By Jessica Brodie
GREENVILLE—Big eyes and bigger smiles fill the colorful, art-themed rooms at Disciples United Methodist Church week after week, where nearly 100 infants through pre-kindergartners gather daily for learning and Christian love served up by God-led teachers.
In one room, 3-year-olds gaze up at their art teacher, Ms. Linda, as she guides them through impressionist and modern art, grinning and pointing at the colors as she flips through pages of a book with them. Their own attempts at mimicking Picasso’s blue period line the hallway, along with a massive animal-themed mural the kids can’t help but touch as they head to the bathroom or the lunchroom.
In another, toddlers are singing along with their music teacher and shaking maracas in time with the beat, while across the hall, other students read, do Valentine’s Day crafts and learn nurturing skills with baby dolls and kitchen supplies.
And all around is the swirl of various languages and the colors of God’s Kingdom, for in addition to a prayer-driven, God-focused, high-quality curriculum, Disciples Child Development Center also welcomes 14 different nationalities, including American—all of it unintentional and all of it very much welcome.
“We’re like a little United Nations!” says Disciples Child Development Center Director Barb McInerney, grinning as she strolls from room to room, pointing out a Japanese child here or an Indian toddler there. “Welcome” is on their front door in a variety of languages to underscore that point. “We have Japanese, Chinese, Portuguese, French, Mexican, Indian, Ghanian, Brazilian, American and more. It’s just wonderful!”
This year, Disciples CDC marks 25 years of service to the community. They started in 1991 with just four students as a mother’s morning out program for the church. McInerney, a member of the church, stepped in as director 11 years ago, and over the years, the program evolved from babysitting to an all-out school, complete with a full-time art teacher, a part-time music teacher, an English as a Second Language program and more. They do soccer and roller skating one day, science and cooking the next, and all with what McInerney calls “an unbelievable, overqualified” staff of 20 teachers, one of whom was named Greenville teacher of the year last year.
Everything they do is a ministry effort, and every bit of it is God-led. While many of their teachers have been there for more than 10 years, when they do get turnover, such as when their 4-year-old teacher announced she was moving to Australia because of her husband’s job transfer, McInerney has learned not to spend a single moment worrying about it. They’ve never advertised even once because every time there is a vacancy, McInerney puts it in God’s hands and He sends them the perfect teacher.
“I’d been praying, she’d been praying, boom—God brought us together,” McInerney said about their latest God-sent teacher. “Within a week, someone walks in the door. God just takes care of it.”
Much of what they do with international children helps foster strong community bonds, sometimes where there had been none before. Sometimes, McInerney said, parents walk in feeling isolated because they don’t know the language and struggle to fit into a foreign land. Through Disciples CDC, they are walking into a loving, safe community where they can connect with others like them and form new bonds with neighbors from even more distant lands, all centered on Christ and a deep love for children.
“We become a family,” McInerney says, pointing as a young girl and boy, with strikingly different skin colors and accents, work together on a craft.
Disciples CDC operates from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. during the school year, and they are hoping to offer a summer camp this year. Students attend on tuition, though scholarships are also offered. For more information: disciplescdc.org.