Fridays have easily been my favorite day of the week this summer. And not because it's the end of the work week - but because it's when I get to watch God at work and spend time with the children we serve and the teen and adult volunteers that support them. God is amazing!
This week as one child climbed out of her car, she told me her family had a Thank you gift for the church. The car was old, the front bumper was completely missing. I'm honestly not sure how it was running. She reached back into the car and pulled out a painting of a beautiful tree and handed it to me. I felt bad that she was giving us something. But also in awe knowing out of the little she had, she wanted to express her gratitude. I was humbled by her generosity.
As the kids came in, they quickly and excitedly found their reading partner and settled into read. But this week was different. Knowing it was the last time they'd see each other for the summer, the children and volunteers spent more time talking than reading. It was inspiring to look around the room and observe the bonds that have formed. While reading has been important and skills have been enhanced, the true difference has come from knowing someone is there waiting for you and spending time with one another each week.
After 45 mins. of reading, talking and visiting we closed the books and transitioned to Chapel Time. I overheard one boy explain to his younger brother (who hadn’t been able to come previously) “This is when we talk about God.”
At the beginning of the summer, when we’d gather in a circle for Chapel Time, the kids were quiet, shy to speak and slow to share. But over the summer they’ve opened up. No longer do the majority pass or quietly whisper when it’s their turn to answer a question. Now they open up and often smile or laugh as they share a thought or later when we close a prayer request or joy; sharing praises for birthdays, safety and new jobs as well as concerns for family members.
As the children moved from Chapel Time to lunch in Fellowship Hall, we gave each a
small gift. At the end of the school year, a few restaurants placed donation collection jars on their counters to help provide food to the children. Since the church provided lunch and food for the backpacks each week, we waited until the last week to use the $45 collected and gave each child a gift of a fresh apple, orange and a beautiful book of Bible verses one of the adults volunteered to make for the children.
After lunch another surprise was waiting for them. Lick Ice Cream had donated ice cream to give to the children and volunteers the last day. There were excited smiles and delighted giggles as they got back in line after lunch. One young boy exclaimed “This is the best day ever!” And another youth told me it was the first ice cream she’d had in two years.
Knowing it was the last time we’d meet this summer, it was hard to see the day draw toa close. Warm hugs were exchanged as the children and youth reluctantly said good-bye. I’m in awe that a consistent question on Friday was "You'll be back next year?"