Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Give Thanks... day 12

Give thanks -    30 days of  gratitude...

Just over two years ago, our minister announced that there was a new volunteer opportunity for our teens and any adults who could come along as chaperones/co-volunteers.  He said that our little group would be going the following Thursday to Hope Central.   One of the moms asked me after the Sunday morning service, "What is Hope Central?"   I had no idea.  After consulting one other mom and her not knowing either, we went to our minister and asked.

He explained that Hope Central is a ministry located in a small house in an inner-city neighborhood of Knoxville.  The churches of Christ in the Knoxville area are working together in that place to minister to the needs of inner-city children and their families.  

The following Thursday afternoon, my sons and I showed up along with our minister, his two teenage sons, and  five to ten other teens.   Some of them painted an interior room of the house that first day while another group went next door to the church building and worked on a project there.  I spent  a bit of time chatting with the Executive Director about the ministry plans for Hope Central. 

The next Thursday we returned to the little house and we began to meet school age children from the surrounding neighborhood - elementary, middle, and high school students.   We soon fell into a routine of feeding them, tutoring those who needed or wanted it, a short Bible study time, and then fun and games outside.  Some weeks we had 20-25 kids and other weeks we had 3-5 kids.  

Somewhere along the way, we added a preschooler or two.  We switched days with another congregation last school year; this year we are back to ministering there on Thursday afternoons.  We sometimes have just one or two teen volunteers; sometimes we have so many teens, we are stepping on and over one another.  We mostly have fifteen to twenty-five neighborhood participants each week; but we have had as few as three.  Some weeks, we have a peace-filled afternoon when most everyone behaves appropriately; other days are filled with pandemonium.  

Our first year of ministry, I helped facilitate a mommies and babies class for young moms.  It was a six week class that lasted about eight weeks due to scheduling problems.  We talked about God and His plans and instructions for us as parents.  We learned baby massage; we talked about our husbands, partners, baby-daddies and the part they play (or don't play) in our and our children's lives.  We prepared a simple meal together and everyone got to take their supper home to share with their families.  We even arranged to have family photos taken just in time to gift our participants with them for Christmas that year. 

This school year and last year, I didn't attempt to repeat that class; I find I have my hands full with helping coordinate our food ministry each week and trying to get to know some of the families and minister to them in whatever ways they need- currently I am a prayer warrior for one family; another family I am helping with transportation issues to and from doctor appointments; helping to furnish and transport furnishings to the apartment of our full time extraordinary kitchen helper lady who found herself on her own again in midlife!   And of course, lots of hugs are given out,   encouraging words and "I love you" spoken (and occasional reminders of proper behavior), and loving with Jesus' love each day that I serve.  

I love helping these souls and have found that it truly is more blessed to give than to receive.  My prayer is for God to use me to show His love, His care in each situation that comes along.  It is sometimes a struggle to remember that I am to see these children (and their adults) the way God sees them and to remember Jesus' words,  

"Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these."  Matthew 19: 14

 It is apparent that God is using these children and families to grow each of us who serve them into His servants, His tools, and into the likeness of His Son, our Savior.  

Today I am grateful for Mrs. Veta, and her husband, who had the vision for this ministry and who made it come to life and invited all of us to come along beside her to keep it happening.  I am grateful for the growth of the program and the plans for the future; and I am grateful to and for all these precious children and families whom we serve who are sharing their lives with us and helping us to grow spiritually as our Father has called us to do.  Truly, we are blessed richly by this chance to offer hope in His name in that special little house.  

For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’                 Matthew 25: 35-40

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