A few weeks ago, I went to New York City for a family vacation, and we primarily stayed in Manhattan. Two weeks after that, I was back in New York City, but this time in a predominantly Chinese area in Brooklyn. It was a more down to earth setting than the glitz and glamour of Times Square and Broadway, which was just fine with me since I am not a big fan of the hustle and bustle of the city. It also seemed to be a more fitting setting for the reason I was there, which was to help out at a children’s Bible program for the local kids. Truth be told, I wasn’t quite sure I wanted to go on this trip, having schoolwork to do as well as another mission trip right after in Tulsa, OK (which I am at right now). Also, while I have some experience teaching English to young kids, I have very little teaching Bible stuff to them because my primary audience is normally college students and older. Speaking in a way that kids understand was a daunting task. However, God was working during the trip and I was very blessed by the experience. I have no regrets about going and wished we had more time with both the kids and the youth workers.
I went with a team of ten from my church to work at this program. The program isn’t quite a VBS, though it is similar. It is called Summer Splash and it is run by Dorcas Ministries, whose building we were housed in. The program is actually seven weeks long (!), with a new group of workers showing up every week to help out. We were there for Week 3. Dorcas has been running this program for about 15 years, and it is set at a nearby Free Evangelical church. Our primary job was to teach songs, Bible stories, crafts, and games to 80+ kids from around the neighborhood, which supplemented the youth counselors who were there to take care of the kids. The days basically went like this: In the morning, many of the kids were dropped off at Dorcas and we walked them to the church for a time of songs, testimony, and storytelling (we went through the last part of the story of Jacob as well as the entire story of Joseph). The day would progress with time for lesson discussion, snacks, English, math, games, lunch, and crafts, ending with another brief time of songs. We then walked back those kids to Dorcas who were not directly picked up from the church by their guardians.
It was tiring since we stayed busy from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., and kids can naturally be hard to handle at times. However, we kept our eyes on the goal, which was to share Bible stories and ultimately Christ with the kids we came in contact with. We all developed a heart for the kids we were assigned to (I had fifth graders along with another worker), praying for them and ultimately sharing the Gospel with them. Many kids, including some of the youth, were not believers, but we simply wanted to be an encouragement and source of God’s truth to them. Surprisingly, even though we only had a limited time with the high school and middle school helpers as opposed to the kids, they still grew attached to some members of our team, and it wasn’t easy for many people to say goodbye.
God really put together a team that fit the task at hand. We all got along with one another, and it was also a great opportunity to get to know people from church that I did not know that well. We had a lot of good laughs and grew together, and we complemented each other pretty well. We always seemed to have a person who fit a role that another person could not, whether it was leading the songs, leading the motions, leading the games, organizing the crafts, telling compelling testimonies, etc. It was a real treat working with the team, and it was both a growing experience as well as simply a lot of fun.
Several kids prayed to receive Christ, and while we admittedly cannot know for sure how many confessions were genuine, I am confident that the Holy Spirit was working and that he put a down payment for many of them. Also, as I said above, we were able to develop a good relationship with the youth workers, especially our pastor, who had the opportunity to speak with them outside of the program and share God’s love to them. It was too bad that we didn’t get to spend more time with them, as they were all smart and serving young people who were great to interact with, but we are thankful for whatever time that we had.
There is talk about making this an annual trip for our church, and I hope we can make that work. It’s always a blessing to see how God works in other parts of the country or the world as it expands our perspective. God has already been doing great things through that church and Dorcas Ministries for years, and he was gracious enough to allow us to be a part of it for a week. We know that we were but a blip on the radar for a seven week program that has run for over a decade, but we also have confidence that God can make even the smallest seed grow.
I am thankful to God and to the people who supported us both prayerfully and financially. It was a fruitful trip that helped put in at least a small brick into the ever-growing kingdom of God. It’s pretty tiring going from one mission trip to another with basically just a day of rest, but there is also nothing better than doing God’s work. I will write about the Tulsa trip after it is done, but for now, I am happy to report that the trip to Brooklyn went better than we hoped. We shared Jesus, built relationships, and gained valuable experience. Not bad for a week.