Sharing God’s Love through Mission Bible Schools
by Linda Gilden
“Linda, ain’t nobody that loves me.”
I sat on the step with 10-year-old Jimbo. Had he actually lived ten years and no one had ever told him he was loved? Why couldn’t he believe my words when I said I loved him?
“Jimbo, I do love you. I came all the way up here to these mountains to tell you that I love you and God loves you.”
He looked up at me with a dirty, tear-tracked face. “Naw, nobody cares about me.”
“You know God cares about each one of us. Before you were even born God had a plan for your life. See that bird over there? God even has a purpose for him.”
Jimbo sniffed. “Ain’t nobody ever told me that before.”
“I really want to be your friend.”
I leaned over and put my arm around him, but he flinched at the unfamiliarity of the touch. “Why don’t we go back in the class and listen to the story.” Jimbo nodded and slowly stood.
I had come to the mountains of Kentucky with my youth group for our first mission trip. And even though that was many years ago, I have never forgotten my conversation with Jimbo and the lessons it taught me about the different culture of the coal-mining region.
Recently I returned to the same mountains of Kentucky for the annual trip. I am no longer one of the youth but an adult who supports the youth as they go out to teach mission Bible schools to kids like Jimbo. This year we took 16 white fifteen-passenger vans, seven minivans, an eighteen-wheeler, a refrigerator truck, two pick-up trucks and three SUVs. One youth minister, a staff of 12, 220 teenagers and 35 adults.
Because this was the forty-eighth year our church group had gone to the same counties, people were waiting for us. There were welcome signs outside businesses. People sat on top of their cars in parking lots and on the side of the road. You would have thought a celebrity was coming to town. But the reason for the excited anticipation was because of the relationships that had been formed between kids in Kentucky and the South Carolina youth who visited year after year to spread God’s love in the mountains.
Would you like to spend time this summer participating in a mission Bible school? You could travel many miles over state lines like we did, or you could gather children from your own neighborhood. Here are a few tips to get you started.
Plan ahead. This doesn’t mean that parts of your trip can’t be spontaneous. But for a trip as large as the one to the hills of Kentucky, planning must be done well in advance.
For a long-distance trip, decide how you will travel, where you will stay, where you will get meals, who will pay for each item and the cost per person. Are you going to take medical personnel? Do you need musicians, crafty people or sports experts? Determine how the ministry teams will be divided or if there will be just one.
For a neighborhood event, you will need to know the length of your event (whether it will be one day or more), exactly where you will locate (an individual’s backyard, park or neighborhood clubhouse), who will underwrite your efforts (church or private contributors), where you will get materials, how you will get the word out in the neighborhood, whether you are going to have refreshments, if you need permission forms for children to attend, who will go early each day and set up.
Delegate. Even for a small event, there is a lot of work. Spreading the workload around will not only help the leader, it will also make those who have a specific job feel more ownership (not in a possessive way) and responsibility for the event. Assign specific duties like early bird crew, craft director, lesson coordinator, snack chairman, etc. Ask them to create committees to work under them.
Prepare. Once major decisions have been made, act. Encourage your team to begin early to assemble materials, distribute flyers, make signs, shop for supplies.
Advertise. You may think putting up a few signs is all you need. But word of mouth and actually visiting homes in the area to issue personal invitations will have a much greater response. Contact area churches, businesses and schools to see if they are willing to put flyers in their windows.
Be expectant. Lives are changed at local and mission summer Bible schools. Don’t expect anything less. Go with an attitude of excitement, love and joy that spills over to the children you are working with. They will see God’s love in you and want to know more about it.
Pray and trust God. Remember this is not your event. God has planned it all along and will bless it if you trust Him. He loves these children and wants you to share that with them.
Whether you have the opportunity to go away from your town or whether you go right in the middle of the town you live in, you can spread the love of God to others. Those opportunities are not limited to the summer either. Why not find a way year round to locate children like Jimbo who need to know that someone cares?
We’d like to hear from you. Please share your comments below or like us on your Facebook page. Be sure to check back each month for more articles and products available at your local Christian bookstore.