I have already blogged before about the great evangelism of the VBS kids in the neighborhood. So excited to share the good news they did what we struggle to do- they simply but enthusiastically proclaimed, "Hey come with me- check it out! This is good stuff!" This past week I was given a chance to follow their lead and to continue to be inspired. Of the many people who flow through our office building's doors, I have had a couple of occasions now to see one woman- she called me this past week for prayer and to see how I was and to ask for another favor- though I think really one could say it was a prayer. Her son is about to start school in a district where they wear uniforms. Earlier this summer they had been homeless. Now they have a place here in the city, but with the new job they are still catching up and he needs uniforms. There is a uniform clothing bank but they are out of uniforms and helpfully told the recently homeless mom that she should have called sooner. He cannot go to school without a uniform. All of the other places she hoped could help cannot. He is already repeating a grade.
There are uniforms for sale at the Kmart. They are only seven dollars for the shirt and seven dollars for the pants. But even if he only has two that is $28 plus the bus fare to get there and back and what if they do not have them. And he needs a backpack. I have always loved the start of school and cannot imagine what it is like to be this 8 yr old boy. So I tell her I will check out what I can do. I go to the Kmart and get the last two pairs of pants and the last two shirts in his size. Having asked about colors for the backpack I find out he loves Spiderman. I manage to find a light-up Spiderman backpack.
I call her and tell her to come and to bring N, her son. They come and we meet in the chapel. We talk about school. I give him the uniforms and before I can give him the backpack, he tells me that today is his birthday. I tell him I have something special and give him the light-up Spiderman backpack and his face glows and he clutches it.
We talk about how he will walk to school and how he is worried about doing well. I offer that he can come and see me if he has homework questions or just to talk- any time. We talk about how no matter what he is worried about, Jesus is always with him. I learn he is related to the most recent shooting victim in the city and to a victim of a violent gang-related stabbing last year. We talk about how learning gives us choices beyond the street. We put a prayer card in his backpack and then we pray. I convince him to let go of the backpack long enough to hold my hand and his mother's- we pray for his time at school, giving thanks that no matter where we go or what we face, God is always there. I give thanks that they know that God is here in a caring place where they are loved.I silently am praying he will not be a statistic in the next ten years. I pray the new job lasts. I pray that the family stays together and this little boy feels loved. I pray in my heart that he can be an 8 yr old kid whose only focus is the light up Spiderman backpack- which by the way is REALLY cool. I pray each day.
On Sunday we have the Breakfast Fellowship, free breakfast for as many as 80 people. It is devotedly provided by a core group of dedicated laypeople who show great love and compassion. This past Sunday I was honored to lead the confession and forgiveness and the psalm and to offer the benediction. But before all of that, I experienced wonderful table time with a lot of people, from all walks of life, including 6 elementary school kids here with their uncle and father. Mostly boys, but one little girl who dressed up in a floral dress "Because it was church." One of the oldest boys told me he comes to the breakfast pretty often but he "made" the others come- he told them it was good to be here. They ate, they ran around, one or two decided to go to Sunday school and others took a bag of goodies "home." I give thanks they were here, they were fed and they smiled. I wonder how often they smile.
I also wonder on the other days of the week- how often do we reach out to others and tell them- You really need to be here? We all are needy in some way. In the midst of the kids I wonder who is the teacher and who is the student?