I'll start by saying that this weekend was full of so much joy, that it's hard to distinguish heaven and earth.
Our small group attends a community center where children gather on Friday nights for a Christian message, recreation, and a meal. It's called "Freedom Fire." There are roughly 30-50 children who come (more some weeks than others) to hear and to eat. Children's ages range from very young (2?) to teenagers. They walk, skate-board, or ride their bikes from their nearby homes in downtown Kansas City. Their's is not a life of luxury. They come barefooted, dirty (not all of them, but some are), and hungry for God's Word and some warm food.
Jason had gone before with Evan to play and to serve these children. He came back with funny stories of Evan shooting hoops with black boys who are 6 feet tall. That image is just funny when you see how scrawny and white Evan is.... I have hesitated to go until now, always using the all-s0-convenient excuse that it will be hard to serve these children and keep track of my own kids at the same time. I was even a little scared of what this downtown location (the 'hood') would be like: are there crazy people there? How about gang activity? Lame feelings. What a complete coward. Cowardly, especially since this is not like it's East St. Louis or something. Our friend, Kurt Geiger, shared a quote by a courageous man named CT Studd (who wouldn't be brave with a name like that?!). I remember thinking about that quote numerous times throughout the day on Friday, sort-of gearing myself up for the task of helping these people. Here's the quote:
"Christ’s call is to feed the hungry, not the full; to save the lost, not the stiff-necked…this can only be accomplished by a red-hot, unconventional, unfettered Holy Ghost religion…The fiery baptism of the Holy Spirit will change soft, sleek Christians into hot, lively heroes for Christ, who will advance and fight and die, but not mark time…Nail the colours to the mast!...To die is gain. Some wish to live within the sound of Church or Chapel bell; I want to run a Rescue Shop within a yard of hell."
Don't fool yourself to think that downtown Kansas City is anything close to the definition of hell. However, it is hell compared to the life of comfort and abundance of the suburbs.
It was nothing but pure joy to paint the little girls' finger nails (dirty as they could be!) and even their toes! Claire and Sophie jumped right in and "helped." We played play-doh with the little boys and watched the teenagers shoot hoops, play dance dance revolution, and jump-rope. One of the little girls, who was probably 5 years old carried Sophie around. Sophie is very picky about who looks at her, much less who touches her. She did let this little girl carry her around and saved her tears until the little girl put her down (it made me laugh!). There was another little one I wanted to sneak into our van and take her home with us. She was not a day older than 2 and sweet as can be. She and Sophie ran around together near the end of the evening. These kids know how to have fun. I was telling Jason that it amazes me how much fun they have at this community center on any given Friday night, while the people in our suburban neighborhood sit and watch TV on their couches in the air-conditioning. Stark difference.
At the end of the evening, when the kids were making their way outside to walk home, I caught a glimpse of Jason kneeling eye-level with a little bare-foot girl (in fact, the same one who carried Sophie around). He was telling her that he'd be back next week to see her and he'd bring her some candy (his pocket full of candy ran out quickly that evening). To say that my heart overflowed with PRIDE would be a major understatement. I can't express the amount of respect and love I feel for this man of mine who has transformed his heart to be more like Jesus. He has such a heart for these children and you can't help but notice his desire to be "the father to the fatherless."
What shocked me the most at the end of the evening was my driving desire to do this every single Friday night. I can't think of another place I'd rather be than serving these precious children. We will be going back this Friday and I intend on taking pictures to post. We'll see how far I get with that endeavor.