personally. That brings me to this week’s moment in the Flashback Friday series: the 1st Just Juan Building Blocks Scholarship.
How I first came across this moment? Getting to that moment where I presented the 1st Just Juan Building Blocks Scholarship started in May 2009. I was in attendance to a Sunday school session at Faith Christian Fellowship during my residency in Tokyo and on this particular Sunday, the senior pastor was teaching the class. He selected 3 of us in attendance and gave us each a $1 bill and an assignment: find a way to bless someone in the use of the $1 bill. We had to provide a report at the next week’s Sunday school class. For 3 days, I labored over how I could bless someone with a $1…in the most expensive city in the world. I almost gave the $1 away to someone at the Yokota Shoppette, after the mid-week Bible study session, to pay for their PowerAde, which was priced at $1 but, in my mind, I told myself that was whack so I scrapped it. When I got home a short time later, I was on a phone call with a Stateside acquaintance and she was telling me about how her alma mater was raising money to build a new facility for their football program…something I laughed at because it was an HBCU, as if they truly cared about football. But it hit me right there that I could use the $1 as the first contribution to the Faith Kingdom Academy, which was the pastor’s vision of opening a Christian school in Japan. When I gave my report at Sunday school, I mentioned my history of seeking education and how a certain $50 a fellow church member gave me in a card congratulating me for getting through Airman Leadership School the year before allowed me to buy the final book for the last class of my 1st graduate program. I mentioned that the $1 would only be the beginning in my contribution to the pastor’s vision. In my exit from Japan a year later, in May 2010, I mentioned that I’d be back and hinted that I might even sponsor a scholarship for the school. In early June 2011, I booked a September trip to Tokyo with the intention of presenting a $500 scholarship during my visit. All summer long, I had trouble coming up with a message behind the scholarship as I knew the pastor would want me to speak some words about it. Then August 21, 2011 happened. I was visiting the church of one of my friends in Fairfax, Virginia and they were celebrating the children, who were set to begin school the following day. Her pastor spoke about the importance of bringing up children by saying “it’s better to build children than to renovate adults”. And just like that, I had the theme behind my scholarship: “it’s better to build children than to renovate adults”. I would name the scholarship the Just Juan Building Blocks Scholarship. I got on a plane out of LA on September 1, 2011 and nearly a month later, on my last Sunday during the month-long visit, I presented the scholarship.
What it meant to me then? At that point, it was a moment of pride for me. I had labored through a very difficult summer where I experienced a number of trials and tribulations. The trip to Tokyo was a bit of an escape for me but being able to present the scholarship with the right heart is what kept me from falling apart completely during the testy Summer of 2011. The presentation of the scholarship represented the victorious moment in a dream from nearly a half-year earlier, where God showed me what I would go through that summer…from crying and feeling broken in the summer to rejoicing in celebration in the fall.
What it means to me now? Looking back on it, the presentation of the 1st scholarship was huge for me. It was a bookend of my entire financial situation. I arrived in Japan, in May 2007, with only $487 total to my name and here I was, just 4 years later, presenting a scholarship for $500. I would go on to present the 2nd installment a year later for $1000 and I’ll be presenting the 3rd installment in a few months. I hope to present this scholarship for as long as the school is open. Moreover, I hope to make it available not just to the Faith Kingdom Academy but to students in need all over. As I continue to build my own personal wealth, I’ll dish out more scholarship awards. Hopefully, one day I’ll get to the point where I can sponsor tuitions worth tens of thousands of dollars. But regardless of where I go from here with the scholarship, the 1st one will always be memorable to me…even if the video footage of it was lost from my old HTC Sensation 4G.