Locally Grown: The Bus Ride
RMM is excited about the ways God is using his church to touch people with his love. In this story Shirley describes a recent encounter she had while volunteering at a children’s ministry sponsored by her congregation, Plainview Mennonite Church in Hutchinson, Kansas.
Her eyes were cold and had dark circles under them. Her shoulders hunched, her hair was matted and unkempt. She was only fourteen and had experienced life well past her years, yet she came to JAM. JAM, which stands for Jesus and Me, is our church’s outreach program in Partridge, Kansas, where children come and hear about God, spend time in worship, go to class, and get a snack. I’ve been teaching there for fifteen years and had never met a young girl like Sarah* before. The first evening she came, around the middle of August, she told me that she was an atheist. We conversed about her beliefs and she told me she was worshiping Satan. My first thought was that she was too young to even know what she really believed.
The next week she came again and that night she showed me her skinny little arms, which had been cut, at least fifteen cuts on each arm. My heart ached for her! During praise and worship Sarah was like a scared animal; she withdrew to a corner with her black hoodie pulled up over her head. I would gently put my arm around her and encourage her to join the rest of our class, but she rejected any human touch and ran off. She came to class and brought her notebook and drew pictures of Satan and gang symbols. Sarah had no desire to pray and distracted the others, yet she came every Wednesday night. I had started praying for her the first night I met her. I knew that Sarah was worshipping Satan and needed the touch of our loving Jesus in her life. But how could I show her Jesus? By loving her unconditionally and praying for her.
Let’s fast forward to December 15. It was an exciting night since it was the night of our Christmas party at JAM. That night I was asked to do something that I had never done before: ride the bus that takes the children home. Our church has a bus that picks up the children and that night we had over thirty kids on the bus. From what I had heard about the bus ride, it was usually a pretty rowdy bunch of kids on the ride home with lots of fights and shouting. My job was crowd control on their ride home. I got on the bus, not knowing what to expect. The kids were orderly and very quiet, so I spent the first fifteen minutes talking with them. Then one of the girls said, “Ms. Shirley, Sarah needs you, she is crying.”
Sarah has a difficult battle ahead of her and our church has been fantastic in supporting her. She is prayed for every day by different church members, and some ladies are writing notes of encouragement to her weekly. When I gave her a new Bible she clutched it to her heart, beaming with joy. Sarah comes to JAM with a smile on her face, participates in worship, and told me several weeks ago that she wants to learn how to pray. Sarah is one of many who need the touch of our Lord. Praise the Lord, I know there was rejoicing in heaven on December 15, 2016, when another lost lamb found her way home! All Glory, Praise and Honor we give to Jesus, our Savior!
*Name changed for privacy