God’s Kingdom Come…in SBH

God continues to amaze me! He works in such awesome ways!  When I moved into Southern Barton Heights, just a ½ mile from Gilpin Court seven years ago, I had no idea what He had in store.  He continues to WOW me, and Hope Church is now a part of my ongoing story.

Seven years ago, I had no idea what I was doing….just trying to learn how to love my neighbors, who were  different from me in many ways.  Seven years ago, I felt all alone in this work.  Since my move, there have been some difficult times, and some really exciting, wonderful times. The lonely days are more few and far between than they were back then.  And, today, Louis and I feel even less alone than we did 4 months ago.

Why?  It was over 4 months ago when I learned about Camp Splash, hosted by Hope Church.  Hope Church made the conscious decision to take VBS to the streets.  Instead of taking a ‘come and see’ approach, inviting the community to the church building, Hope took a ‘go and tell’ approach.  Camp Splash is a backyard weeklong Bible Camp with water games (the kids’ favorite part!!!), crafts, Bible lesson, and a snack (a light dinner in our case).

So…how did we get hooked up with Hope Church?  My mom received an online newsletter from Hope Church when Camp Splash was first announced…asking the congregation to consider hosting Camp Splash in their backyard.  We prayed about it, considering an email asking if Hope would be willing to partner with us – someone pretty unknown to them.  Well, we weren’t completely unknown….Louis had taken some classes with Hope’s Senior Pastor, David. Then, I thought to myself, “Why not?  What’s the worst that could happen?  That they would say ‘No.”?  I sent the email.  Less than a week later, I received an email from Anne stating that they had been praying for an opportunity to serve the inner-city.  This was an answer to our prayer…and Hope’s.

Over the next four months, Anne and I got together to talk and pray about what that might look like, who in the church would be interested, when we would host it, etc.  I received a copy of the program, plus the host/family package.  I got to check out a camp held on a very hot day in the West End, just to get a feel for the rhythm.  And just 2 weeks before the camp, Maddie, a few of the Hope Church youth, and I got together to get to know one another and brainstorm how we would roll.  On another visit, the girls helped to flyer the community.  Then, we prayed.  I had NO idea how many local youth would come….whether it was 5 or 15.

Over the 5 days of Camp Splash, the love of Jesus – through Word and deed – was shared with over 30 Northside children.  The week was amazing!  Sometimes kids can be challenging, but they were terrific this week.  One leader, Gregory, had 2 occasions to help mediate in what could have been a physical fight instead of lots of hurtful words being exchanged.  Just this morning, Louis and I chatted with one girl who quoted great advice and thoughts that Gregory had shared during one of those times just last night.  Praise God for providing Louis, Gregory and Robert wisdom to handle the difficult situations with grace, love and firmness.

And what giving friends we have!  Since we hosted Camp Splash from 5:30-7:30pm, we also served the kids a simple, light dinner provided by some GENEROUS friends!  They were such a huge hit and greatly appreciated!  Thank you!!!!

Friday night at the closing community cookout, we welcomed many parents and neighbors, as well.   The parents of our youth and college age students were also excited to join in the work by attending the Friday night community cookout.  And…can I just say WOW!  Spencer Simmons totally rocked!  Spencer is an up-and-coming artist who happened to be in Richmond last night.  (check her out at www.spencersimmonsmusic.com) Despite the rain that challenged us, she eventually got to plug in when the clouds rolled away and the sun came out.  Not only did she honor us with her God-given talent, but she also shared the mic with our neighbors for an impromptu Open Mic Night.  We had at least 6 churches who worked together to help us set up and tear down!

This cookout felt a little like God’s kingdom..here on earth, as we joined together in our differences – race, church, worship style, socio-economic status, geography, denomination, education, cultures, etc. to worship our God by loving our neighbor and proclaiming His name and His name alone.

I pray that God takes the love shared through words and deeds and multiplies them 10-fold.  May this be a week that changed Southern Barton Heights and its children.  May the hearts of those from Hope Church and everyone involved continue to be moved to love and serve their neighbors in the inner-city of RVA.  God…bring your kingdom here in Richmond…in Southern Barton Heights as it is in heaven. Make it so, Lord.  Make it so.

Take a peek into the last day of Camp Splash and the Community Cookout….