A new era begins in my life starting tonight. No more Wednesday night Kids Club. It feels empty. I admit it also feels liberating. I had in mind to visit the apartment kids this evening. I may yet make it down there after dinner. But first I pause to remember and reflect on God’s goodness over all these years. Children who have come to faith in Jesus. Conversations with parents. Wonderful ministry alongside caring volunteers. And the relationships through it all, with young and old.
Maybe I am getting old and sentimental. Maybe I am struggling to let go. But let go, I must, even if the memories persist for days to come. Yet I do not choose to live in the past. I press on toward the future, seeking ways to live my life intentionally among believers and the lost.
Life is too short to waste on fool’s errands and ungodly distractions. I haven’t got much to offer, but what I do have I offer whole-heartedly in service to the Lord Jesus Christ. I pray that he will take what is weak and make it something special for the benefit of others. It likely won’t seem impressive to those who measure such things in the natural. But God knows. His accounting practices are impeccable. It is to him I must be faithful and true.
And so off I go this evening for an adventure, not quite knowing where I will end up, or who I will meet. There will be food, and hopefully some conversation. And maybe a smattering of laughter accompanied by smiles unfettered by insincerity.
It’s over. It’s just beginning. I’m sad. I’m relieved. It is a new day for my church. Tonight we had our final Wednesday evening event ever at my church. We concluded it with an upbeat talent showcase of the children’s favorite talents. It was fun, hilarious and always enlightening. Several danced, others sang, still others jumped rope, played piano and recorder, and had fun the entire brief night. I even got into the action, playing a little improvisational piano early on, doing an improv funny face routine, and then attempting to jump rope, against my better judgment.
But now it is over, and just beginning. I set aside the burden of mid-week programming and all of its challenges and joys, and I turn my attention to strengthening Sunday mornings, encouraging parents, and doing organic missional work in the neighborhood.
Something inside me is changing. Indeed, it has been for a long while. I remain committed to Christian Orthodox faith convictions. I also feel emboldened to attempt initiatives that wouldn’t know a box, much less be postured outside of one. Creativity favors the brave who dare conceive original thoughts, yet retaining humility to remain accountable to orthodoxy in the development of their missional orthopraxy.
Once in a while I take time during mid-week kids club to have a brief intentional chat with each child. While the children are enjoying a game or free play time I call them over to me individually one at-a-time. Last night I asked them two questions: do they have any questions about God? do they have any prayer requests?
Here are a few of their responses.
Boy: I am sometimes sad because of what just happened (his grandmother had died).
Girl: I heard that when Jesus comes back he is going to take all the people who believe him. What will happen to those who don’t believe? Will they be destroyed with the earth and heaven?
Girl (this girl lives in a government subsidized low-income apartment community): I want to ask God to help poor people who don’t have enough to eat, or clothes to wear, or a place to live.
Girl: Please pray for my mom who is having another surgery.
Girl: I am worried about my family because my Dad lost his job and is still looking for work.
The four year old girl ran to me with her arms held open. Clearly she wanted a big hug. Softly, she told me she did not get to see her mommy today. She was sad about that. She is a foster child who sees her mother only once per week on supervised visits. My heart broke for her as I prayed.
The three year old boy piped up in the middle of kids worship and said, “My Daddy lives in an apartment and my Mommy lives in another house.” He frowned. Then he smiled as I began to pray for him and his parents.
When I arrived at their door to pick up children, the three year old girl danced up and down when her mother asked if she would like to go to Kids Club tonight. Apparently, the answer was yes, even if she was not able to speak it.
The ten year old boy continues to be sullen about church. Yet, he still comes. Near the end, he reportly began to participate in a game which was too fun not to play. His friend, the eight year old enjoyed the evening and told the ten year old he didn’t even try to participate until the end.
The two brothers, eight and nine, were sad that their dad would not let them come tonight. Next week, but not tonight. I smiled and said I would return then.
These are a few moments with children which I encountered tonight on my first day back to mid-week ministry. I look forward to seeing what God will do.
Last Wednesday we asked the kids to remove their shoes, throw them in a pile, and then one by one they were blindfolded and asked to identify their own shoes by touch. To my amazement, every one of them were able to guess their own shoes easily and quickly. Just like the kids know their shoes, Jesus the Good Shepherd knows his sheep!
I played a friendly game of PIG (similar to the basketball shooting game of horse, but shorter) with one of the new kids, an 8 year-old boy, today. He is from the local neighborhood. Tonight was only his second week. We played three rounds. I won the first. He won the second. We played a cliff hanger third, with me squeaking it out. Fortunately for me, I finally started getting warmed up late in the game, recovering some of my youthful long-range accuracy. But that really didn’t matter. What mattered is that he thrived with the joy of having a grown up male spend meaningful time with him. I don’t know a lot about his background. I do know he is a young man with his whole life ahead of him, a life full of meaning and hope. Perhaps the moments spent doing ordinary things within a framework of godly community will have redemptive impact on his life. The friendly competition we enjoyed were more about heart connections, than about who won. I know, easy for me to say since I won the game. But believe me, he had me running scared for awhile with a couple of his shots from the corner of the free throw line. It was one of the moments which reminded me of why I chose to remain with children’s ministry for all of these years.
Tonight, at the conclusion of PowerClub Kids, we gathered together in our kids room. Three of the girls wanted to sing a song they have been learning in Kids Choir. And sing they did like little angels. Then each of the other kids wanted to get into the act, singing a variety of other songs. One sung a Hannah Montana pop song. Another sung the Spiderman theme song. A boy sang, “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.” All of the kids joined in with him. They sang enthusiastically, smiling and doing the motions. By allowing the children to choose their own songs, I was afforded a small window into what they deem important and they were provided an opportunity to build confidence in a safe, loving atmosphere. It was serendipitous and beautiful. It was delightful and full of purpose. It flowed naturally out of a prevailing atmosphere which values each volunteer and each child as special in the eyes of God.