This Sunday, our missional community of seven families gathered for our weekly family dinner and “service.” We’re used to a good sized group of people; we have 13 adults and 12 children when we all get together. Planning enough food and space for that many people every week sounds like a task in itself. However, after Vacation Bible School was such a hit, there have been some neighborhood kids that just keep coming back. Our normal group of 25 turned into a group of almost 40. Now, in our own minds, space and food just had to stretch. This Sunday, though, was different.
When I arrived at the Shoemaker’s house, there were only about 20 of us there. I thought tonight was going to be as “normal” as any other Sunday. I was so wrong. The turns, the chaos, the panic, the revelations, and the blessings were about to hit us with an overwhelming force.
At first, a few people showed up at the front door: maybe 5, or 6 people. That was normal enough, and somewhat expected. After all, our Sunday nights just seemed to get a little bigger each time. But this time shocked us all. Children poured in through the front door. At first, we recognized them. Some were neighborhood kids that we’ve all interacted with at some point, whether on a Sunday or during VBS. Then the faces became more unfamiliar. Children and teens who we had never met, kids whose names were never known to us, came through the door and jumped in the line for food. By the time kids stopped showing up, there were probably 30 kids (not including our own children) all piled into two small rooms. And there were 13 adults. Let the chaos begin!
As for the food, we were all thinking the same thing: “There won’t be enough.” There couldn’t possibly be enough food to go around and feed all of these children! It simply wasn’t planned for, and couldn’t possibly have been anticipated. We fed the children first, just in case we ran out. I’m sure, like myself, some of the adults wondered if they would get to eat at all. Once the children were all fed, we could go assess the damage, and grab what was left over. I was one of the last adults to grab my plate of food. I expected there to be NOTHING left. And oh my goodness was I in for a shock. There was not only enough food for the remaining adults, but there was MORE THAN ENOUGH. We were able to eat our fill, and at the end of the night, there was even a bit of leftovers. The Lord provided. He took what little we had, and stretched it to feed the many. Now maybe this wasn’t seven loaves of bread, two fish, and over 5,000 people, but the Lord revealed something to us that day: HE will provide. I really felt my faith had been challenged for ever having a shadow of a doubt.
After everyone was finished eating, we began our lesson. We split up all the kids into groups. Each group had about eight kids, and the two adults per group were to talk about prayer with the kids, and pray with them individually and as a group. For me, this took me out of my comfort zone. I love kids and love to play with kids, but to pray with them, especially kids I didn’t know? Any other day I would have wanted to crawl into my shell and disappear. But this day was different. I had a confidence, I knew what to say, and I knew what kids hungered the most for the Lord. The feelings of uneasiness vanished, and the courageous response resonated throughout our missional community. Everyone stepped forward, and never took a second guess as to whether or not they could handle it. Our courage came from the Lord, and my, oh my, is He good at challenging us when we least expect it.
After everyone went home, the members of our missional community gathered to discuss the afternoon and end in prayer. A few things people talked about resonate in my mind today, and I haven’t been able to stop thinking about them for the past couple days.
Stretching: The Lord showed us this day that we need to have faith in His provisions, and that He will stretch whatever needs to be stretched for His glory. In this instance, food and space. I don’t remember ever feeling cramped or like there were too many people. I don’t know how we fit that many people in one area, or how we fed them all. I can honestly say, the Lord truly “stretched” what needed to be stretched.
Flexibility: We thought, as a whole, that we were flexible. We made it through VBS with 50 kids and 7-10 adults each day, right? We were challenged on our flexibility, and by His grace, and ONLY by His grace (I can assure you), we made it out alive.
And the stories. Some of the stories that the adults shared about the children were astonishing. One girl, who was anxious about the amount of people present STILL said that we just needed to invite more. Without ever considering her OWN feelings of stress or uncomfortability, she wanted to step forward, and step out on faith, for Jesus Christ.
This last Sunday may not have gone as planned. It may not have gone as smoothly as anticipated. It went better. We reached more children for Christ, and learned a few things along the way. As adults who have claimed to have faith and who want to serve the Lord, we were taught valuable lessons in faith, courage, and flexibility. I believe the blessings we received that day, amidst all the chaos, have inspired and impacted us in ways we didn’t anticipate when we showed up for our “normal” missional community that afternoon.