Occasionally, I take the kids out to the playground so they can blow off some steam in the fresh air. The weather has been very accomodating the last few days for this to happen. These are a few photos I took last Sunday.
Play is serious business for kids. It is their work, in a manner of speaking. In play, they act out the things that concern them. They also can learn social skills, leadership traits, practice ways to reconcile when they disagree, and simply be children. Learning to be present, yet non-intrusive with children while they play is a valuable skill. We can observe while they go about their business. We can interact without interfering, especially when invited. We can maintain adult parameters of respect while embracing childlike humor and interaction when appropriate. Both structured and unstructured play are important tools in my ministry toolbelt. Rather than simply being an addon to ministry activities, play is a part of the larger philosophy of ministry which informs my approach to pastoring children.
They once were little, these graduating high school seniors. And now they have grown up, approaching the cusp of adulthood. With dreams of college and career looming, they look forward with excitement to the plans that God has for them. And rightly so. They have worked hard. Each of them loves Jesus. They also are devoted to their families. I am proud of them, having watched them grow up over the years. It was with great honor I asked them to take their photos with me, Janae, Andrew, Anna (holding someone’s little baby), and Danny. At one time I towered over Andrew and Danny. Nowadays I am just a short little pudgy guy in their presence. I love it. I gladly fade into the background as each of these young people come into focus. I pray for them diligently and ask God to protect them, guide them, equip them, and unleash them as servants of the Lord wherever he may lead them.
A few of the children from PowerClub Kids were present to experience a speaker phone skype phone call to Tamara Henkes, Missionary to Romania’s children. Tamara hit a home run with these kids, amazing them with stories about life in her adopted country. Responding to their earnest questions, she spoke about the kinds of foods commonly eaten (various traditional dishes, although they also have McDonalds and Kentucky Fried Chicken), the games children play (European football and basketball–they do not have baseball), the toys they have (mostly sticks and rocks from outside on the ground), the kinds of animals that can be found (lots of wild dogs roaming the streets, many of which are not nice), the houses they live in (varies widely, just like in the USA, but poorer areas have very limited niceties, including a lack of indoor plumbing), and so on.
The kids sang a song for her and also enjoyed learning how to say Jesus loves you in Romanian. Hopefully they will remind me, because I already have forgotten! *Deep sigh*
Most importantly, Tamara shared with the kids why she is in Romania. She helps train leaders all over the nation in how to reach children for the gospel of Jesus Christ. The churches there typically offer nothing in terms of children’s ministry. If children attend church they are expected to sit quietly in the service. Consequently, many children do not experience any kind of worship experience as they are left home while adults attend worship. Other children have no homes at all, fending for themselves as street children and orphans.
It challenges me to recognize the formidable issues facing Tamara and her colleagues as they strive to spread the gospel of Jesus to a nation deeply rooted in superstition, lack of resources, lack of knowledge in how to relate effectively to children on their level, and difficulty with religious persecution, particularly from the Orthodox Church in that area, which views Evangelicals as cultic.
When I asked Tamara if she would come to my church when she returns to the states she said, “Yes.” When I asked the kids if they would like that they screamed, “YES!” So, I think there is more to come in the very near future, a year or so out. Below I have posted a few photos of the kids as they spoke with Tamara on the phone.
Below are some photos of our kids giving clothing for families of American Indians who live on the reservations. The gentleman in the photo travels the United States with Donald Cline giving food and clothing and sharing Christ. So it was a privilege for us to share in this ministry in a small way. The kids loved participating by tangibly giving. They are learning that others have needs too. The things we sometimes take for granted, others do not have at all. Sometimes it is things as simple as giving clothing. Next week we will be bringing Bibles and children’s clothing. This week we brought adult clothing. It was a great night of learning and hands-on participation.
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!