A few weeks ago, I read a Facebook thread complaining about the “state of our world.” Wars, violence, greed corruption. We create policies and host protests, write articles and share moving/inspiring/shocking pictures and Youtube videos on all the evils in the world, but I believe this focuses on the symptoms, not the cause. What if we focused instead on creating long-term change by getting involved in the lives of hurting, neglected, abused, and/or abandoned kids? What if we, as parents, were diligent about teaching love, generosity, compassion, and community involvement? What if we spent more time getting involved in the lives of people–one-on-one?
There’s an old saying, “Each one Reach One.” Imagine a church of 300 members. Imagine if each member found one person–a single mom, an addict or alcoholic, a troubled teen, a hurting child–to consistently and diligently reach out to. Now, say there are 20 churches in a community. Multiply this by 300. That’s 600 lives changed, only it doesn’t stop at those 600 lives. Each child and teen grows up to be a mommy or daddy or aunt or uncle who then impacts the next generation, who then impacts the next generation who then …. You get the idea.
After you read the following “Reach Out” story, I challenge you to spend a moment in prayer asking God whom He’d like you to reach out to. Not for a day, or a week, but who does God want you to pour into, on a consistent basis. Because the next generation depends on the one-on-one involvement of the church today.
“The police came to our house last night to get Daddy,” the little boy announced. “He hid in the back on the shelf in the closet and they didn’t find him!”
His eyes sparkled with triumph.
The report came during our opening moments at the Dunamis Academy, an after-school and summers program where I heard similar stories. Dunamis means supernatural power.
I started the program at our church daycare after retirement. A number of the elementary children in the class were Social Services children who didn’t attend our church.
When I had the idea for the after-school program, I was concerned about latch-key children because I’d written about them in my work as a daily newspaper reporter in Pueblo, Colo. I prayed about it and thought God would raise up a pastor with the vision to use the church’s empty spaces to reach youngsters who needed the gospel, bring the congregation’s children into deeper knowledge of the Word, and help children not doing well in school with tutoring. I hoped spiritually mature teenagers and other volunteers would help.
Then I spoke to the daycare director and she also caught the vision because the older children already enrolled in the daycare after school and summers needed something constructive to do.
The first summer the director taught the lower grades and I took upper elementary. We continued the program after school and summer for two years. We charged a nominal fee to children not enrolled in day care. There was no charge to students already enrolled.
Summers for three hours Monday through Thursday we sang, prayed, played, studied Bible stories, memorized scripture, did skits, saw object lessons, participated in discussion, listened to guest speakers, did crafts and learned how to operate puppets in ministry (the children’s pastor taught puppetry). Daycare children stayed for a leisurely afternoon.
On Fridays we went on all-day field trips to ministries in Colorado Springs to show children some of the ministries for which they could prepare. We watched a Christian radio missionary who was broadcasting the gospel around the world. We visited Focus on the Family. At David C. Cook we saw how artists create illustrations for their publications. We visited the Navigator’s castle and others. The next year we visited soup kitchens, homeless shelters and other charities in our city.
We had guest speakers, two I’d like to mention. The teenager emigrated from Africa, told about the differences in freedoms there and America and taught a song in Swahili: “Hold on to Jesus.” The other was a public high school teacher through playing a game called “Virus X” taught how quickly sexually transmitted diseases spread.
According to the last statistics I gathered, five million elementary-age U.S. children grow up with no supervision after school. Twenty-two million adolescents are unsupervised between 3 and 6 p.m. on a typical day, according to the U.S. Department of Health’s Child Care Bureau.
At the same time, thousands of large church buildings are unoccupied except for a few people working in the office.
Large numbers of America’s youth have never heard the gospel. The church is losing young people to secularism. Some churches have eliminated Christian education, thereby carelessly dropping their sterling silver youth down the garbage disposal. Churches that emphasize discipleship often have only a small percentage of children and youth receiving training.
The first summer of the Dunamis Academy, the two daycare assistants in my classes put the date they accepted Jesus as Savior during that time. Most of the children also invited Jesus into their hearts.
It was a great deal of work, but also gave great spiritual reward to me. If I were young again, I’d love to help establish more programs like it.
One note I’d like to add. Quite a few churches have after-school programs, but the ones I’ve seen don’t emphasize the gospel. We informed parents we would teach undenominational Bible classes and had them sign their permission. We didn’t have one parent opt out. In fact, we had great feedback, with parents coming to awards ceremonies.
I imagine they were like my dad when our family started going to church. He said, “Let them go. I heard they teach children to obey their parents.”
Ada’s Book, Swallowed by Life:
The book is about serious matters, but truths are introduced in an easy to read and interesting manner with faith-filled illustrations, quotes and anecdotes.
The book discusses the wonder of who we are, how we know we’re more than a body, how we determine truth about the eternal, the wonders of life itself, discoveries of regenerative medicine, the dying process and how brain death is determined, where we go at death and why we still will participate in the resurrection, along with what we will do in heaven.
Each chapter has a question and answer section for discussion or contemplation. The book is a good Bible study guide not only for grief support groups and those who have a serious chronic or terminal diagnosis, but also for those curious about the future, those who fear death, those who need their faith strengthened, people who don’t know Jesus, and individuals who give them counsel.
Ada Brownell is the Author of Swallowed by LIFE: Mysteries of Death, Resurrection and the Eternal. She is a free lance writer, former daily newspaper reporter, wife, mom and granny. Music has always been part of her life and erupts because of the joy Jesus gives.
We are to be Christ’s hands and feet, His instruments of love to a hurting world. Can you share a time when God called you to mentor or build a relationship with someone else? Or perhaps you were once a troubled youth whose life was changed by the consistent, positive interaction of someone else. Share your story with us and may we all spur one another on toward good deeds.
Leave a comment for a chance to win a free book, and submit your “Reach Out” story for a chance to win a gift basket.
April’s donors include Mary Ellis with An Amish Family Reunion, Deborah Raney with Almost Forever, Cara Putman with A Wedding Transpires on Mackinac Island, Vannetta Chapman with Falling to Pieces, Rebecca Lyles with Winds of Wyoming, and Gina Holmes with Dry as Rain. (Read more about all these great books here, and show your appreciating by clicking on their names to visit their websites.)
And for those of you who believe you’re too busy to get involved in someone else’s life, I challenge you to read this story. The Bible tells us anyone who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it, sins. Don’t put off until tomorrow what God’s calling you to do today. Tomorrow might be too late.