Tag Archives: Kids ministry

transformed.

During chapel last week, the speaker told the story of Paul–how he lived his life one way until the Lord grabbed him and turned him completely around.  If you’ve never read about him, check out the book of Acts.  His life is a prime example of the transforming power of the love of Jesus.

On this particular night, I sat in the back of the room with our kids and gave them some coloring pages in the hopes of keeping them relatively quiet.  In an attempt to get them learning about what their parents were hearing about, the pictures were all various scenes involving Paul in some way or another.  About halfway through the service, I looked over to see that several of the boys had used green markers to color in Paul’s face and hands.  I was confused…until I realized that they had crossed out the title of the picture and written in “The Incredible Hulk”.

I had to laugh, knowing that they didn’t really understand what they were coloring.  They had no idea who Paul was or why he’s important, so they turned him into a fictional superhero with some serious anger issues.

It is so interesting to me that that’s something that we begin to do at an early age.  I mean, isn’t it just like us to change something confusing into something we can more easily comprehend?

I find myself doing this often.  If I come across something that I am unfamiliar with, I try to fit it into what I already know.   One thing that is particularly difficult for me to grasp right now is grace.  Because I can’t quite wrap my mind around it, I find myself painting an inaccurate picture of what it means to be forgiven, of what it means to have the mercy of the Lord extended to me.

That’s a misconception that I run into a lot; I talk with women regularly who think that they are beyond redemption.  The concept of being given a clean slate is unfathomable to them.  They can’t understand how that could ever be possible, so they twist Jesus’ words and come to believe that those promises are for someone else more deserving, that there is certainly no way forgiveness would ever be offered to them.

They–rather, we–cheapen his grace and make it into something easier to understand.  Instead of viewing it as a complete restoration, we make grace out to be a quick fix, akin to throwing a fancy sheet over a ripped piece of furniture because company’s coming over.

That’s not what it is at all, though!  As broken as we are, we have to be made completely new. I love to think about how Jesus must delight in knowing that he gets to piece us back together and cover us with his sticky, messy grace.  It makes me think of glue, how it covers and holds together but usually makes it pretty evident to everyone looking on that something was once in need of fixing.

I’ve heard stories from women who have been rescued from years of drug abuse and prostitution, shame and self-loathing, destructive behaviors and thought patterns, and I am always amazed at how open they are about their pasts.  They spare no detail when talking about the things they were once involved in because they want it to be so obvious that they were able to overcome them solely by the grace of God.

Without Him, they would still be trapped.  Really, without Him, we are ALL bound up and enslaved to something.

It is only by His grace that we are freed, and we need to embrace that and continue to learn about what it means to truly be forgiven so we don’t keep living in such a way so as to suggest that we don’t know what the implications of that are.  And then, when we begin to recognize what it truly means to be forgiven, we need to share it with everyone we know.  Because why would we ever want to keep something like that to ourselves?

Advertisements

following blindly.

As I may have mentioned before (or maybe I just think about it a lot), I have mixed emotions when it comes to having kids here at the Mission.

I love when they crawl up onto my lap during chapel, I love seeing them run across the parking lot just so jazzed about everything, I even love having to tell them for the hundredth time to stop playing on the stairs.

They draw me pictures of their families, they tell me about everything that’s happening, they pretend like their hands are spiders to attempt to creep me out (it totally works.  every time.), they remind me to not take things too seriously.

When there are kids here, sticks become swords or lightsabers, the cracks in our parking lot become the only safe places to walk so we’re not swallowed up by lava, and everything just gets so much more exciting.

I love them.

At the same time, if they’re here, it means that they’re homeless.  It means that in their short lives, they have already known displacement and confusion and fear about the future.

It means they don’t have their own bed with Spiderman sheets or a kitchen table to sit around or a place to invite their friends to come hang out.  It means they stand in line for meals and attempt to do their homework in a room filled with everything their family owns.

When there are kids here, there is a heightened need to make this as safe a place as possible, it becomes even more obvious that one person’s choices can so easily affect others, and it seems as though reality sets in hard.

But these kids are survivors.

Through them, I am learning what it means to fully trust the Lord.  These kids have been through a lot, but they still believe that their parents want what’s best for them.  In some cases, they’re absolutely right.  In others, the parents don’t actually want that, or they do but they have no idea how to go about providing for or supporting their children.

Whatever the situation, most of these kids trust that this time will be the time that their moms or dads get it right.  They move forward blindly, recognizing that, for now, someone else is in charge of their life.  And they trust that whoever is leading will make the right decision.

The obvious difference here is that the Lord does, in fact, always make the right decision with regards to our lives.  Whether or not we think that’s true at the time, it always eventually becomes clear that what He thought was best was actually way better than what we were thinking.

And so, I am realizing that this blind trust that these kids have been modeling for me is what is necessary to follow Jesus.  He doesn’t always give us the plan ahead of time, he simply asks us to follow.

Stepping out in faith means we don’t always see where our feet are going.


you are safe here.

One of the things that is becoming more and more evident to me all the time is that the Lord works in mysterious ways to teach people important lessons.

Most recently I realized this through a crazy ball of energy disguised as a 4-year-old boy.  This kid wants to know about everyone and everything, and it is very apparent that he’s been raised in an environment that has attempted to suppress his curiosity.  After witnessing one of our interactions, his mom told me she could tell I didn’t have kids because I was so patient with her son.

One night at dinner, he and I were talking about something when he stopped mid-sentence, stood up on his chair, and asked me point-blank, “Do you love your job?”

I was taken aback, but I said yes, to which he responded with a nod and a sort of self-satisfied smirk as if he had already known how I was going to respond.

Later, he continued his interrogation with such questions as,  What color is your hair?, Am I eating a sucker?, What’s your name again?, and so on.

Before I could get overwhelmed, his mom looked up from her phone and said, “Don’t worry about responding to all of those.  He only asks questions that he already knows the answers to.”

Interesting.

Yesterday I was headed into my apartment when I learned that a woman had left a note on my desk.  This woman is one that I’ve mentioned before, the one with the sometimes-crazy hair and the questions about tax fraud (I still don’t know the answers).

The note, in part, said this:  “Now that Jessica has this note in her possession Please ask that they Please forward my reduced fare i.d. to the proper authorities due to the inability to have my own living environment stepped on by those that deem themselves qualified to yell and scream to people…Don’t go to the back!  Fair warning–Fare is fare.”

I’ve now read that note at least half a dozen times, and I still don’t understand what she’s asking me to do, but I recognize that she trusted me with something that she sees as valuable .

During this season of Lent, I have been spending time each day (or, more accurately, attempting to spend time each day) reading and meditating on the Psalms.  One thing that stood out to me immediately was the fact that the word “refuge” is used over and over.  It’s mentioned 19  times just in the first forty Psalms.  The Lord is a refuge for the oppressed, no one who takes refuge in Him will be condemned, blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him, and so on.

It feels as though I am constantly praying that Jesus would make my heart more like his, though the specifics of that are changing regularly based on circumstances.  These past few weeks, this has meant that I’ve been more specifically praying that, through my actions, people would see that the Lord is a refuge–a safe place, that people can trust Him and trust His followers.

It is not always easy for me to give off good first impressions (those of you who know me are probably not shocked by that admission), and so I have just been praying and asking God to change that, to change a fundamental part of me, knowing that it won’t be easy but that the end results will benefit every person who I encounter.

And honestly, I’ve been discouraged.  But this week, the Lord used a 4-year-old and a woman with schizophrenia to show me that He is, in fact, slowly (and oftentimes painfully) changing me,  and that He is refining me into someone transparent and trustworthy.

I am telling you this, in part, because I think sometimes it is easy to become frustrated when our prayers aren’t answered right away, or when we try so hard to change but it doesn’t seem as though anything is happening.  In those times, know that God is working, just not always in the ways you most expect or hope for.


pure joy.

The other night in 125, kids started coming in about 10 minutes early…not uncommon.  Upon entering, the first girl started yelling, “I love chapel! Chapel is my favorite thing here! It’s the only thing I love!”  This was followed by a long pause, and then, quieter: “Oh, I also love my mom.”

Good thing she has her priorities straight…

We gave the kids goldfish (the crackers. we’re crazy, but not that crazy) and they proceeded to put them in little piles on their carpet squares. Probably not the most sanitary place to put them, but who am I to judge, right…?  We currently have a 2-year-old staying with us, and he was not a fan of his own goldfish.  He looked disdainfully at his pile, and then walked around to everyone else and took a fish from all of them.  When any of them tried to stop him, he gave them this sideways glance, like “who are you to tell me that I can’t have this?”  That shut them down pretty quick.

These kids are hilarious. Some days I just want to write down everything that they do so that I can look back at it later when I’m feeling frustrated by their parents.

We teach mostly out of the Jesus Storybook Bible, because it is, in a word, fantastic. I really can’t say enough good things about it.  If you have kids, go buy it and read it to them.  If you don’t have kids, go buy it and read it to yourself.  Or someone else.

The reason that I chose this particular page for you to look at is, admittedly, because it was one that I could find online.  But it also encompasses a lot of what I want my kids (I’ve come to refer to every child who comes through the doors of 125 as mine) to know. I want them to know that they are lovely because God loves them, that they are God’s children, and that they are invited into a relationship with Him that is way better than anything they could ever have here on earth.

Sometimes we get to hang out with these kids for weeks, and sometimes we have them for only a day or two, but in that time I want it drilled into their little heads that they are LOVED.  Sometimes that means covering a table with shaving cream and letting them smear it everywhere (and I do mean everywhere. this was another didn’t-really-think-it-through moment).  Other times, it’s consoling a sobbing 17-month-old with some serious separation anxiety while helping a 5-year-old out of her coat and telling two other kids how much I love the pictures they’re drawing.

