Jesus Loves the Little Children

Team, it is summertime here in Shalimar! Lots of hot weather and sunshine, or at least that is what I thought happened at the beach in Florida, but I realize this week is not always the case, but with the summer comes fun! Everyone on vacation and away to see family. Students home from school and having fun, and of course, children headed off to camps and clinics. Summer is always a wonderful time of year, even with our wonderful tourist friends here on the Emerald Coast!

As I was thinking about it, the church is really no different than everyone else during the summer. We have fun camps we are gearing up for with our student and children ministries. Staff are planning vacations for some rest, relaxation, family time, and fun. We have some exciting days ahead of us, like our Patriotic Celebration, and of course, we have worship each Sunday morning with a fun series I am enjoying called “Faith over Fear.” It is definitely an exciting time in the life of our church!

With all that is happening this summer, I want to make sure you stay up to date with one of my favorite parts about our church in the summer, Vacation Bible School.  The Gospels might differ from time to time on a certain miracle or a parable. They might offer different versions of the same event or even additions from time to time. But one thing is clear to me that they all agree on, Jesus loves the little children. In Matthew, Mark, and Luke, you will find these words, “Then Jesus called for the children and said to the disciples, ‘Let the children come to me. Don’t stop them! For the Kingdom of God belongs to those who are like these children.’” Children have a very special place in the kingdom of God and in the heart of Jesus. At Shalimar, we know this, and we do our part to make sure that all of the children in our community have a place that they can come and experience the love of God!
This year we had over 170 children join us for a week of VBS. We sang together and ate snacks. We heard Bible stories and learned new bible verses. We played games together and collected money to help those in need around the world! VBS is an entire week set aside to give our attention and our focus to the youngest of disciples and the newest of theologians. I was blessed to share the bible story with the preschoolers and the kindergarteners each day. They would come and sit. I would have the room decorated and a new costume on so that they might experience the story in a unique and fun way! Every day I would begin by asking the children to retell me the story I told them the day before. As a highlight of my week and summer, I want to share the stories learned as told by the kiddos!
On the first day, we started with creation and the fall. And as you might remember, as one young theologian offered, “God, no Jesus, no I think it was God told them, “Do not eat the berries, no it was apples, no they were berries. Do not eat the berries or else.” Followed right after another shouted, “Yea, they did it and accidentally got in trouble. I don’t think they meant to get in trouble, though.” Then another shouted, “The snake fell from the tree onto them and had to run and hide.” Sounds good to me. Another person, the next day reminded us about Jesus calming the storm while the disciples were on the boat. One child offered, “Jesus and his friends were playing with the beach ball on the beach when a storm came, and so they jumped in a boat.” Another said, “Jesus was really tired from walking on water, so he just took a nap this time.” Then when I asked, “Well, what did Jesus say to calm the water?” This young guy jumped up with all the confidence in the world and shouted that Jesus said, “Stormy storm... you are canceled!!!” Another favorite from the feeding of 5,000. One little girl reminded us all that, “Jesus prayed to that other guy in the sky, and like a gillion gillion gillion people were fed goldfish from that little boy in the back’s lunchbox!” We ended the week with the story of Jesus healing a blind man; the best response was the simplest response, “That man was blind, jumped in a pool, and now he can see!” Amen! I really do have the best job in the world.
I am so grateful and thankful for Nicci Fahle, our Children’s Ministry Director, all the many volunteers who helped to make this week happen, and of course, all of you who prayed faithfully for the kingdom of God to be seen by these wonderful children. We could not have done it without each and every one of you, and we look forward to next year’s VBS being even better!
To close, I thought we might reflect on that verse from the start. Jesus says, “Let the children come to me. Don’t stop them!” I think Jesus was pretty clear about his hope for the children to come, to sit and to listen, and to, in their way, experience His love and grace. My hope for Shalimar UMC is that we, too, might be a church that welcomes all children. We might become a place where the youngest of theologians and newest of believers might find their place in the kingdom of God. I hope you will join us in this effort to reach out to those in our community. Invite someone new to join us. Invite your next-door neighbor you see with a child in one arm and the car seat in the other, or that family you often see with the two young children because they need a place to worship and call their own! It’s what Jesus told us to do. So let us work together to share the love of God with all  the little children!

Complete in Him,
Matt Langford  
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Matt Langford

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