New Beginnings Community Church is in its third year of holding a childrenâ€™s summer program. Members of the congregation have noticed the lack of activities for the children in their community and set out to make a difference. They set out to have a day camp, providing lunch, bible lessons, and plenty of arts and crafts. I have been truly blessed to have been a part of this ministry for the past three years, through the ups and the downs.
One of my favorite experiences over the past three years occurred this summer. A small girl named Precious gets picked up by her dad everyday. One day, as the children were all sitting at the table ready to go home, her dad opened the door like a knight-in-shinning-armor coming to rescue her. She looked up at him and began to smile as she shouted, â€œDaddy!â€ By now anyone could see how much of a daddyâ€™s girl she really was. He stepped into the room and gave her a big hug. She then quickly gathered her things and got ready to go. I watched them as they held hands and went out the door. Just before they left my sight, I could hear her say, â€œWe had fun today at camp.â€ It was then that I realized why her name is Precious. And it was then that I realized why I got out of bed that morning.
Working or volunteering in childrenâ€™s ministry is not always easy. The days begin to seem longer. Sometimes, I missed out on all the arts and crafts, and always end up eating last. In fact, sometimes I’ve wanted just to stay home and sleep in. It is on these days when I am often reminded of the boys and girls who depend on me to have camp. Who will take time out to play, listen, and give attention to them if I donâ€™t?
Unlike last summer, I encountered more and more off-the-cuff questions, which often catch me off guard. I wonder if they save them just for me to answer.
The first question came care of Krista Ehst, who was volunteering for the day and wanted to eat a bowl of cereal instead of â€” the planned â€” chicken nuggets for lunch. It never occurred to me that a volunteer may have certain dietary needs. None of our meals were planned for vegetarians. I used this opportunity to have her explain what a vegetarian is and about her choice to become one. Most of the children accepted her answer and responded by saying that they had never met anyone who was a vegetarian before. They even wondered if any of our other volunteers were vegetarians.
The very next day, a ten-year-old asked me why we call God a male and could â€œHeâ€ actually be a female? I paused and allowed another counselor to answer. Even though the child could not focus his attention long enough for the answer, he was given one.
Then another question popped up a week later when someone asked if we can be friends with Muslims or people of different religions. Now it was my turn to answer. Honestly, I answered, it can be hard but it is possible. The only response I could share was through my own personal experience. I told the 12 year old that one of the most important things to do is pray for her friend. The next thing is to be a good example of a Christian for her. There will be times were both of you will disagree, but one must continue to be strong in what one’s believe.
It is in sharing our situations and questions that we all benefit from the answers. It could be something that I have gone through already that may help my brother or sister sitting next to me. To begin this type of communication I must be available to listen. In the end, Iâ€™m glad that they feel comfortable in asking and challenging me with their questions, whether or not they always wait for an answer. Most of all, being there to give them an answer back makes me joyful and keeps me on my toes.
Felicia Moore is a member of New Beginnings Community Church in Bristol, PA. She’s a junior at Indiana University of Pennsylvania serving through the Ministry Inquiry Program at her home church funded partially by a grant from Eastern Mennonite Seminary.
Photos by Krista Ehst