Five years ago, I was living in my hometown of Williamston and working as a children’s minister at a local church. After college, teaching jobs were scarce in the Upstate, and God had chosen to close doors for me in schools and open doors in ministry. During one of my prayers, asking what God’s plan was and why He had closed classroom doors, He spoke clearly to my heart. For four years, I prepared to teach 20-30 children, but for this specific time, God desired for me to be a teacher of the community.
I quickly discovered that while I enjoyed dressing up silly and desiging an inviting space for Sundays, I enjoyed being in the community too, maybe even more. God laid on my heart to start a Backyard Bible Club in a community on East Carolina Steeet. BYBC would be a time to play with children and share the Gospel. For months, I prayed over the streets, walking and driving, expecting and inviting God to work. I invited friends and members of my church to join me, and from day one, the presence of God could be felt in and through everything we did on this street.
A few favorite memories:
1. During certain times of day, East Carolina would be considered unsafe. Because spending time with these children and their families was so heavy on my heart, time was saturated in prayer and never once did I or my volunteers feel unsafe. In fact, while my car was on the street, drug deals, gunshots, anything of that nature ceased. The Holy Spirit showed up with me every time.
2. Apartment managers and families were excited about people coming to spend time with the children. There was one lady at first who was aprehensive, but as weeks went on, she saw our genuine love and opened her door, sat on the porch with us, and often had a glass of sweet tea waiting for us.
3. When rain and snow was in the forecast, we would pray for it to to hold off until a specific time. Every time, God answered our prayer and pushed off the weather so we could have at least one hour with children. It was overwhelming to see God taking notice and ordaining our Backyard Bible Club times. Coming to build relationships with kids and families is something that He very much desires.
4. It was important to me that East Carolina kids and families were invited to our wedding, and one of my favorite pictures is being surrounded by some the precious children I got to know. Leaving the Upstate to move and do youth ministry alongside Justin was exciting, but some of the hardest people to leave lived on East Carolina. I learned that family centers around love, not race or age.
Today, Justin and I stopped by and I got to hug the necks of people I consider like family. We shared a few tears and rejoiced of all the things God did through simply giving a couple hours to show genuine love. I am reminded, as I was five years ago, that the world doesn’t need materials or even big gestures. Giving of time, being willing to play with kids and chat with moms is what will show love in the most real and tangible way.
Now, God has chosen to open doors for me in classrooms, but I know He needed me to experience East Carolina so that I would be a better teacher than I would have straight out of college. Just like BYBC, I want to, and am charged with the responsibility to, display genuine love to my students and their families. God showed me that conducting home visits allows me to do just that, and it was so fun today to tell a few women on my favorite porch at East Carolina that I’m still going to aparments and that God is still at work. To God be the Glory.