A while back (I can't remember exactly when...I'm nowhere near as good with dates and time lines as I was in my younger days) our pastor preached a sermon encouraging us to be about Kingdom work. Now, I'll admit, when I first heard the sermon I was a little offended, as I felt like he kept making it seem that the only valuable Kingdom work were things you were doing outside the home. As a stay-at-home homeschooling mom, right now, about 98% of what I feel God has asked me to do is inside my home. So of course, I got a little perturbed by thought that my pastor was telling me that what I know is my calling is not Kingdom work. (Drama queen much!?!?!) Of course, those of you who know my pastor know that he would never say that because he absolutely doesn't believe that, so after some discussion with others and chatting with the pastor, it was clear that his intent was that if we never get the Gospel out of the walls of our homes and churches, we are not fully living out what Christ has called us to do. Yes, for most of us, our first mission field is the family that Christ has placed within our own home, but we can't just stay there.
I really had to think on this for awhile. To be honest, it takes pretty much all of my time, energy, focus, creativity, and attention just to be pouring into my kids every day. The thought of moving things beyond these walls was not only terrifying and overwhelming, it was tiring. How in the world do I have time to pour into my family and others, too. I was really struggling.
I am so thankful for the Godly and wise women He has placed in my life. One of these women truly helped me to see that, part of discipling my children is bringing them with me as I minister and serve others. I can't just let them hear about what I am doing, or watch from a distance, but they need to participate as well. So, I began to pray about what I could do to serve those outside my home in His name, but could also include my children. The Lord opened up several opportunities, that were very easy for me, when He led me to read Seven: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess with a friend. We were encouraged to start going without certain things in order help those who were truly in need. It was a way to live out Isaiah 58, a chapter God has used to really wreck me in the last 2 years. Then he lead me to Reading for Refugees through His Voice Global. What a great way for Sophie to really get involved in learning about the needs of others and doing a small part in meeting that need! We've also been able to send shoe pieces and needed supplies to Sole Hope through birthday parties, Family Quest, and again this year as part of our Easter celebration.
I was loving this! We were able to serve others alongside our children, while also teaching them God's word. It was great. But deep down, I knew this was not all that God was wanting me to do. This was just a small step to show me that is is possible to serve God in front of and with my children, but it wasn't deep enough. There was no stepping out of my comfort zone, it was really costing me nothing, and in all honesty, we had no "skin" in the game. Not that what we were doing wasn't important or what God wanted us to do, but I knew that He wanted us to do more, closer to home, and be more hands on.
I began, timidly, and well, almost unwillingly, to pray and ask God to show us how we could serve others right here in our own community. Not long after I began to pray about this, a couple in our church started a ministry to the children in the apartment complex across the street from the church. They were meeting each Wednesday after school to help the kids with homework, play games, teach the Bible, and take them over to dinner and Family Quest at church when they were done. As soon as I read the email, I knew this was what God wanted the kids and I to do, mainly because I couldn't come up with any plausible excuse why we couldn't help. We are always done with school by the time we would need to be there and it was the perfect way to include my children in serving others and learning how different life is for others, even here in our own little town.
When I said yes and we started helping with Afterschool Adventures, I had no idea how much I would fall in love with these kids! We have around 20 kids each week that come and hang out with us. Many of these kids had never read a Bible or heard a Bible story before they came to Afterschool. Now, they can answer just about any question about several different Bible stories, quote several different scriptures, and know that there are several people in their lives now who care about them and want to see them succeed. They know who Jesus is and why He came to earth. They know that He loves them and wants to have a relationship with them.
The Lord has also opened my eyes to the blessings He has given me as I look at the lives many of these children live. I can't even imagine living through even a fraction of the hardship many of these kids endure each day. This makes our time with them that much sweeter, to both them, and us. God is so good. I am so thankful that He answered my prayer this way. Both of my kids look forward to this time each week and I love to see the families that have stepped up to take these kids to Family Quest. (But we could always use more families to take kids, so if you are interested, let me know!!!!)
Lord, thank You for the sermon that started all this thinking. Thank You for laying this burden on my heart. Thank You for all the answers You've given in this area. Lord, continue to give wisdom and guidance as we work with these precious children. Show us how to serve them and love them as You do. Bring us those who want to walk alongside these sweet kids as we teach them Your Truth through Family Quest.
Thought I'd leave you with some pics of these amazing (precious, frustrating, hurting, loving....etc...) kids: