From where I stood, I had the best vantage point to survey all that was going on around me. Elevated above the hubbub, I watched as families laughed and danced, played games and ate treats! Children ran back and forth between the games and the prize table.
“I’m going to win a THOUSAND prizes!” a boy yelled up to me as he ran past in a blur.
With their faces elaborately painted, princesses, mermaids, dragons and superheroes spun their wheels waiting for the countdown, “3,2,1…go!” before hurling themselves headlong into hoops, over walls and down a giant slide through the inflatable obstacle course set up at the far end of the parking lot.
Walking around atop my stilts, covered by 5-foot-long red and white striped pants, I witnessed our church come together to provide an end of the summer gift to our neighbors that blessed us with new faces and interactions. For the first time in many years, Shawnee St. Paul’s hosted a block party! With a mission of serving our community, the block party was not in the least about membership recruitment, notoriety or anything else we could get. Instead, it was one hundred percent about loving and sharing with the people God placed in our care; about what we could give.
All of this because a faithful member of the congregation approached the staff and said, “I think we’ve come to a place where our church could pull of one of the God-sized dreams I’ve had for years…” And, after sharing her vision for the block party, she went right to work planning and organizing what would become an outstanding outreach event! Not only was it a blessing to see the families impacted by her vision, but it was also a blessing for our staff to see her heart expressed through her leadership and execution.
I’ve heard it said that school shouldn’t just be a place where young people come and watch adults work. Likewise, the church shouldn’t be a place where older adults come to watch the younger people work. In both instances, to better our lives and our society, it is important that no one is simply watching from the sidelines, but instead fully involved working together with the joy of synergy and for the greater good. On a warm August Saturday we had a beautiful picture of multigenerational service and fellowship as the members of Shawnee St. Paul’s of all ages really came through!
Our faith family helped in block party preparation from creating signs to communicating what was going on where, posting and sharing about it on Facebook, connecting us to Community Renewal for use of their grill, setting up a water sprinkler and more. Others helped operate the event by cooking hot dogs and serving them with chips and drinks. Others ran the prize table, games, inflatables and even cooked popcorn and funnel cakes! There were even those who got out and danced to the live DJ with our friends and neighbors from South Central Industries that included our Joy group. We had people handing out free cupcakes and gift bags and others who floated around visiting and extending great hospitality to all of the guests we had.
Too often in churches we hear things like, “Why bother?” or “It didn’t work the last time we tried,” or my personal favorite, “That’s not how we’ve always done it.” In having a conversation with our Dreamer/Organizer, who coordinated the block party, we looked back on everything that took place and she mentioned to me having felt overwhelmed by the response from the church. I was so grateful for all of her effort and leadership and all she wanted to do was talk about her appreciation of her faith family that stepped up and shared love to the community.
Children waved up at me with faces full of amazement as I walked around being 8 feet tall. They loved jumping up as high as they could to give me high fives.
“How did you get so tall?” I was asked over and over.
Sometimes, I would tell them I’d eaten all my vegetables. Sometimes I would lift up my pant leg just a bit and tell them that I had robot legs! A few times, for some older kids, I lifted the pant leg high enough to show where my feet were strapped into the stilts and gave them a peek behind the magic. What I’ve come to realize is that it wasn’t vegetables, robot legs or even the stilts that made me walk so tall that day at the block party. I walked tall because of the pride I felt having my church friends serving God with me and the love I felt seeing the joy on their faces while doing it.