Every summer I'm excited to see the kids and teens arrive, the bonds form and everyone grow in Christ.
This summer children were nurtured academically, nutritionally and, probably most important, emotionally as they were supported by teens and adults in the community.
Each week the children picked out books in their reading level, read, discussed the story and visited with their mentor. After 40 minutes of reading, they moved onto games. Games sound fun, and they are, but as I've watched the kids play, I've also realized how important they are for building critical thinking skills. Sometimes the children haven't played many games before and in a game such as Chinese Checkers, we help them learn strategies, anticipate moves an opponent may make, etc.
Then we move into Chapel Time. I'm amazed every time - there's never a complaint as the time for games ends. The kids pick up and move into the circle. Ms. Nancy or Ms. Dee Dee share a story from the Bible, then ask the group their favorite part, where they are in the story and discuss how the story relates to them. In our third year, the returning youth volunteers readily offer ideas and new members start to share as well. It's amazing to watch them grow in Christ. One week we offered devotionals to anyone that wanted one. Two young boys eagerly jumped up to accept them. Prayer requests are shared and it's evident by the requests made this is a special time and everyone feels safe in sharing personal requests.
One unique aspect this summer was the bonds that formed between the youth that volunteered. They ranged in age from 7th - college freshman. As they waited for the children to arrive, they talked, shared concerns about the upcoming year, answered each others questions; each serving as a mentor to a younger teen as they shared experiences, advice and words of encouragement.
On the last day, we read, played games, talked, laughed, learned about the importance of prayer and talking with God, then ate and enjoyed a special treat of make your own sundaes. As the children left, in addition to the backpacks of snacks they're given each week (a little fuller this week) they were each given a bag to take home books and another bag with toilet paper, paper towels, toothbrushes and tooth paste.
As I watch relationships build I know He is present.