I’m sitting here, 7 AM Saturday morning, an empty room other than the babies and Josiah still asleep. Around the building I’ve heard a few stirrings of people headed to the shower or to pick up breakfast. In another hour the Shining Light Ministry Center will be a bustle as we get all of our stuff packed and clean the joint. It’s been a long week, and I think all of us are ready to sleep in our own bed, as opposed to an air mattress or a cot. But I can say this confidently, not a single person on the trip would tell you that it was a mistake or a bad idea coming here.
Last night we did our block party. On Tuesday, I ran to Jefferson City to pick up a trailer for this sort of thing provided by the Missouri Baptist Convention. Jim Breeden at the St. Louis Metro Baptist Association provided the funding so we could get the trailer. It was so cool! The trailer contained a bounce house, popcorn machine, all kinds of carnival games and a lot of other stuff. We added some of our own carnival games and had an all out party! Best guess was that we had between 130-150 kids plus about 20 parents (those numbers don’t include the 50 or so of us). We gave these kids all kinds of prizes including stuffed animals, toys, candy… The faces of the children demonstrated incredible joy, and we were so blessed.
What is beautiful about this trip is that the participants had the opportunity to see the Gospel at work. On Monday, the entire group was frustrated. The kids were out of control, angry, and incredibly difficult to manage. Many of us felt like giving up right then. But, as a group, we chose to love them with a gospel-like pursuing love. We chose to look past the behavior and see a child created in the image of God, and we gave them our love and offered relationship. By Wednesday the kids began loving back, and you could see the impact. Kids were happier, fights decreased, and kids began to respond to our rules and loving discipline. We all were a little bit afraid that the carnival would be mayhem, with kids trying to steal prizes, cut in line, and fight over stuff. What we found was the complete opposite. Kids were gracious, patient, and they had an incredible time… and so did we.
So here is the big picture. This is how God has chosen to love us. Gospel love does not choose to love the beautiful. We are not beautiful. Rather, it is the pursuing furious love of God that makes his people beautiful. In 2 Corinthians 5:14, Paul says that “the love of Christ compels us.” I think he is saying that when we realize that Christ loved us so much that he gave himself, not because we were deserving, rather, because we were completely undeserving. As we understand and receive this incredible love, that love changes us. This is what we saw this week. As we loved these children as Christ has loved us, they changed. And we found great joy in watching the children that we poured our love into find great happiness and enjoyment in our love. God gets great joy when we bask in the love of Jesus and we get incredible happiness in the midst of that love. I hope our group never forgets what Gospel love looks like.
One other note about our group, the construction crew was amazing. This week they dry-walled the entire kitchen, built a huge storage room inside the building (framing walls, dry-wall, etc.), and Leon Allen was on the metal roof the last two days in the 90+ degree heat repairing some problems there. Great job guys!