KidServe 2014: Take a dozen or more kids, ages 10 and under, and see what big things little people can do in our community every week for one summer.
Our initial mission, simple as it sounds, was just to get kids out of their own world for the summer and see how many blessings they could pour out into our community, our church, and even our own families. Even though they are small, they are not limited from the great power that God has entrusted to all of us, to share His light and love with the world. While we wanted the kids to enjoy their summer break, we also wanted to make them aware of the needs around us and the blessings we can receive when we step out to meet those needs, in turn, blessing others through giving our time and our service.
As the weeks progressed, one verse kept coming back to us, and this really described what we envisioned for this group:
“In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’” —Acts 20:35 (ESV)
Our first week we made journals so that the kids could remember our Bible verses and write about their experiences each week. We talked about Love>Fear and our goal to build community with each other as we serve the community around us.
That Bible verse was, 1 John 4:18: “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.”
The kids were amazing, focused, and determined to get every piece of trash they could. Two kids alone counted 113 cigarettes they picked up, other interesting items that kept them talking were beer bottles/cans and—the topper—a couple of diapers, full and heavy. They even crossed the creek to get plastic bottles and milk jugs out of the water! It was a great day and inspiring to watch the kids in action. They gained a new awareness of how much garbage is all around us and the part they can play in picking it up whenever they can!
Our Bible verses that week were:
- Genesis 1:1: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”
- Genesis 2:15: “The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.”
- Proverbs 12:10: “The righteous care for the needs of their animals, but the kindest acts of the wicked are cruel.”
The following service day was spent at Fort Loudoun, touring the fort but focusing our time on wounded soldiers. Our guest was Ed Junod, he leads the veterans’ group started at the Maryville Vineyard and is trying to connect veterans through churches in the area.
Ed spoke with the kids about how much it means to veterans, especially those who have been wounded, to receive correspondence of thanks and appreciation. He talked of a vet they connected with in Pennsylvania, who was only given a month to live; but, after corresponding with the Junods, made it another two years. Ed was able to meet up with this man a month before he died, and expressed the joy he felt seeing this man’s face light up with delight, from a simple act of reaching out.
The kids then spent time creating cards for the soldiers in our area, to encourage, thank, and show God’s love for their lives, for their service and for their sacrifice. It was a beautiful morning, and the kids seemed to really appreciate Ed’s stories, his pictures, and their time being able to say “Thank you!” to our soldiers.
Their Bible verses for Love>Circumstances were:
- Mark 10:44-45: “…and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
- Acts 20:35: “In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”
And a quote from Mother Teresa:
“Prayer in action is love, and love in action is service. Try to give unconditionally whatever a person needs in the moment. The point is to do something, however small, and show you care through your actions by giving your time… We are all God’s children so it is important to share His gifts. Do not worry about why problems exist in the world—just respond to people’s needs…We feel what we are doing is just a drop in the ocean, but that ocean would be less without that drop.”
This yard work project was a little different for the kids because it was in direct service to someone within our own church. Having met with the homeowner in advance, our primary goals were to trim hedges around the edge of the yard and clean gutters on the roof of the garage.
When we arrived, it was obvious the kids couldn’t be directly involved with those projects, so we suggested they pick up sticks and other debris that might be in the way for mowers coming the following day. They got right to work, while the adults worked on gutters and directing the kids. To our surprise, the kids didn’t want to stop there and asked for brooms to sweep the porch and clear the walk leading to the back door. We also decided, after cleaning garage gutters, to power wash the sides of the garage.
It was a hot day, with no breeze and the sun beating down on us, but we were so rewarded to look around at the end of our labor and see the difference we had made. What a feeling of accomplishment, and even better to receive feedback from the owner who immediately noticed the additional tasks we had done! These kids are just awesome, and their hearts seemed to open up more and more every week with every opportunity they had to serve others (and getting to play in the water from the power washer didn’t hurt either)!
Our Bible verse that week was Colossians 3:23-24: “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.”
It was slow going at first, while the kids washed a few of our cars and some from the church staff, but we eventually pulled in some cars off the street. And, boy, were they surprised when “Free Car Wash” really meant FREE! As they tried to give us money, you could see the confusion on their faces; but as we explained that our goal was to simply serve without receiving anything in return, we were thanked several times for what they could see we were teaching our kids.
It was obvious to those cars that stopped and intended to give that they were impacted by what they saw. And while the kids went into this not expecting to receive anything, every week they realized more and more the blessing they were receiving through their service. Just as our Bible verse said…”these pleasures are from the hand of God.”
The Bible verse that week was Ecclesiastes 2:24: “So I decided there is nothing better than to enjoy food and drink and to find satisfaction in work. Then I realized that these pleasures are from the hand of God.”
As we coordinated this event at Shannondale, an assisted living facility in Maryville, we had no idea what to expect from the residents or from the kids. We planned a few songs to sing and a simple craft that would allow the kids to directly interact with the residents and to leave a memento of our time together. We planned to fill the rest of our time allowing the kids to break up into small groups with the residents and read books that they picked out and brought along.
The kids opened up in ways that were unexpected: talking with residents when they are generally shy around strangers, reading aloud when they had a fear of making a mistake, and most of all just loving on these residents in whatever capacity they were able to at that time. The picture shows a lady who continued to call out until someone held her hand. As long as we held her hand, she was calm and was even able to rest for a while. This is a precious example of how these children seemed to read into the needs of the residents, and how the residents seemed to open up and find joy in the youth and innocence of our kids.
As we were leaving, my own boys immediately asked when we were going back, wanting to know specifically because they said this was the best week so far. I almost cried! So on our first day out of school, we returned to Shannondale after their morning Bible study and visited again with a handful of residents. It was just as wonderful as the first time, and we are waiting our next opportunity to return.
Again, our Bible verse for this week was Acts 20:35: “In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”
The crowns were donated by Burger King, and were mostly left as is, without embellishment. We were told that the kids in Haiti find extraordinary what we see as ordinary in our day-to-day lives, so we decided to let them experience the simple joy of a cardboard crown and how the simplicity of it could help them feel special.
So instead, we took time to decorate the journals, adding special touches from stickers (knowing they especially love soccer) and other scrapbook paper to make each one unique. It was a simple day, but as all the previous events had been local, we wanted the kids to expand their vision to the world and needs far beyond our own.
The summer of service was special. Most of the parents have asked us to do this again next year, and some have ideas of their own to expand what we started. I can see this easily becoming a tradition at Maryville Vineyard, and I would love to see our kids overtake Blount County with the light and love of Jesus every summer! It starts with a vision, simple as it might be for just our own kids, then expanding to share with our church—and who knows where it could lead from there!
As we ended with Love>The End (our final week of the summer), we reminded the kids that while things may come to a close, we have the memories of what we’ve shared together—and we have the spark to carry forward and ignite again when and where God leads!