Tuesday, June 21, 2016

HEAVEN'S PURPOSE STRETCHES YOUR BOUNDARIES

One June my pastor asked if I would consider doing
 a summer ministry to our state residential facility
for the developmentally challenged. I agreed and visited the following week for orientation. I left with the words of the director ringing in my ears, "The residents have an average understanding of a two-year-old."

"How could we possibly minister to them?" I wondered. "How do you explain salvation or ask for a response?"

That night as I prayed I felt the Lord ask me "How do you minister to the two yr olds in your Sunday School?"
I thought about our curriculum for that age group.
I love mommy
I love daddy
I love Jesus
I can be a helper
These were all the simple lessons our teachers did with the young ones.

 I asked some of the older kids if they would like to go with me on Saturdays to visit and do a program for the residents. I let them know the people they saw might look like adults, but their minds were like very young children. I assured them if they weren't comfortable interacting with them after the program, it was ok. They could stay in the puppet trailer until it was time to leave.

The first Saturday I was nervous. My comfort zone was being challenged just by the number of physical deformities and behavioral issues of the people escorted to the front lawn to watch our presentation. As we got the puppet stage ready, the residents gathered some walking, some in wheelchairs and some on gurneys. I welcomed everyone and lead our puppet entertainers in the first song. This session was on creation with songs about animals. The response I received was not what I expected. Some had their eyes closed. Some continually made noises their heads swinging back and forth, blankly staring at the sky. One guy in a cowboy hat kept coming up to take the microphone out of my hand because it looked like an ice cream cone. I thought,  "What are we doing here?"

I saw no connection or understanding. After the closing song, I made a point to go around to each person, patting them on the arm or shoulder as I thanked them for coming. The orientation video emphasized the importance of touch in their therapy.

Finally, I came to a young girl who looked to be in her twenties laying on a gurney bed with two wooden braces stabilizing her swollen head.  Eyes rolled back; she showed no signs of recognition. I patted her shoulder and thanked her for coming. Turning to go to the next person, I was startled to hear her make a noise. Since it seemed in direct response to my greeting, I leaned down closer to her mouth and said, "Did you say something?"  I heard a deep soft mumbled "Ooooo", but it was melodic.

Unable to make out the words it took me a few seconds to realize she was singing  "Jesus loves me, this I know..."
It was the last song we performed for them before closing.

At that moment, light broke through.
It illuminated heaven's purpose.
It carried us through the summer.
It was enough.

Monday, June 20, 2016

CHILDREN SEE VISIONS


Joel 2:28 "... your young men will see visions."

To reach out to children in our community our church purchased five buses. Because of a lack of volunteers or space for classrooms, we set up a large group session in the church gym geared for 5-12 year-olds.  Our children's ministry jumped from averaging 75 to over 500 in three months. By the 300 mark, we split the sessions to coincide with the back-to-back morning church services.  The second group arrived after the first program finished.

Each week our children's ministry team met to debrief. It was during one of these meetings this encounter was related: 
The kids were dismissed and heading out of the gym to their buses when a nine-yr-old boy stopped one of our volunteers. 

He asked, "What do you call it when you see something that's not there?"
My worker responded, "I guess you call it an illusion, why?"
"Well I think I seen one of them illusions then," the child replied. 
Curious the worker asked, "What was it?".
"Well when Pastor Sue was talking, I saw these giant hands come down on each side of us kids, and they were holding us. So I turned to my friend and said, "Cool! How does she do that?"  
And my friend said, "Do what?" And I said, "Make those giant hands come around us kids." 
And my friend said, "What hands? I don't see no hands!" So I think I seen one of them illusions!

Thursday, June 16, 2016

A MEMORABLE SALVATION RESPONSE


Matthew 19:14
Jesus said, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these."

After stepping off church staff to begin an itinerant ministry, my first kid's crusade was in a small rural farming community in southern Idaho. Each night Mexican migrant children poured through the doors of the church. Their parents worked the seasonal harvest and moved on from crop to crop throughout the summer.

The kids were bubbling with excitement and thrilled to win prizes. Bringing a Bible earned points for their teams.  One boy raced up to me and asked, "Hey lady, hey lady, do I get points for a half a Bible?" It turned out "half a Bible" was a New Testament someone loaned him.

On the third night, a special visitor came in the door. He was a young boy, with one leg, being carried by his older brother. As the evening progressed; songs, games, puppets, and the Bible story, I noticed this boy was especially enthralled. In the end, I gave the invitation to receive Christ, and as children came forward, this boy suddenly stood balancing on one leg. With great seriousness and determination, he began a slow hop to the front towards me. It seemed this was a decision requiring an effort he alone needed to make.

Reaching me, he looked up expectantly.  I took his hand and asked his name.

 "Jesus" he replied or "Hay-Soos" as it sounds in Spanish.  It is a common Spanish name. Awkwardly I began to pray for Jesus to receive Jesus' forgiveness.
I prayed, he prayed.
"In Jesus name, amen," we finished together.

Watching him return to his seat, I knew this moment would be in my heart forever.