Tuesday, July 23, 2013

AK 2013: Park Party Time

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tested in every way as we are, yet without sin. 
Therefore let us approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us at the proper time. 
Hebrews 4:15-16
Wednesday, June 26th
Praise God for another beautiful day!
This morning, several of us went on the Blueberry Hill hike.  I walked with Mrs. O on the paved path, while the others took the more rugged path.  We joined up with a lovely lady from the Fairbanks group.  When at the landing, we took time to pray for the park ministry that week, the city, and our teams/staff.  Those minutes spent in prayer were so refreshing...so needed.  Apparently the mosquitoes thought there was an open invitation to join in on our time of prayer, too...praise God that this has been the only time I have been actually bitten by any.  Two and a half weeks in, I have to say this is a praise for they have swarmed me and landed on me, but nothing more.  The honorary AK state birds are large and in charge this summer, causing some to take drastic measures to try and keep them at bay.  Taking shots of vinegar slightly diluted with water is not something I want to have to try anytime soon...just sayin'...
Park time after lunch was exciting again today!  Today was popcicle day for any who joined us on the tarp for Bible time.  Mrs. H had began our group time with a game around the parachute, calling out different relationship scenarios within a family, going along with her Bible lesson on Moses and his siblings, Miriam and Aaron.  The kids really enjoyed the parachute game and stayed rather well behaved during the game. Her craft was woven mat.  On each strip of paper that was woven together those who participated wrote the names of their family members.  When it was done, you could see the names of those who are woven into your life; all of us being a part of a larger picture, being a family unit.  
I am in constant awe of how God inspires us all to get His message of unity, love, and perfect plan across to the kids!
Free time with the kids is always fun...several have taken a liking to sitting at the one and only picnic table and drawing on the cardboard box we have broken down and laying across the table so that there's a flat and clean surface to work with beads and coloring.  Some of the little ones eat their lunch there, too.  
It is in these one on one moments, I find joy.  Seeing them take place warms my heart, but being involved in them fills me with such an abundance of gladness, it is almost unspeakable.  And, yet, I know I could offer more time...more energy...more everything.  These minutes are so few, yet so fulfilling.  I am blessed beyond measure.
Leaving the park was with many reminders that we would be back for our community park party that evening.  It's so much more enjoyable being able to say "see you in a few hours" rather than "see you tomorrow".  I am not for sure who was more excited for the big night, us or the kids!  
Once back at the church, we took to loading up the van and trailer with our park party gear, so that right after dinner we would be ready to take off for our park.  Because of a cancellation of a team for another park, we did not officially have a help team coming to cook and serve the food.  However, our awesome GraceWorks staff stepped up and filled in the role of help team and were a blessing to us and the people in our park family.  
Park parties are always a highlight of a week of ministry.  This one was above and beyond a highlight, however.  Everyone on our team had found an area to take charge of and participate in...whether it was bouncy house monitor, hair/nails duty, face painting, or the follow up table (table with Bibles, GraceWorks info, and a person with whom to chat or pray), or simply floating around and chatting/praying with people who came out, everything was manned and going smoothly.  
We had some stuffed animals remaining from our First Aid clinic, so when I or someone on our team saw a new child (or at least one who had not been in the park thus far in the week), we handed one out to them until there were no more.  The blessing of those stuffed animals went beyond even what I/we first imagined they would.  God will take care of those seeds...we were obedient in planting them, He will handle the watering and harvesting.
As the team leader, I floated around from place to place, checking in with our hosts, the help team, and my fellow team members, meeting new faces and speaking with as many people as I could as I was fluttering about the park.  How God made everything and everyone fit in our small park amazes me.  I found myself at the follow up table in my inbetween moments...and not just because it was in the sunshine. :)  
I will take a moment and confess that the follow up table has always intimidated me.  I was always thankful with someone else wanted and volunteered for that station.  This year, although we had two people taking shifts at the table, I was drawn to it myself time and again.  I was blessed to see and hear the conversations Mrs. J and Mrs. J were having with those who came and wanted to see what we had to offer or just ask where we were from and with which group.  Five weeks in, we still had first timers to the park party and to hearing about GraceWorks.  
More than overhearing their conversations, I found people crossing paths with me who needed someone to talk to or wanted a Bible of their own.  The fear and intimidation of the follow up table had disappeared, being replaced with fulfilling joy and much laughter and awe of my God and His orchestrated plan for divine appointments.  More than one person tonight, and many more the previous weeks, were in search of a church that is welcoming and warmhearted to, let me just say, "the least of these".  People searching for a church to call their own were finding more and more churches not welcoming them in for one reason or another.  There are moments when I find myself ashamed of sharing the title of Christian with others who set such a bad example of what that title entails.  It breaks my heart to hear their stories.  Thankfully, God has people in place to usher in hope and the good news that not all churches are the same for 10 weeks this summer.  Add to that, the follow up that will happen over the winter months as those who live in the Anchorage and surrounding areas continue to disciple new believers and water seeds that have been planted this summer, and you find, now, year round ministry happening in an otherwise spiritually cold and dark land.
With many thanks to the staff help team our tear down and clean up went well.  Loading up, there was a sense of joy among us.  
We had an evening where we were part of something so totally and completely bigger than we are.  
And, it was awesome!
God is God and He is good!

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