"Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their labor."
– Proverbs 9:9
That Bible verse sums up the value of partnerships. And in this story, the two working together are the Barber's Institute and Memphis Athletic Ministries (MAM).
That's easy to see. Just look at the group of boys smiling ear to ear, showing off their new haircuts while others wait for their turns in the chair at MAM's St. Andrew youth center, located at 1472 Mississippi Blvd. in South Memphis.
"Outreach is a big part of the school," said Tracey Crawley, owner and instructor at the Barber Institute in Southaven, Miss. "God has blessed and I want to give back whenever I can. ...
"I did not know anything about MAM until one of our students, Marcus Jones, who works with the youth at MAM, suggested we come do haircuts as an outreach project. I did not realize how big MAM is," said Crawley. "We have partnered with three MAM centers and have plans to go do haircuts at several more."
MAM is always looking for opportunities to bring services to our urban kids, said Jones. "And our boys think this is so cool, having their hair cut in a gym."
Crawley's demeanor is quiet and humble. She speaks softly but there is definitely an air of authority surrounding her. So where did all of this begin?
"Years ago, my Sunday school teacher told me that I had the 'hands of a beautician,'" she said.
Those words sound prophetic now, but Crawley did not take them too seriously at the time. As she recounts her journey – the twist and turns, surprises, disappointments, miracles, distresses and triumphs – the faithfulness of God continually takes center stage.
Today, she not only has the hands of a beautician, but of a founder, an instructor and minister as well.
The outreach at MAM St. Andrew is not one sided in the benefits. Crawley said the students are gaining more experience and mastery as they work with the youth.
The six students are stationed on opposite ends of the gym. The boys come up in varying degrees of assertiveness and make their style requests. There is an air of professionalism and seriousness on each barber's face as the haircuts begin. They do this at nursing homes, other centers and shelters.
"I want to cut hair like I am doing it for Jesus. The opportunity for one-on-one ministry is always there," said Crawley, who stresses that everybody has something to offer – a gift, a talent or ability.
"And no one should think they have to wait for some special day to give it."
(For more information, go to www.mamsports.org.)
(Rosemary Barnes is a MAM creative writing intern.)