Sunday morning Pastor Russ spoke about the "communion of saints" line in the Apostle's Creed. (Baptist readers: please don't condemn me because I go to a creedal church...). One of the things he mentioned was that Christian life is like breathing. Going to church (physically) is breathing in. Going out into the world and being the church is breathing out. You need both. You can't just breathe in and you can't just breathe out. There needs to be a balance between the two. I completely agree.
Later he said something else I'd never really thought about before. He called parents volunteers. He supported that idea by saying they've volunteered their time and gas money to get their children to and from activities. They coordinate carpool, snacks, and game schedules... They're the volunteers that get the least amount of credit. Sunday night I got to see that idea in action.
There's a group of middle school girls currently a part of our confirmation class. As a class they sponsor me through an adopt a college kid ministry. Basically this means they send me packages periodically, I send them cards, and I visit them when I'm in town. I'm in town, so Sunday night I paid them a visit.
In case you've never spent time with eight 7th grade girls: they are crazy. To top it off, this was their end of the year party, so we had a chocolate fountain in class. BIG MESS, BIG MESS!
Yes, there was chocolate everywhere. As we were cleaning it up, I asked the leader how she was going to go about cleaning it. She explained she'd used the same fountain with her son's Sunday School class that morning, and she just let it sit in the sink all afternoon. Here I was thinking about how I never wanted to clean a chocolate fountain and she did it twice... today.
After the girls left, she was telling me some of their stories. Mind you, this is a middle class, primarily-white, suburban church. Well, a lot of the students in her group came from single parent/ divorced homes. Most of them weren't just a "it is what it is" situation but rather there was baggage. A "Mom died six days after she was told she had two months to live" story. A "Dad's got a girlfriend abroad and spends most of his time there but also has primary custody of the kids." The ones that have two parents have heart-breaking stories, too. "Her brother died in the military." "Mom had the primary income, but then she lost her job, so they're living on Dad's part-time salary."
On the surface, these are average middle school girls who enjoy chocolate a bit too much, spend all summer in the swimming pool, and can't wait to go to camp. When you look a little deeper, they've all got stories that will break your heart.
"I'm just trying to make a difference," the leader said. She explained most of them are not in church other than confirmation class, so she struggles to find the balance between fun and teaching about God. "This may be their only opportunity to hear His word; that's a big responsibility on me," she explained, maybe not orally, but I heard it. "I've been trying so hard to reach this one girl, and I just can't seem to get through."
I told her I'd pray for her. And I did. All the way home. Those girls' stories tug on my heart-strings, and that woman's obedience to God's call and willingness to do what's right. She's an everyday, unsung hero. She's the kind of woman I want to be when I grow up, even if it means I have to clean a chocolate fountain twice in one day. As soon as I wrote that sentence, a little voice in my head said, "Why wait?" Why wait to be obedient and willing to volunteer your time, energy, and gas? So I ask you, why wait?
But this blog isn't about you and me. It's about this the volunteering that often goes unnoticed.
Parents, thank you for volunteering your time and making a difference, not just in the lives of your youngsters but also in the lives of their friends. With your kids, you can see your impact. With their friends, it's hard to see the fruits of your labor, but they're ripening. Somewhere.