Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Summertime, and the Livin' is BUSY!

By late March, most congregations have decided on their VBS theme. Teachers are recruited, the long list of needed supplies is posted, materials are ordered, and intense preparation begins. This yearly outreach spreads across the community, entering homes to capture the hearts of young children. They are drawn, through lively activities, Bible stories, crafts and snacks, into God's loving embrace.
From an early age, many of us have grown up learning about Moses and the burning bush and Daniel in the lions' den. We sat mesmerized as teachers recounted the feeding of the 5,000, Peter's angel-assisted escape from prison, and the glorious acount of the empty tomb.
Perhaps now, we may listen to such stories with a ho-hum attitude of familiarity. But at this time of year, may we consider our "Jerusalem" (Acts 1:8), where thousands of kids know nothing of these precious stories. If they hear the name of God or Jesus, it is a part of casual or cursing language.
May God awaken our hearts to this incredible mission opportunity, and support it through active participation, or if this isn't feasible, by our Spirit-led prayers. And may our congregations think outside the box; the church campus is not the only place to have an effective VBS. Consider bringing it to neighborhoods, YMCAs, apartment complexes and mobile home parks! VBS weeks on-site at church do draw in those outside the congregation, but many attendees are associated with the church. Not so with the off-site events; most will probably be non-churchgoers. (The photo I've included was taken at such a place.)
And why should kids have all the fun, anyway? What about a senior adult VBS at a retirement community? What other ministry/mission projects can touch lives of those who live on the streets you pass on the way to your place of worship? What ways can you incorporate children and teens into such projects?
"Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look at the fields, for they are already white for harvest!" (John 4:35)
Let's ask God to enable us to see our community with His searching, compassionate eyes, and pray for His vision to permeate it with His saving grace!
Best wishes from lefthandrightbrain:)

Fresh Peaches

(Photo taken at prayer garden at LifeWay Ridgecrest Conference Center)

Edith weighed in at about 85 pounds, and her age probably wasn’t too far below that. She was one of the first energetic seniors I met when I began a two-week volunteer stint at Ridgecrest Baptist Conference Center*. Upon learning that I had arrived by plane, she eagerly volunteered to take me along whenever she drove into town for needed items. Somehow, she learned my name wrong, and occasionally from behind me, I’d hear her calling, “Hey, Betty”, as she scurried to catch up, checking on me and telling me of excursions she had planned.

As schedules for our volunteer responsibilities varied, I wasn’t always able to take advantage of Edith’s transportation offers, but she didn’t forget about me. One afternoon as I walked down the hall to my room, I could see something on the floor by the door. As I approached, I found a huge, luscious fresh peach lying on a napkin. Later that evening, Edith sidled in next to me at dinner. “Betty, did you find the peach I left for you?” she asked, giving my arm a quick squeeze. She and some other volunteers had taken a trip to a nearby farmer’s market, and since the peaches looked so good, she decided to pick up some for her friends. Later that evening, as the copious sweet juice dripped down my chin, I savored the delicious fruit as well as thoughts of my tenderhearted new friend!

“Then the Lord said to him [Moses], ‘What is that in your hand?’” (Exodus 4:2)

“In Joppa there was a disciple named Tabitha (which, when translated, is Dorcas), who was
always doing good and helping the poor.” (Acts 9:36)

A peach - just one peach - but that simple act showed tender love and a desire to share, to brighten another’s day. Acts of kindness, so easy to do; they don’t have to cost much, nor need they be time-consuming to be valued. Even now, when I bite into a succulent, juicy peach, I recall Edith’s act of Christian caring, and pause to pray that I might have that same desire and willingness to serve others. Perhaps the “seeds” of the gospel can be spread through the seeds of some fresh fruit. “What is that in your hand?”

Related scriptures for further study: Galatians 5:22-25, Romans 12:9-13, Matthew 6:1-4, 2 Peter 1:3-8, Galatians 6:9-10

(*The facility is now known as LifeWay Ridgecrest Conference Center. It is nestled in the beautiful Smoky Mountains, not far from Asheville, NC. I wrote these devotional thoughts years ago when I first had the opportunity to experience the divine blessing of volunteering at the Center.)

Best wishes from lefthandrightbrain:)