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.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

HANG ON TO GOD’S PROMISE




Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.
Hebrews 10:23(NIV)

Our outreach program to children had been going for several weeks. Each week we met new kids who were excited to ride the bus on Sunday morning. One Sunday a young freckle-faced boy named Mike tumbled off the bus and into our gym. His clothes were scruffy but what he lacked in appearance he made up for in enthusiasm. He was a bundle of energy, but the fast pace of the program's music, games, puppets, skits, stories and object lessons kept his delighted attention.
After a few weeks, Mike appeared wearing a tie almost as long as he was tall. He told the worker he found it in his dad's room, so he decided to wear it.

After a few more weeks I suddenly noticed Mike's absence. At the staff meeting, I asked Mike's "Bus Pastor" where he was. He replied, "When I went to pick up Mike, he opened the door and said his dad was going to take him. I could see Mike's father passed out on the floor behind him. So I said, "Look, Mike, I don't think your dad is feeling well today. Why don't you ride the bus with us?"

But Mike dug in his heels and shook his head. “NO!”, he said,  “my dad is going to take me!"

“I couldn't talk him out of it. His mind was made up. So we left. When we were dropping off the kids after church, I saw him sitting on his front steps crying."

The next week the same thing happened. The bus driver went to Mike's house. He was ready to go but determined his dad was going to bring him. But his father was again on the living room floor passed out. After church, the kids on the bus saw him sitting on the steps of his house crying as they drove passed. By the third week of this, I couldn't take it anymore. I told the driver to convince Mike to come and let his dad rest. Reluctantly, the worker said he would do his best.  Arriving at Mike's house, the driver knocked on the door but when it opened it was Mike's father standing there. He was dressed and mumbled he would be taking Mike to church.
That Sunday Mike's whole family came to our children's program and at the closing invitation came forward as a family to receive Christ. Mike was right. He never rode the bus again. His dad took him.

Monday, June 13, 2016

GOD HAS A BETTER PLAN


For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways, And My thoughts than your thoughts. Isaiah 55:9

My first experience teaching Sunday School at 19 felt intimidating. It was a group of five-year-olds. I remember going early and praying over each tiny chair. The kids were great. Typical five-year-olds. All but one, Trey (not his real name). Trey was different. He seemed to grasp things about God in a deeper way. He prayed with fervor, and even the questions he asked were not typical of his young age. Trey was a delight, and I looked forward to seeing him each week. A  loving grandmother brought him each Sunday. His parents didn't have an interest in church themselves but allowed the grandmother to pick him up and send him to class. 

One Sunday Trey's grandmother came without him, sadly explaining the parents decided she could no longer bring him to Sunday School.  I felt crushed. I prayed for God to stay close to him. I have to admit I was praying somehow he would be allowed to come back. 

A few weeks later, during testimony time in the church service, a lady stood up and shared that she needed to bring in some income but couldn't work outside the home because of caring for her young child. She decided to advertise her home for after school childcare at her son's kindergarten. The Lord opened up the opportunity for her to have a young boy her son's age and not only did this give her extra income, but she was able to do Bible stories and songs with both children each day. She was thrilled and saw this as her ministry not only to her son but this boy, Trey. 

When she said the name Trey, my ears perked up. Trey? It couldn't be! I rushed to her after church to ask her about this Trey. It was the very same boy! That night as I prayed for the kids in my class and Trey I heard the Lord speaking to my heart. "Your love for Trey cannot even compare to my love for him. You are sad he could no longer be in your class. It's true Trey isn't hearing about me once a week, he is now learning about my love five days a week! "

Sunday, June 12, 2016

CHILDREN CAN HEAR GOD'S VOICE


By Carolyn Boyd

Call to me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known. Jeremiah 33:3




It was camp time for the kids at a church in Melbourne, Australia.  Sue was our key speaker and during an altar time, she activated the children to pray for those who wanted prayer.  At the close, they ran off for supper, but one 9-year-old girl stood to wait.  I asked her what she wanted.

 “That was embarrassing,"
 she said.   “Everyone had someone to pray for except me.”  Now I hadn’t noticed this, and certainly didn’t want her to feel bad so I immediately responded: “Do you know, no-one prayed for me, do you think you could do that?”  
Her face beamed “YES!” and took my hand.  I stood waiting for the expected prayer “God bless Carolyn…give us a great camp….Amen!” But that is not what I heard – instead, Kim started to pray earnestly.  She named not one, but three things I told the Lord that morning.  WOW!  She had my attention.   At last, she said “Amen!” and skipped off to join the other children.  I was left mouth agape I am sure. God reminded me that when He speaks age is no barrier – He can speak through anyone. All He needs are open hearts to hear what He has to say.

THE UNDERSTANDING OF A CHILD


Matthew 18:3 Unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.



In a particular Thailand church, there arose a problem with one of the  elders.  This man went out in rebellion and caused quite a schism in the church.  The senior pastor called an emergency elders meeting to see how best to deal with the situation.  Two of the elders were accompanied by their young children (a four-year-old girl and a five-year-old boy).  Thinking the children wouldn’t be a problem, they were told to go draw quietly and work on their papers in a corner. The children obeyed, and the elders began to discuss the challenge of the wayward leader.  In a moment of silence, they became aware of the children chatting in the background and the following conversation was heard.
Girl: That man sounds like the prodigal son.  He took everything and went to do what he wants.
Boy:  No I think he is more like Jonah – he knows what God wants him to do, and he is  trying to run away.  I think God will  chase him and make him come back!
The elders were stunned – two pre-school children recalling Bible stories and being able to fit them into a present day situation.   They said they learned two important facts that day:
1. Never underestimate the spiritual capacity of a child

2.  Do not bring children into a private meeting assuming they will not understand what is  said!