This is a lazy morning. Soon the girls will clean their room and I will begin to tackle housework, but after a few pancakes we decide to watch cartoons for a bit.
The past 3 days have been amazing and exhausting! We had kid’s camp at our church and it was full speed ahead 8:30-3:30 each day. Understand that when I use words such as “amazing” and “exhausting,” I truly mean them! From the first Sunday my husband and I visited our church, over five years ago, we were blown away by the obvious efforts and excellence poured into the children’s ministry. We soon came to realize this was not just in children’s ministry but is the heart of our Pastor. I am so very thankful for my church. I am thankful for my Pastor and his wife…for how “real” they are and how they truly have a heart to provide “real hope for real people in a real world.” I am very thankful for the passionate hearts of the ministry staff as well as the volunteers and leaders. No doubt, every church is filled with humans and humans aren’t perfect! But having my family plugged into a church body that reaches out to the lost and hurting with overwhelming energy and effort….with fresh, Holy Spirit led ideas, exciting events and most importantly a “come as you are” attitude is quite meaningful.
As God has moved me from one area of serving to another over the past 5 years, I have had the opportunity to meet some really wonderful people. Not perfect people. Wonderful. See, the reality that we can come together, love God and reach out to others without having arrived at perfection is so inviting. So often in church-world we feel like we must perform and conceal our struggles. Sadly, I know many people who bid church-world good-bye because they were judged instead of loved. When they came up against hardship or struggle, they didn’t experience a church family who asked “what can we do?” They encountered “what have you done?”
I love our church. I love the people there. I don’t wear rose-colored glasses nor do I expect people to be perfect because we are inside church walls. What I love is the heart and passion for Jesus in so many of the volunteers, leaders and staff. I love that people come in, a hot mess, and respond to the love and acceptance they find. I love that soon you’ll see them making decisions to follow Jesus, be baptized and before long they’ll be serving on a ministry team. It happens over and over and over. See, over the past 3 days of kid’s camp I was so touched and inspired to see the volunteers, who already serve every week in children’s ministry, commit to 3 full days of camp. I was inspired to realize many of them took vacation days from work so they could serve the children and families during camp. I know many of the families didn’t necessarily have the extra money to pay for camp, but their children were still able to attend. This happens because of the generosity of those able to give over and above what meets their needs only.
As I walked my ever-growing, pregnant self up and down the halls, I took in the sights. Children wearing the color that represented their team and adults with hair sprayed the matching color, preschoolers having their turn jumping in bouncy houses, all kinds of silly games being played, live worship, skits and lessons from the Bible in large group, children gathered round tables in small group with their leaders going a bit more in-depth about the large group lesson, lunch, snacks and snowballs being eagerly consumed and so much more. By the end of each day we were all ready to go home and rest, but I believe those who served knew the impact of what we were doing and that is why there was such passion.
What is the worth? I mean, it’s just kid’s camp, right? Let me share with you the worth of our experience in being plugged into a life-giving church that goes all out in every way to reach others…including the youngest among us. My oldest daughter, almost seven, came home on the first day with these words: “Camp was awesome!!!!” And all three mornings she talked of how she wished camp would last longer. She made new friends and was able to get to know others better. She laughed and had many funny stories to tell of leaders with whipped cream pies in their faces as well as singing the theme song “Chase the Light.” Most importantly, I watched my daughter take her little pink Bible to bed with a miniature flashlight she received at camp so she could read her Bible in bed. I read the words she wrote as a prayer request on an index card now tucked snugly in her Bible. She explained that every time she opens her Bible and sees the card she will remember to believe and thank God for answering her prayer.
As we collapsed on the couch last night I asked Rivers what is one thing she would remember most that she learned at camp. Her response: “We learned about misfits. There was a woman named Mary, not Jesus’ mother but another Mary. She had a lot of sin, but God still choosed her! Mary was the first one at the tomb after Jesus arised from the dead and she was the first one to know!” Even now my eyes sting. My sweet girl was talking about Mary Magdalene….a woman demon-afflicted with a sketchy past who had been delivered and forever changed because Jesus loved her anyway. She was absolutely a “misfit.” But just as Rivers described with such enthusiasm, God “choosed” her anyway! Our God most certainly chooses the down and out, the forsaken, the absolutely “real people” of the world. And then what you see is passion and devotion explode in their lives. Why? Because unlike so many of us, they have no preconceived notion they have earned their way with religious performance, they are completely in touch and aware of the weight of sin they carry, they absolutely know the taste of rejection and judgement and so when they are offered grace, forgiveness, genuine care and Jesus-love they become sponges. When you squeeze them you feel the overflow of their passion and gratitude.
I have been inspired this week. Even more, I felt deep gratitude in my own heart…a fresh realization not to take for granted the powerful effects of a church body with the heart to reach out to all people, most especially the “misfits.” Because really, we are all misfits until we find ourselves snugly situated in the palm of His hand.
How overwhelmingly wonderful for my young daughter to begin to grasp this truth now, in the midst of games and laughter and yummy snowballs. I smile because I so believe this is what it’s all about…