When 9 year old José was given the opportunity to participate in an outing which one of our country churches provides at a park in their community each summer, his mother quickly returned his registration form in an envelope on which she wrote, “Thank you so much. I appreciate the chances you guys give José. I can’t really do much with him but you guys give him a chance.” (This mother loves her children dearly, but has health issues.)
LUMINA’s ministries with children have an impact on children and their parents alike.
Each Monday night during the school year, inner-city children gather for Kid’s Night in the fellowship hall at El Redentor & St. Paul’s UMC in Lancaster. We have Bible Stories, music, crafts, games, and refreshments – all in a caring Christian environment.
Seven different groups of volunteers from UMCs on the Southwest District plan and lead this vital ministry in 5 week segments. Each group brings 10-12 volunteers to cover each night of their segment. Groups adapt a VBS curriculum or develop their own curriculum. Some have been honoring this commitment for over 15 years!
Another group of volunteers come regularly just to provide continuity. We are familiar faces. We provide transportation. At the end of each evening we have a closing circle, to debrief, plan ahead, and most important, to pray! One evening one of our volunteer servants prayed, “Lord, I know I come here to give, but I always get so much in return.”
This summer we initiated a new partnership with the church which houses Kids’ Night – Lancaster: El Redentor & St. Paul’s. We combined the church’s Christian Community Club (CCC) with LUMINA’s Kids’ Night for our week of Community Day Camp. This year we had 60 children – twice as many as last year!
As a reward for regular attendance and good behavior at Kids’ Night, we provide camp scholarships for children and youth to attend residence camps at Gretna Glen. Parents pay $10 for each child who goes to camp (we remind them that it would cost them at least that much to feed their child/ren if they were at home that week). Camp scholarships cover the balance, and are provided by mission-minded individuals and congregations. LUMINA provides transportation to and from Gretna Glen. This year we had a total of 25 campers from our Kids’ Night and Youth Ministries.
After many years of praying for a ministry with children who have completed sixth grade, a small group of totally dedicated adults stepped up to a youth group, which meets at the same time as Kids’ Night in a different room. Recently youth had a trip to Conestoga View, a local personal care facility, with a volunteer and her dog, to witness pet therapy. Also four youth were blessed to be the guests of Hershey First UMC, spending a Thursday in Hershey Park, followed by an evening meal and movie at the church. On Friday morning, we rode the trolley and enjoyed the ride through Chocolate World.
As I write, we are busy circulating registration forms for our Kids’ Night and Youth Ministries for the 2012-2013 school year. This is a wonderfully inclusive, multi-cultural ministry. Over 200 volunteers are blessed to be involved each year!
How can people engage in this ministry? Volunteer! Donate funds or school and craft supplies! Pray: All of LUMINA’s ministries are undergirded with scripture and prayer.
When someone asks me, “How are you, Sally?” I often respond, “I’m challenged and inspired.” Perhaps this article explains my response! We’re all challenged and inspired by Jesus telling his disciples “Let the children come unto me and do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of heaven belongs.”
by Sally W. Ott