If I had to put a scripture passage to the events of this weekend, it would be 1 Corinthians 12. I spent Friday evening and all day Saturday as one of 3 site coordinators at the Civic Center for Bartow Give a Kid a Chance. This program is in its 4th year in Bartow County, and has the goal to provide every child going back to school with basic supplies, new clothes, a backpack, eye exam, hearing screening, haircut and dental screening. This article explains the program more fully.
It started for me back in January, when I thought I was going to a planning meeting for the Backpack Buddies program, which provides lunches for children on the weekends. Well, that meeting segued into a meeting for Give a Kid a Chance, and I was hooked. The Mission and Witness Committee at church sponsored our Christ the Apple Tree program this summer to solicit donations of supplies and funds, and this weekend it all came together.
I took a moment in the midst of the chaos of 700 children being served to just watch the volunteers. They greeted families and found their forms and tickets. They passed out supplies and clothes and backpacks. One saint checked every child who got a haircut (over 250 I think) for head-lice. One volunteer spent most of the day giving hearing screenings. Hairdressers cut hair and dentists checked teeth and in the kitchen an army made 400 peanut butter and jelly sandwiches to put in lunches. Everyone had a part to play, and without them, the day would not have been a success. Had the dentists cut hair or the vision people checked teeth, it would not have worked. But everyone did their small part and together we changed the start of the school year for these kids.
I found myself overcome with gratitude at the end of the day. Gratitude to God, who has walked with us every step of the way. The funding came in the amount we needed to serve the children registered. I was grateful to those God called to write checks, no matter how small, to purchase the un-donated supplies, all the backpacks and clothes and food. My gratitude extended to the ways God provided folks to pay for t-shirts and lunch for the volunteers so they could have a positive experience. God supplied a text message from the grocery store “do you need anything” at the moment we realized we were going to have to make sandwiches since the ones we ordered would not arrive. And if you did not see God in the faces of the volunteers, children, and families, you were not looking for it. God was in conversations I has with colleagues, who have me convinced this community can do almost anything (next up — end homelessness – who is in?), and in the tears of a little boy crying because he lost his lunch ticket – his brother gave him his lunch (and we got the brother another one). The whole time he was crying, he was holding the straps of his backpack, running them through his fingers — like kids do with tags for comfort.
As I continue to reflect today, I am just so thankful that this is my job – -to get to see God at work, and then tell people about it. To get to bring people out of their comfort zones to get their hands dirty (covered in Peanut butter!) to serve in the name of Christ. This has been a month of hearing God call me to help our church serve and then following that call and seeing the blessings that come from it. Each of us has a part to play in the mission of God in the world. For those of you who played a part, no matter how small, thank you. We could not have done it without every check, sponsorship, volunteer, and task completed. Thank you for hearing God’s call and answering it. Thank you for caring for the children of our community.