All summer a small group of us have been holding a kids ministry on Saturdays at Barberry. For an hour before it starts we jog up and down the apartment steps letting the residence know what we're doing. This is the kid round up time. We then set up a few things on the grassy area by the mail boxes; a card table, bubbles, coloring books, beach balls, etc. We also have a huge parachute which has become the icon of the kids ministry. Everyone loves the parachute and begs to open it.
The most loved game is called shark. The kids taught me this. We all sit down in a circle with our legs under the parachute and shake it as hard as we can. Under the parachute several kids, "sharks," crawl around looking for legs to pull under. This is one of my favorite aspects of being a leader. You're the one they always attack. You never stay dry in any water fight and you definitely never wonder if a shark will take you under. I feel some little hands grab my ankles and I yell for the life guards. They love this. I love this.
After we exhaust them in play we sit down on a blanket or on top the parachute. This is the reason we are here. We pull out pictures and Bibles and begin telling them stories about God. We tell them about creation; who made the clouds in the sky, the grass we sit on, and the neighbors cat. We talk to them about sin, forgiveness, and a man up on a cross. We emphasize this great love of God. I have stopped feeling so shocked at their questions. We ask them, "Who wants to pray?" There hands shoot up. When I call on one he looks away shyly saying he never has before and doesn't know how.
Back when I started this ministry I did it because God laid it on my heart. It was not because I especially liked kids. Actually, I regularly told people I was "not a kids person." How do you interact with a kid? I hated baby talk. Plus I reasoned, you cannot have an intellectual conversation about politics with a five year old. But I have learned, when God tells you to do something, you just do it. The day after our first event someone at church asked me how it went. I started crying. I was the leader and I felt so...inadequate.
These days I hear squeals when I come, doors burst open, and joy explodes across faces. They run to me jumping up and down and hugging my legs. They sit on my lap and trace my face. The quieter ones look up at me and slide their tiny hands into mine. It took time, and a persistent willingness to obey the Lord, for my heart to catch up with my actions. But it did. All over my thoughts, all over my life, I find their footprints.
Last Saturday a mother came up to me asking questions. When I told her it was over in two weeks she looked so disappointed. I explained I was taking 6 weeks off then was hoping to start it again as an after school event. She looked around Barberry. "We're moving in a week. I don't want my boys to grow up here." She explained why; the fights, the drugs, etc. Then she looked at me, "Can I bring them back? I'd do that. I take them to church you know. I want my boys here."
Lately after the story time the older kids have been staying. While the others jump up and play they stay asking questions about God, leaning in, listening, drinking in the Words of God. Cylent is around 11 or 12. He stayed for a long time last week wanting to understand about forgiveness. He was ready, wanting, hungry. We prayed with him. He asked God to forgive him for all the things he'd done that he knew were wrong. He asked God to come into his life and make him new. He asked God to help him walk down the right path. The path of life.
It was amazing.
This is why God called me to stay. I'll continue school here while dwelling in the place he's set on my heart. This broken loved place.