I can hardly believe that it's been a month since we left for our missions trip to Italy!
My, how this summer has flown! I've been promising stories. So here's one.
During the VBS days, we were divided into several teams and given assignments with the children. Each morning found the students rotating between four time blocks: crafts, games, snack/game, and Bible time.
Kristin taught the Bible lesson each day and the remainder of the team took turns manning the other blocks.
(Side note: Kristin was thrilled by how attentive the children were each day. On the final day, she gave a very clear call to the children. "Choosing to live for Christ is a serious matter," she said. "Each person must decide for themselves. Jesus chose to die for our sins. Do you choose to stand for Jesus?" Some responded quickly; others deliberated carefully. But with no further prompting, nearly every child stood! Ultimate JOY!)
The first day it was raining. This meant game time would be moved indoors! Have you ever tried to simultaneously keep a five year old safe and help him expend energy in a productive manner?!
Multiply that by 20. Now factor in age ranges from 5-12. Oh yes, not everyone speaks the same language. Now do that for three hours straight!
As the assignments were being made, I could tell no one really wanted to come up with indoor games. So I volunteered. And I immediately volunteered Cody Katina, the youngest man on our team! (I may be slow, but I ain't stupid!)
We ran relays and played rousing versions of musical chairs. We cheered like it was the Olympics. We rehearsed the craze phrase, "No matter what I see, God has a plan for me!"
When we dismissed the final rotation, we breathed a prayer of thanksgiving! We made it without a single casualty.
There was just enough time for a quick bag lunch. Then it was off to our afternoon assignments.
The next three days I was assigned to crafts and snacks. By Friday, the extreme heat was overwhelming Christina and Tom who had covered games for three days straight. So again, I volunteered for games. This time I was joined by Molly.
Now, you must understand that Molly and I are full of heart! We love people passionately! Even 5-12 year old, rowdy people! But there is absolutely nothing athletic about either of us! I mean NOTHING!
When I try to run, my girls cover their faces in shame! It really is that bad.
But the two most un-athletic people put their heads together and quickly came up with the ultimate obstacle course for this, the final day of VBS!
We had spoons and ping pong balls, jump ropes, and brooms for guiding beach balls. We positioned hoops for navigating and balloons to be carried between knees - quickly!
Please remember that we had nine different nationalities with these students. Vastly different levels of English comprehension. So the best way to explain the obstacle course was to demonstrate the obstacle course.
Guess who took that task?
Yep, Ms. Sheri. The highly dignified, quietly expressive, totally demur Southern Lady........ran, jumped, hopped and batted. All the while explaining (through an interpreter) what I was attempting to do.
I reached the end of each demonstration completely winded and soaking with sweat! (I know that's not a delicate picture but that's missions.) It was a miracle that I didn't trip and fall flat on my face.
After watching my flailing and fumbling, each child rose with confidence knowing they could at least do better at this than Ms. Sheri! We instructed them to cheer for their team mates!
"Ready! Set! Go!"
Two children exploded off the start line and twenty others began screaming enthusiastically!
Molly watched both sides carefully from the far end of the course making sure each obstacle was completed before clearing them to run back and tag the next participant.
An interpreter and I ran along with the children to make corrections or offer instruction. It was mayhem! But we were having a blast.
Just a few moments into the second game, something caught my attention from the side. A policeman was talking with a very agitated woman who kept pointing in our direction.
The church we worked with shares a piazza with several businesses and an apartment building. It seems the children had gotten too loud for a couple of the business owners. They promptly called the police.
The missionary had told us that this sometimes happens. The church does have the paperwork allowing them to use the piazza, but their "neighbors" don't share their vision for reaching children with the Good News.
Having uniformed officers watch over our proceedings with a wary eye made me nervous. But if we stopped, the children wouldn't get to play. So I ignored the waving arms of the business owners and the crossed arms of the police officers and lifted my own arms to cheer for the next runner. And the next.
Once the children had celebrated for the winning team and congratulated everyone for a race well run, we rehearsed our craze phrase again. Loudly. Slowly. Clearly.
In unison, the children's voices reached to every corner of the piazza, "No matter what I see, God has a plan for me!!"
Christianity is not welcomed in every part of our world; especially in Europe. Today's news is full of stories illustrating hatred for those who follow Christ in the Middle East and other regions.
Religion shouldn't be encouraged; I totally agree with that.
But a relationship with Christ offers true freedom; genuine love; faithful guidance for life.
And if me traveling halfway around the world to run in the piazza like a crazy lady helps even one child decide on a relationship with Christ, I'll do it again and again.
That child is worth it to the Father and to me!