Sunday afternoon I returned from Anchorage after about 18 hours of travel. When I put on my sneakers yesterday, Alaska had left an imprint on their soles. It also left an imprint on my soul.
I went because Jesus said “go.” I could have said “no”: No, I’m seriously asthmatic. No, I have celiac disease. No, I’m self-employed. But as you know by now, I’m a no-excuses girl because I serve a no-excuses God. Besides, I’ve always loved playing Follow the Leader.
“Go, therefore, and make disciples of every nation, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, and teaching everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” – Matthew 28:19-20
Though they don’t look like me as a child, the children of Anchorage are very much like I was: lower-income, abused, forgotten and with way more life experience than any children should have. They have trust issues. They’re transient. They’re bounced around like super balls from parent to parent or from foster home to foster home. Upheaval is the one constant in their lives.
So our church partnered with an organization called GraceWorks, which has a killer model for ministry: 10 weeks of afternoon Bible clubs and evening park parties every summer at designated park locations, with follow-up by staff for those who make decisions for Christ. Children are fed lunch (which is their first meal of the day in the land of the midnight sun), and then they’re invited to participate in teaching time and recreation led by a different group each week.
Now, this may sound frenetic to some – a different group teaching every week – but the model works beautifully. One team builds upon the foundation established by the previous ones. Having multiple people express the same message in different ways actually reinforces the truth. Kids think, “Hmmm. She said what that guy said last week and that other lady said two weeks ago. Maybe there’s something to this.”
And then they see there is, in fact, something to it.
“By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you love one another.” – John 13:35
We loved them. We loved them by feeding them, by teaching them, by listening to them and by praying for them, by observing them, by crying over them and by drying their tears.
Four children committed their lives to Christ last week. Others are closer to making a decision. Still others are being strengthened and challenged in their faith. I truly believe the rest are being convicted of sin, righteousness and judgment.
I will continue to love our kids from thousands of miles and four time zones away. Lord willing, I’ll be back. Regardless, I leave the work in good hands.
“. . . being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” – Philippians 1:6