Although YOKE’s after school clubs are a big part of what we are known for, getting kids to show up to club is not the end goal of our ministry. Clubs are a connection point that provide opportunities for YOKE Folk to develop relationships with middle school students, and those relationships are where the real impact happens. Brandon Smith, a new YOKE Folk who has begun serving this semester at YOKE’s combined off-site club for both Halls Middle School and Powell Middle School, has quickly picked up on the importance of these relationships.
Brandon is from the Powell community and is a junior at the University of Tennessee studying electrical engineering. He first heard about YOKE through some friends that serve, so he visited a club last fall and has now joined the team leading the Halls/Powell club at Sharon Baptist Church. Since Covid-19 has prevented most YOKE clubs from being able to meet on campus this year, many of them are meeting at churches or other places in the community. Even while not being able to visit the school, Brandon has already started to develop a friendship with Jabar, an eighth grader at Powell Middle.
“As soon as Brandon started helping at club, he immediately started looking for a student to invest in,” said Stephanie Enger, YOKE’s North Area Director. “He’s been so intentional and it didn’t take long for him to start making an impact.”
Even before he started, Brandon began praying for one specific student to invest in. At his second club of the semester, he saw Jabar walk in and immediately knew that he needed to talk to him. After meeting him during club, he walked out to the car with him and introduced himself to Jabar’s parents. They were texting a few days later when Jabar asked Brandon an unusual question: “Why are you so nice to me?”
“When he asked me that,” said Brandon, “I didn’t really know how to respond. It broke my heart that people can be skeptical of someone’s motives when they are kind to them. I told him that it was because of Jesus. He was seeing the love of Christ shine through me, and when we love Jesus it causes us to love other people too.”
Since then, Brandon and Jabar have been hanging out regularly—they now go to the gym together every week. Brandon had already been going to the gym, and when he heard Jabar say that he liked to work out he saw it as a natural connection point and a way for them to spend time together.
But their friendship goes beyond just working out together. Before a recent YOKE club, Brandon had the chance to help Jabar out with his math homework. As he has gotten to spend time with Jabar, Brandon has even gotten to know Jabar’s parents and earned their trust.
“I chose to serve with YOKE because I see it as a chance to give back,” said Brandon. “I came to know Jesus through a program like YOKE, so I was looking for an opportunity to share the gospel with students. If I can introduce just one student to Jesus, it’s all worth it.”
If, like Brandon, you’re interested in investing in middle school students, we’d love to hear from you. Check out our clubs page to find a YOKE club near you. You can fill out our volunteer application or contact Eli Cockrum at firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more.