It is usually at those moments that it hits me:  this is what Jesus does for us.  He delights in seeing us laugh and love and play and just enjoy life.  And he does a way better job of it than I ever could.  He doesn’t grow weary of cleaning up messes and telling us again (and again!) that the things we have created are beautiful.  He will gladly pick us up when we are just so tired and wanting to go home.  He genuinely enjoys our company all of the time, and he is never too busy to listen.  Oh, that I could be a little more like that.


cool, thanks.

When thinking about planning for 125 (see previous entries if you don’t know what that is), I try to combine creativity and interactiveness (I think I might have just made that word up) with Bible lessons that the kids will remember for at least a day after we teach them. So, awhile ago, when we talked about Joseph being in prison, we cut out/colored paper bars to put on the window. This was hilarious to me until the next day when a 6-year-old told her mom that it was because, “all we did was learn about what it’s like to be in jail.” Clearly that was not as good of an idea as I originally thought…

People are funny.

Whenever a new person/family checks in, I try to assess how their stay here is going to be.  After almost 6 months, I am still only occasionally really good at this.  One of those times was last week, when a woman and her enormous fur coat  showed up at midnight.  When the policeman dropping her off described her as being “preachy”, that didn’t register in my half-asleep brain.  But within seconds of meeting her, I knew I was in for a real treat.  She began telling me all about how she was pregnant with twins because she was “the chosen one” and how she wouldn’t be able to sleep in a room near other women because they would try to steal “him” away from her.

Based on other things she said, I’m pretty sure she was talking about Jesus, but I didn’t know how to reasonably explain to her that Jesus is shareable (again, a word I possibly just invented).  She tried to convince me to let her sleep in the office beneath the Christmas tree because “He would like that. He loves Christmas, and trees.  Everything I say can be backed up by Scripture.”  At this point, I figured I could either ask her to show me where in the Bible it says that, or just give her a blanket and explain that I’d be unable to accommodate her wishes.  I chose the latter, at which point she said, “You’re lucky I don’t have my flaming sword right now.”

I’m not sure it was luck I was feeling at that moment…but I do know that I was real careful not to have my back to her from that point on.

A few days later, a woman staying here told me repeatedly that I’m “the nicest skinny person” she’s ever met.  I am never quite sure how to respond to comments like that, so I usually just laugh nervously and thank them questioningly (thanks…?).

But I mean, between that and not being hacked into bits by fiery weapons, I’d say I had a pretty darn good week.


bittersweet.

Last year I spent a lot of time praying that God would show me how to better empathize with people, and now I often regret that request!  Not really…but there are most certainly times when I wonder what the heck I was thinking.  Never before have I been able to fully comprehend the phrase “emotional roller coaster”.  One minute I am celebrating a new job with a family, and the next I’m trying to figure out what to say to the girl who just can’t seem to get her life together.

Then there are moments that are bittersweet. Last night a family moved into their new duplex, which was a Praise God moment for sure! But at the same time, I was so sad to see them go. In the short time that they were here, I grew so attached to their 5 little kids that I often found myself just waiting in my office for them to show up after school so that I could ask them about their day.

This cycle goes on, though. Sometime soon, another family will show up with kids who steal my heart by drawing me pictures and reminding me of the joy that can be found in the smallest things. And regardless of how long they’re here, or what their situation is, or how crazy they make me feel, I will try to love them like Jesus does. Because that’s the most important thing.

On a different note, some of you may know that one project that I’ve been working on is a little something I like to call 125. The more official name is kid’s chapel, but I prefer the simplicity that the number brings. Plus it’s the room number. Plus James 1:25 is a rockin’ verse…feel free to look it up!

Anyway, it is up and running as of October 6th, and it is going fantastically despite a lack of consistent volunteers. The kids love it (in fact, many of them show up 20 minutes before it starts and then tell their parents they never want to move out of the Mission…), they get to hear about what God wants to do in their lives, and those of us who are privileged enough to teach get to learn a lot, too! For example, before this week, I probably wouldn’t have been able to tell you that Naaman was the guy who got healed from leprosy by dipping himself in some scummy water.

One of the most interesting things about 125 is that most of the kids coming have no preconceived notions about what it should be like. We could give them dinosaur coloring sheets and they’d pretty much be set for life. Which, admittedly, is tempting when I haven’t had very much time to plan for whatever reason. I’m sure you’ll be pleased to know that I haven’t given into that temptation, and I don’t plan to! The fact that this is a new experience for them also means we get to tell them Bible stories for the first time, and that…they don’t always know what constitutes appropriate classroom behavior.  This often results in chaos.  Fun, frustrating chaos.  So if you’re coming up short on things to pray for, shoot up some prayers for these kids and all of us who get to work with them!