Then Jesus called for the children and said to the disciples, "Let the children come to me. Don't stop them! For the Kingdom of God belongs to those who are like these children.
Let me tell you a story. Well, it might not be much of a story to you, but it makes a load of difference to me.
I was listening to a giant in the faith talk about kids needing supplies as they go back to school. This giant is Bill Barker who leads Appalachian Regional Ministries and works with the people of the Appalachian area here in the USA. When Bill speaks, I hear a man who goes into the trenches where people are hurting. Many have been left behind when industry packed up and moved on. That is one reason I love to serve in West Virginia. This was about 10 years ago that Bill was speaking at the church I was pastor of as he talked about filling shoeboxes with school supplies for kids.
It wasn't until 6 years ago that I was reminded in big ways of the impact that those shoe boxes had on the children Bill talked about. We began our back2school outreach. A year later we found Samaritan's Feet where my friend Ron Pegram was working. Now we are able to help thousands of kids each year with all kinds of items so they can be more successful in school.
I believe that God offers 2nd chances. He comes back to people and gives to them, I mean us, the grace and mercy that we don't deserve. Isn't that awesome! That is the character of our Savior and Lord. He loves people. But one of the things that many of us can't live with is kids hurting. That is why we stepped up to serve the children.
We are literally offering 2nd chances ... for kids. Some of these children wouldn't have the shoes, backpacks and school supplies, haircuts or clothes we are able to give. We are helping these kids step up. I believe that not only are we helping kids whose families are in tough spots, but we are handing out the most precious commodity that any of us can give or get. And that is HOPE. HOPE that only God can give.
God says I love you when others say I hate you. God says you are able and strong when others say you can't and you are weak. God says I have plans for your greatness while others say you will amount to nothing. As we look into the eyes and hearts of these kids, we will see lives change by the grace of God. By offering 2nd chances for kids some of these children will get the boost to move forward and the hope that might just carry them into heaven and into greatness before they get there.
Little Nick walked in our door 4 years ago. At first he wouldn't look up and he wouldn't talk to me. I tried my hardest. I talked and kidded with him. Even tried to tickle him. But after one of our volunteers took off his old shoes, washed his feet and put on his brand new shoes that something changed (every student will have their feet washed). Then Nick got his brand new backpack, and he lit up like a Christmas tree. This young boy went from looking down to looking up. He went from a huge frown to a big ol' smile. I've seen Nick around town since then, and this kid is awesome.
My prayer is that Saturday, August 3rd we will be able to offer more hope than ever before. My prayer is that more students will accept a 2nd chance in their lives. My prayer is as we offer hope in Jesus that some of these students will see the light and love of God like never before. God is able. God is in the business of offering 2nd chances ... for kids, and for us grownups too. God is good!
And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us...
Your help is still needed. Today and tomorrow (Friday and Saturday) our partner churches will be at local stores collecting school supplies (FRIDAY --- WalMart, Big Lots and Dollar Tree in Martinsville and WalMart in Danville; SATURDAY --- the same as Saturday plus WalMart in Stuart, Family Dollar in Bassett and more). Students can still be registered on Saturday from 9am until noon at all 6 churches (Fairway in Bassett, CrossPoint at Bassett High School, The Community Fellowship in Collinsville, Mercy Crossing in Martinsville, Mt. Calvary in Axton and First Pentecostal Holiness in Danville). Volunteer training will be on Thursday, August 1st at all 6 churches, and the big event is Saturday, August 3rd. You and your help would be a big blessing!
Note: much of this blog post first appeared in 2011 but some has been changed to reflect this year’s back2school outreach.