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Finding Easter Eggs: Outreach Built with Heart, Not $$

We are used to hearing the prophecy of Isaiah before Christmas. But on the last Sunday of Lent, as we anticipated Easter, we heard him say this: “I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.” Hunting for Easter eggs is not just for kids. Arguably, the primary work of the church is finding the signs of Easter in our time and place, the ways in which God is doing a new thing to provide rivers in the desert.

Last spring at about this time, some Easter eggs became evident at Church of the Good Shepherd, Hemet. Informed by their work as substitute teachers, multiple parishioners expressed passionate concern for the needs of school children. According to the ways of the world, most who expressed this concern should be enjoying their golden years, free from big responsibilities. But they began meeting to consider what it would take to offer a tutoring program.

At first, our team was torn in many different directions: VBS, Sunday school, tutoring. Last June we offered a free community-wide dinner in hopes of getting to know our neighbors and their needs. We drew over 40 to the dinner and learned that they would be eager for an after-school program.

More questions than answers about the how of doing such a thing began to bog down discussions. A recently retired director from a nearby Lutheran pre-school heard about the discussions at Good Shepherd. Still feeling the call to serve, she joined the discussions and offered this sound advice, “Just pick a start date and that will help clarify everything!”

The start date picked (November 6, 2012) could not have been more useful to God. It allowed a Halloween activity at the church to be an incredibly effective and free way to get publicity into the hands of children and their parents. A week later, Good Shepherd hosted the community’s interfaith Thanksgiving service and met the rabbi leader of a community called Judaism Without Walls. The rabbi was looking for a place to meet and serve. She has become a key volunteer in Good Shepherd’s new after-school program. And God has sent others.

For the last seven months, Good Shepherd has offered after-school enrichment two days per week with nutrition, tutoring, recreation, Bible stories, music and art. Five parishioners take turns serving as daily captain, responsible for organization and security. One of them developed the tutor training, and volunteers are also attending the diocesan Safeguarding God’s People training. A monthly ingathering supplies the snacks. Has it always been easy? Heaven knows not. Moments of seeming wilderness have been plentiful. But God has made a way, using the Spirit’s most precious resource: the capacity to stir hearts. More than 20 different students have been participants, and at least 15 are usually present. Congregants are better able to love neighbors because they now know them.

The volunteers received such a gift as they watched the children joyfully sing The Butterfly Song for their parents, including this thanksgiving to God: “You gave me a heart and you gave me a smile. You gave me Jesus and made me your child.” Parents were full of thanks for improved grades and reading skills.

Where might there be Easter eggs awaiting your discovery? +

Category: #Outreach, #Worship & Formation, #Youth, Children, & Families

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