Profiles of Peace — December 2012

posted in: POTC Newsletter | 0
The following story was written and printed with Tieza's full knowledge and approval.


Today is Tuesday, December 11, 2012. It really is. Twenty years ago to the day, a young, vivacious Tieza (pronounced tee-ah-za) joined Homework Club (back in the day when I directed HC) on her sixth birthday. I remember the moment perfectly. Tieza had so badly wanted to join her older sister Jasmin, at Homework Club, but at the start of the school year she was not six years old, the required age to begin Homework Club. She and Jasmin were an unusual blend of Puerto Rican and Native American brown beauty. Both sisters had short, wavy jet-black hair that framed deep, rich black-brown eyes. On December 11, 1992, as six-year old Tieza enjoyed her first day at Homework Club, my eyes fell to the roughly sewn-together cleft lip and palate that clearly differentiated her face from her sister's. I winced internally, wondering how much ridicule Tieza faced each day.

Tieza and her sisters were playful, good students who hungrily absorbed everything taught at Homework Club. "Where did all that hunger come from?" I often wondered. I found out while getting to know Tieza's mom. Bringing the pain and wounding of a troubled childhood into her own parenting, Tieza's mother left a wide wake of damage in all six of her children's lives. Her mom's anger and pain clamped down hardest on Tieza, with beatings, reprimands, and neglect a frequent occurrence during her childhood. Years passed. When Tieza was on her own, she began unpacking more details of her abuse: "My mom told me that she couldn't stand how my face looked—that she was 'disgusted' by me and would put me outside of our second floor apartment door in the cold and dark and leave me there for hours so she didn't have to look at me." This landing—about thirty inches by thirty inches above steep wooden stairs—was very familiar to me, as I had visited the family countless times over the years. “Oh, Tieza,” I groaned. "What did you do?" Tieza replied, "I cried, I talked to God about things I learned at Homework Club, and sang songs I learned from Beaver Camp—the camp that Peace of the City sent me to." I couldn't respond. I looked at her, dumbfounded. "It's okay, Ms. Diann. I knew that the God you taught me about was with me. I knew more than anything else that I was not alone—we kept each other company. I did wonder where He was sometimes, but never stopped believing in Him. My sister Jasmin slipped notes under the door telling me that she would try to get me back in. She knew I was cold and hungry. She also sent notes saying she loved me. I knew this was God telling me that He loved me." 
You see, I know another stable: the stable of the cold, dark, and narrow second floor apartment landing where Tieza sat knees-to-chin to stay warm, "birthed Christ into her heart", and nurtured Him in her "manger arms". Tieza's faith is the North Star pointing to Christ. Her faith is a testimony that God exists and that He is good in all circumstances. She burns brilliantly. It is twenty years later. Tieza turns 26 today. She is now in her first year as director of Homework Club! The same Homework Club that was the bedrock in Tieza's life all those years ago is now the place where Tieza gives back her love to today's Homework Club kids at POTC. Last week we gathered feedback from our fall adult volunteers. Here is what Sarah (a weekly volunteer and Buffalo Public School fourth grade teacher) had to say about Homework Club: "Homework Club is a special place. Tieza has done an amazing job creating a loving, homey, safe, and inviting place for these children. It is obvious how very much they want to be there, as she also wants them. The schedule she has created provides the children with structure and limits but also a relaxed atmosphere that gives a respite from the regular school day. I again want to express how grateful I am for the opportunity to help out at Homework Club. I am in awe at what you all have done!" Please remember Peace of the City Ministries and all the "Tiezas" in our midst today, and always, as we continue to love children and teens with all our hearts in the name of Christ.
Peace and Gratitude, Diann Takens-Cerbone Executive Director Advent 2012