This blog is written by a volunteer who just spent a week in NOLA harvesting God's fields! Kids' names are removed as the school may get in trouble for posting kids' names on the internet.
On Tuesday morning (6/9/09) the girls from our team stopped down at Edgar P. Harney Elementary School to see if we could volunteer. We were waiting on a few things at the worksite, so we thought we would use that time to see if we could help out somewhere else. The school was very eager for our help and indicated that they would love help each day from 11:30-2:00 while the kids had play time and recess. We hadn’t envisioned on helping after that morning, but felt it was a door that we should eagerly walk through.
Before we began our official work at the school, we went back to the worksite and spent time in discussion and prayer regarding how we could be a light within the school. Coincidentally, or by divine providence, John (from EFCA) happened to stop down right before we left for the school and encouraged us to pray that God’s spirit would work in us. We prayed that God would “give us the words” so that we might be prepared with an answer when the children inquired as to the source of our hope and love.
I am so thankful and blessed by the team I served alongside. Throughout the week and our time at the school, I watched them joyfully love and serve the children as they ran, hopped, skipped, and carried kiddos in the hot sun. I am most blessed by the reality of the truth my time never lost sight of…. they took every opportunity they could to share with the children the source of their love- whispering in little ears that they were loved by a gracious and loving God, laying out in child-like terms the story of Christ and what it means to make Jesus your “personal friend,” and lending a tender ear to the hurt and sadness plaguing their hearts. I really cannot tell you how many spiritual conversations took place at the school this past week because there were so many and, I am sure, even more that my team never shared with me.
As far as the children that made decisions to invite Jesus in to their life. Here is their story:
Josh and I had been working in Mrs. H’s first grade classroom all week. On Thursday (6/11/09), when our team arrived at the block party, we immediately spotted a student from our classroom. I approached her to say hello and she introduced me to her older sister, a 4th grader. I offered to help the girls get some food and they “pal-ed” around with me for a little awhile. After a little bit, they asked me to walk them home, which was just across the street, so I did.
I didn’t see them again until the end of the evening, when one returned and asked if she could have some drinks. I told her “sure” and retrieved the drinks. After doing so, I asked her if she knew why my group was “here” (at the block party) and why we had been visiting her school. She indicated that she didn’t know, so I told her we had come because we believed God loves her and, so, we love her, too. I asked her if she knew who Jesus was and she said she did. I asked her if she knew that Jesus wanted to be her friend and she said she did not know that. When I asked her if she wanted to know more about how to ask Jesus to be your friend she smiled from ear to ear and said she did.
Thus, her and I sat down and I explained to her, in very simple, child-like terms, the gospel. I explained that we were created and loved by God and that we all sin and need forgiveness. I explained that Jesus died to pay the price for our sins and he\wants us to have forgiveness.- the way we receive forgiveness is by inviting Jesus into our life to be our friend.
I asked her if she had ever asked Jesus to be her friend and she said “no, but that she wanted to.” She and I held hands and we prayed together. I prayed first and she repeated the words after me. I have to tell you, after we prayed, She was beaming!! I went on the explain, that now that Jesus was her friend, she could talk to him any time she wanted and he would always be there to love her and protect her…. Even though one day her body would die, she is protected because she will live forever in heaven with Jesus.
When I started to tell her that, as she prays, she should know that Jesus might not talk “out loud” back to her, she cut me off and said, “but I will feel him in my heart- like I she just felt Jesus in my heart.” I told her what a bible was and when she said she wanted one, was able to find a Mountview member, Sylvia, who so graciously gave up her own personal bible so that she could have one. So that is her story!
Since I spoke with you originally, there are a few updates to share….
The next day at school (Friday 6/12/09) when Josh and I returned to Ms. H’s first grade classroom, the girls immediately inquired about the bible her sister had received and asked if she could have one. I told her “yes” and I would explain what it meant during her lunch.
So, come lunch time, I sat with her and shared the gospel with her. She was very enthusiastic and said she wanted to invite Jesus to live into her heart to be her friend. She and I prayed together.
As she and I prayed another child wanted to know what we were talking about and asked if I would share with him. He wanted to invite Jesus in his heart, as well, and also wanted to know if I could tell him why he has “those nightmares” about Freddie and Jason (from the horror movies) killing him. We talked about it and we also prayed that God would take away his bad dreams and give him peaceful rest. Cordell also wanted a bible.
As he and I prayed, another boy wanted to know what was going on and called me over to his lunch table to talk with him. When I asked him if he knew who Jesus was he said that he did not. I offered to share with him and he was very eager to hear. As we discussed the gospel, his face looked stunned. When he found out that Jesus was willing to take on the punishment we deserved and suffer himself so that we didn’t have to, he looked astounded and exclaimed, “wow, God is nice. God is so nice!!!” He very much wanted to ask Jesus to be his friend and after we prayed, he shared that he looked forward to giving Jesus a big hug when his body dies one day and his soul goes to heaven.
There was another student that listened while the boys and I talked and prayed. I am not entirely sure whether or not he understood everything that was explained to him, but he kept butting into our conversation and insisted that he needed to pray, too. After he commented about hugging Jesus, he shared that he would give Jesus a kiss when he arrived in heaven. A little side note, he pinched another child shortly after our prayer and I reminded him that, even though God would forgive our sins and take on our punishment, he would still have to face the consequences for his bad choices on earth. He seemed to understand that. He is a cute, but feisty little rascal! He wants a bible, as well.
I cannot tell you what a blessing it was to be present for these moments in the lives of these children. I believe they understood the choice they were making and my prayer now is that God would complete the good work he is starting in them by bringing mentors in their lives who can teach them in more detail how they might grow in their faith and live out their relationship with God.
I am so encouraged and over-joyed, as it sounds like teams will be returning to the school in the coming weeks. I don’t know that I have ever had the blessing of being in such fertile harvesting grounds before. These children want to know who Jesus is!! Not only that, the staff knew that we were there for a much greater mission and we had their full support! I am an elementary school counselor for my job and have worked with several, both urban and suburban school districts- in my experience, it is not even close to acceptable in the eyes of school officials to share the gospel or bring up the topic of Jesus with students.
Katie, Mountview and my team was blessed beyond measure by your staff, the people of New Orleans, and most importantly our Lord this past week. Please let us know if we might serve or support you in any way as you continue in your ministry.
*** these particular children may only be at the school until July 2nd, when this session of summer school ends.
I am sorry this email was so long, it was just such a blessing to witness God at work and I wanted to share as much as I could.
Thank you again, Katie! I am so thankful for the work you do.
Sarah from Mountview Baptist