Guest Commentary from Sharon Yancey at the Matthew Initiative
Dear Prayer Intercessors and Friends of The Matthew Initiative:
Thanks for all of your prayers for the VBS mission trip to Pensacola, Florida last week in partnership with Sacred Tapestry UMC here in Atlanta. Again, God was so faithful and we were all blessed beyond any of our expectations . I want to share some of the highlights from last week. I will be blogging about it tonight at TheMatthewInitiative.tumblr.com. But, before I share with the public, I wanted to share with you first. Richards Memorial is my home church and sits in one of the neediest neighborhoods in Pensacola. The church was shut down two years ago and has been struggling to come back as a community center.
1. We started with a block party; when it became evident that only a few kids (8 or so) were going to attend, I just felt compelled to go out into the neighborhood to see if we could invite children to come. It has been awhile since I did anything like this. I saw a young mother going into a very rough looking house and asked if there were any children who wanted to come to our party (I had someone with me!). About 10 children came to the door. Their mom said they could come, but some of them did not have shoes. We brought them anyway to the party. Later in the afternoon one of the mom's from the house brought her preschooler and baby to the block party. She left them with us and asked if we could feed them. When we brought the kids home, we learned that the kids were living in a crack house. No electricity or air conditioning, and barely any furniture.
2. The kids were ready to come back to church the next day when we picked them up. They had a great time and did not want to leave when it was time to do so. Again, a mother brought her baby and preschooler to the first day of VBS from the house. We had gotten up to 20 kids on the second day.
3. On the second day of our three day VBS, we were met at the door by an 18 year old holding a premature baby and in charge of a 4 year old. He explained that the kids could not come, but the preschooler could. As we were putting the preschooler in the car he came out and asked if he could also come! He went through the entire day with the preschooler and ate like he was very hungry. The mom brought her preschooler and baby back and told Devon (our 18 year old friend) to tell her preschool son that he had to come home after VBS....he would not want to, but he had to come home. We think this is why the other children did not come back. Devon did not want to go back, so the group from ST just talked with him and loved on him. Both pastors from Richards also spent time with him. It was hard to bring him home, but he asked to come back the next day. The teenagers from Sacred Tapestry pooled their allowances and bought clothes, shoes, and baby formula to share with the children in the house on the last day of VBS.
4. When we came to get Devon on Thursday, our last day, he asked if his 17 year old sister could come also. She was the mother of the premature baby. When they got in the car they said that they had talked to lots of their friends and family who had children who wanted to come to VBS. We made three trips to get kids with Devon that morning, and when it was over , 50 children were there on the last day of VBS! Devon the evangelist brought them with him to VBS! Somehow the food stretched and everyone was fed. Then, parents started coming in from the neighborhood with their children and stayed with them to watch the program that just happened to be on John 3:16. I am sure we had at least 85 people there including many parents who were with their children.
5. A grandfather told us that his grandson Chance had loved the week. His dad was in prison and his mother left him 3 months before. It was the first time he had seen him smile since his mother left. A beautiful child whose smile we will never forget.
6. 10 rising 6th graders showed up on the last day. We just made them an older elementary group and they did well with a children's program, just happy to be there.
7. When VBS was over and everyone was taken home, the associate minister was in tears. He said he hoped that this could continue because he believed it could change the church like nothing else could. Then, then there was a knock on the door and it was Devon...He had walked back to the church and asked if there was a GED program he could start at the church. Just so happened, they were starting one in July and he enrolled in it. The group of moms from Sacred Tapestry brought him home again. He had connected with the church and found friends, and maybe a new beginning there.
To God be the Glory and we will keep you posted on things as theydevelop and move forward.