Colorful lights, music pumping, adrenaline rush, children from ages 5-10 swooping in with smiles on their faces, happy to be with those they feel safe with, ready for fun and action and a deeper lesson. Meaning. Purpose. This inner pull to share gifts with the world that only He can bring out.
Those words above are almost every Sunday morning for me at St. Luke’s Children’s Ministry. I am a teacher by trade, and an actor at heart. 7 years ago, I believe, I walked into a couples’ class that Pastor Dave was putting on, joined by friends and my husband of only a couple years at that point. I had yet to meet Jamalyn or Dave Williamson and I was greeted with a question from Jamalyn. “Are you a thespian?” A little giggle rippled through the other couples like the wave done at a sporting event. “Sure” I think I replied. And that was that. I had just been recruited to join a small cast in Children’s Ministry where I would become different characters, act out parts from the Bible or silly stories to model a virtue or lesson to our youth. What I didn’t know then was what these lessons, these messages from God, would become for me as well.
During my first few years doing this, I became very close with a small number of people involved. We had fun together, laughed, joked and polished each other’s craft in communicating a combination of humor, wit and seriousness for our audience of kindergartners through fourth graders and a sprinkling of adults that led their Sunday school classes. What I hadn’t seen coming was how this group would become an anchor for me as I went through my own personal hard times. Many Sundays I came to teach the children and ended up listening instead. What a clever God we have to use me as a messenger to deliver a message to my own soul. There have been many Sundays where I choke back tears as we get more serious and share the underlying virtue to the children. Oh how sweet and innocent they are.
St. Luke’s has become home again. I attended when I was younger, loving Vacation Bible School for the cute boys it brought me close to through the week and the friends I made along the way. My mom brought my sister and me almost every Sunday and I remember gaining courage to ask questions to my leaders about lessons we were learning about Jesus. As I grew a few years older, the soccer field became my temple as we traveled to tournaments all weekend and prayed to God we would beat the other team. Church life drifted away for a bit. In high school, bible study re-entered my life, but the feeling wasn’t quite the same. The new building construction made me feel uneasy and worldly when I thought we were supposed to be humble and not so flashy. I just didn’t understand then that we had to set out more chairs so we could reach more people and become a solid foundation for so many more listeners yearning for a place to call home.
As a married adult with young children, I want a safe place for my kids to call home as well. For them to learn about Jesus and right and wrong. To develop life-long virtues to become good people. To be lovers of people, to be loving and kind, courageous and brave. I’ve played Mary in the live nativity with my middle daughter Hadley as Jesus at just 2 months old. My husband, not as into the whole acting thing as I am, played “God” as he hid behind the scenes and held Jesus, aka Hadley, until it was time for Mary to give birth. It was funny to me as he was the true father of Hadley, and unseen, as the true father of Jesus was also hidden and unseen.
My three children now have a place to grow up in as well. You can tell how safe they feel as they race into the doors, quick to find Heather or Caroline and give them an overwhelming hug. As they race through the halls and find donuts and juice each Sunday. They pretty much act as if they own the place. It’s quite comforting in fact.
All this rambling just leads me to “coming home.” This church has been with me since I was young. I have gone away and back to it many times, yet here it has stood. As a symbol to me of how your life may bring you closer to God, and life may take you farther from him, but he will always be waiting for you, never gone from your side, just waiting for you to come home.