Wanna find out what the reputation of the church is in your neighbourhood? Try this...
Take 150 backpacks or something else that will meet some of the needs of under resourced families, at risk kids or just will meet direct felt needs in your neighbourhood, and try to give them away.
Thanks to KidsFest Canada, and a few sponsoring churches, we had the opportunity to take 150 fully loaded backpacks into our schools last week to give them away. Really it wasn't as easy as you might think.
First when we went in the spring to talk to the school principles we got a reserved, 'that sounds good' response. Apparently there has been a lot of promises made to help in the community by 'groups' that never really happen. Seems this is true even though we are told to behave wisely as salt with grace, so that we will know how we should answer those who are not a part of the Church. (Col 4:5,6)
When we followed up this fall with a direct face to face meeting and a sample of the packs that we want to put in the hands of the students we received a better reply. There was a lot of interesting comments and questions though...like what's the catch? What do you want to get out of it? Who have you asked permission to do this with? Apparently there is some 'groups' out there that only seek to meet the needs of the needy if they are going to get something out of it or with a hidden agenda- not just because caring for the needs of our community is true religion (Jms. 1:27)
When I assured the principals that we were hoping to build a community of mentors from Law Officers, Naval Soldiers, Church members, local business owners, and down the road musicians and artists; All of whom we would help to train and do background checks on so they could invest their lives into mentoring at risk-kids at the local schools the question was: "Are you going to have to talk about Jesus?" Apparently there are those 'groups' out there who have parachuted into a community to shout at people in Jesus' name, never really earning a hearing or thinking that their absents of actions spoke so loudly about their faith that the community could not hear what they were saying about their Jesus. (Eph. 5:1,2; Matt. 25:31-46)
Shelby and our five kids (affectionately known as the Fab5); came with us on the first Monday back to school, to hand out these packs. Can't tell you what impact it has made on our kids, on us and on those who partnered with us to deliver these packs.... HERE IS ONE STORY from Shelby's vantage point; there is many more to be told...
One highlight for me on the day we handed out the back packs on behalf of KidsFest was at the very last school. That school is about a block and a half up the road from our home.
Picture if you will an assembly full of children, a stage full of back packs and a vice principal full of enthusiasm.
He was calling out names as though they were the next contestant on The Price is Right and when the students heard their name they were to stand. Luke (a partner with Aerobics First) would run to them and hand them a certificate for a professionally fitted sports shoe and one of the PAXnorth team would run to them with a back pack FULL of school supplies.
The place was nearly vibrating with excitement as they waited for the next name to be called.
Then the name of a little girl was called and no one stood. The principal and VP scanned the crowd for her or her student mentor. Then someone pointed and I looked to see who she was. The mentor was saying, "That's YOU!!" to a little girl with Down's Syndrome who was sitting beside her. The little girl mouthed, "That's ME!" and put her face in her hands and started to cry. Her mentor was crying. I was crying. Luke was nearly losing it himself as he approached her and was gently saying, "Look what you got!"
She was equal. She had as much a chance of having her name drawn as any other student in the room. Everyone was cheering for her. She belonged.
And that was the WHOLE point for me. These children all belong to our community and need to be treated equally. By presenting these four schools with 38 back backs each we gave the kids more a level playing field to belong.
When a child shows up to school and doesn't have the proper supplies with which to do their work they feel that they aren't as good as other kids who do have all those things. The back pack itself is a small part of the gift we give these students. By just having those basic needs, they now are an equal. That does so much for a child's confidence.
I will never forget that one little girl. No matter how many times we are ambassadors for KidsFest that will stand out in my mind. It'll be pretty tough to top.