For God and Country

For a South Oak Cliff church considered a model for mixing faith and government, the line between church and state is thin indeeda

"The first thing I heard about it was the other day when they called to say a reporter was going to call," says Javarius' mother, Patricia Erving, about the mentoring program. She is a single parent with four children. The school told her "something about a church, but I didn't know exactly what it was," she says.

A 33-year-old Dallas native, currently receiving unemployment checks from her former job as a receptionist and clerical assistant, Erving knows that Javarius needs help in school. She doesn't worry about her son's intelligence. "He's very smart," she says. "He can take a driver's license and tell you your age."

Since she moved him into Talbert Elementary last year, Javarius has come home numerous times with reports of discipline problems. "I think he is confused about what a kid can do," his mom says. The boy has gotten into fights with other children and yelled at adults. "I was told he won't sit down, and he has a bad mouth," his mother says. She believes that her son misbehaves more for female authority figures.

Joanna Windham suspects that the toxic mold growing in her Turtle Creek condo is making her and her dogs, Mickey and Dallas, sick.
Joanna Windham suspects that the toxic mold growing in her Turtle Creek condo is making her and her dogs, Mickey and Dallas, sick.
In his second week in office, President Bush signed orders to establish a White House Office of Faith-based and Community Initiatives. John DiIulio (hands clasped) heads the agency and told reporters, "we will work with what is effective."
AP/Wide World Photo
In his second week in office, President Bush signed orders to establish a White House Office of Faith-based and Community Initiatives. John DiIulio (hands clasped) heads the agency and told reporters, "we will work with what is effective."

This past November, the school sent Javarius to the district's alternative school program geared for children with discipline problems. His mother was dissatisfied because she believed his day was too chaotic at the new place. "I was telling the principal, and she wouldn't listen to me, that I didn't see where it helped," Erving recalls.

In late December, the school returned Javarius to Talbert. His mother says he behaved well enough at the alternative program to get out. In January, the school administrators hooked him up with a mentor from Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship. They did so apparently without first telling his mother, who's just happy her son is getting some extra attention.

She doesn't know yet--having only learned about the program a week ago--if the mentor has made a difference. She did notice after a few days that Javarius had adopted a slightly different tack for asking for a new toy. Rather than demanding, he approached her diplomatically. "He said, 'Mom, can we have a talk?'" Nothing religious about that.

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