In the last few weeks, it’s as if I have been transported to the balcony of the stone castle in the town of Arendelle in Frozen. I am standing outside in the starry night belting out (in the most beautiful voice ever) …”Into the Unknown." Of course, I wish I had the confidence and determination of Queen Elsa to go forward in today’s world. It’s a land of the unknown, filled with obstacles, challenges, and things we could never have imagined. Sort of like being in a movie, and it’s happening right in front of us every day…a slow-motion film of reality. Some stores are starting to open in some states, but with all new restrictions. Social distancing is everywhere we turn. New rules and guidelines every week…how do we proceed?
How do we move forward from here, into the unknown?
I am reminded of what Joshua must have felt like, standing there looking out over the Promised Land. Full of unknowns. Full of powerful people. People as big as giants (as described by the ones who went exploring, Numbers 13). Enemies that would have to be conquered for the Israelites to settle in this new land. Yet, Joshua and Caleb were the only two people who saw the future possibilities of the new land while others saw only obstacles. They placed their faith in God and said “If the LORD is pleased with us, he’ll bring us onto this land and give it to us. It is a land that’s full of milk and honey.” (Numbers 14: 8) Joshua chose to put his trust in God, despite all the fears and challenges that stood in his way.
For such a time as this, we can all be Joshua’s right now in our ministries. We can proceed forward and lead our ministry as we step out into this new world. This task takes a BIG step. It requires a willingness to step out on faith. Faith that God will be with us, no matter what! I am reminded of the science experiment we did during last year’s To Mars and Beyond VBS. The experiment demonstrated how faith overcomes fear. For the volcano project, we used a clear glass container, adding baking soda sprinkled inside representing our fears. The more vinegar that was poured in, the more the reaction exploded, lifting up and pushing baking soda out from the glass container. The more God is poured into our life, the more our fears are pushed out.
So, with a big breath and lots of prayer, we can move forward. We can get back to our ministry in whatever new form it will take. God will be right there guiding us through it. Discipleship, fellowship, service…the components of our ministry may look different, but we can get there. At our church, Bay Harbour United Methodist in League City, TX, our mission statement has always been to Love God, Love Others, Serve the World. Our pastor is an ardent believer in emphasizing that our church has never closed. Its ministry is alive and still living out our mission. Although it has taken on a very different form, we have continued and will continue to change as needed, counting on God to guide us at each turn and give us wisdom.
Ways We Are Meeting Needs
- We have adapted our Wednesday afternoon in-person Bible Club to be virtual over Zoom with sessions for each group of children. Instead of gathering as a large group on Sunday mornings, we have a 20-minute pre-recorded message, including a puppet skit, Bible Story reading, science experiment, songs, and video.
- Our fellowship events have changed from in-person scavenger hunts to online scavenger hunts. We organized a “Bear and Bible Hunt”, in which families would drive around neighborhoods looking for teddy bears with a Bible verse listed next to it. Children would open their Bibles and read the verse at each house.
- Our service projects have included Adopt-a-Senior and a food drive for our local food bank. The Adopt-a-Senior project has been one of our greatest outreach projects ever, matching a family with one of our seniors from church.
- Families call their senior once a week and also send a card or a coloring picture. This project is long-term and will continue long after Covid-19 is over…the isolation and loneliness of seniors is always present in our community. It has been heightened now more than ever with the severe restrictions in the senior living centers.
If only it hadn’t taken COVID-19 to get this started!
As things begin to open again, we all will have the opportunities to serve others in so many ways. I have always felt that service allows children the opportunity to put their faith into action. Sunday school lessons are best practiced through hands-on service, and part of my mission is to provide children with those opportunities to serve.
Here are a few ideas of service programs we did last summer:
- Care Corps: Children make meals for members of our congregation who have had significant life events (new baby), surgeries, severe illnesses, or physical limitations.
- Homeless Shelter: One of our greatest service projects last summer was to have children make gift bags with basic necessities for the homeless (socks, soap, toothbrush, toothpaste, granola bars, small water) and decorate these bags with Bible verses and our VBS stickers.
- Animal Shelter: Children enjoy making water bottle dog toys and small sock toys for the cats. Of course, the greatest part was the delivery and playing with the puppies and kittens at the shelter!
- Project Linus: Making fleece blankets for children and youth in the hospitals was an easy project for all ages, and very moving when we heard that several of our children had received one of these blankets when they had been in the hospital.
- Ronald McDonald House: One of our most meaningful experiences, a small group of children and parents went to this facility to interact with the patients and host craft, games, and Bingo parties.
Looking ahead, I see our church beginning to open its doors sometime this summer but we won’t know exactly when that will be for another few weeks.
The state where I live, Texas has somewhat reopened, but how will we provide in person church services? How will we do children’s church? How we will cleanup after every gathering and clean every place someone might touch? There are more questions than answers right now, but at each turn, asking God for wisdom and making the best decisions at each point in time, we will continue our ministry.
As we get ready to cross into this new ministry land, it will be important to engrave God’s words to Joshua on our hearts: “I’ve commanded you to be brave and strong, haven’t I? Don’t be alarmed or terrified, because the LORD is with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9)
Laurie Hembree is the Director of Children’s Ministries at Bay Harbour United Methodist Church in League City, TX.