I believe that God is calling me to an in-depth, in-reach ministry, and that’s the classroom. I get the opportunity to look them in the eye, to see the questions, to figure it out and answer it together. We do Bible study together.
Intentionality. That word pops up frequently in conversation with Pastor Damali Caine when talking about what's important to her. "We have to be more intentional about helping each other and in turn as we help each other we draw closer to Christ. I am intentional about relationship so much that when I teach the students I want them to see Christ for who He is in real form. That He is just as much present as He is in the Bible."
This has so much value to her because she's seen many young people leave their Christian faith. While growing up, she realized that many Christians gave the appearance of being very spiritual without being transparent about their Christian walk.
"They made it seem like they just appeared to be very spiritual and it just happened overnight, not knowing that it took time. That discouraged a lot of my peers because you thought that Christianity was unattainable," said Pastor Caine. "I want the students to know that a walk and a relationship with God is attainable."
That's also why Pastor Caine has chosen to teach religion rather than doing pastoral ministry. "I believe that God is calling me to an in-depth, in-reach ministry, and that's the classroom. There are a lot of students that if I was preaching from the pulpit I wouldn't be able to have real-life connection with. Teaching in the classroom I get the opportunity to look them in the eye, to see the questions, to figure it out and answer it together. We do Bible study together."
A new offering in the religion department at SLA is the option for one-on-one counseling. There is a class period available each day for students to talk with Pastor Caine. Pastor Caine, who holds a master's degree in human services counseling with an emphasis on marriage and family, has set up a safe space in the back of the classroom with a couple of bean bags.
"It's a cozy little corner where they have the opportunity to come and relax, and if there's any questions or concerns or anything they want to talk about, that little corner presents a different space than the rest of the desks and tables here. We can chat about anything they're going through," said Pastor Caine. "If there's any student who comes and expresses things that I feel I'm not able to handle, immediately I will let the principal know so that they can seek some outside counseling."
Pastor Caine is impressed with the Campus Ministries program already in place at SLA. She's looking at how she can enhance it, such as additional community service initiatives. For instance, she plans to do Operation Christmas Child with the Samaritan's Purse and has the goal of packing 300 shoeboxes with the students. She also plans on organizing mission trips, hopefully beginning next year.
Pastor Caine and her husband, Eric, have a two-year-old son, Nathan, who keeps them busy. The family moved here from Pine Forge Academy where Pastor Caine taught religion and Eric was assistant boys dean for the past three years. Pastor Caine also taught at Greater New York Academy and Union Springs Academy.