As we were setting up for the first session of Rosewood neighborhood Bible School, a group of kids came running up through the park and one of them, fists raised above his head in celebration, shouted, “The church people are here!” Now, in a world where the “church people” showing up to anything increasingly means something negative, it was most refreshing to hear such enthusiasm and confirmation of the goodness of our work in that community.
Rosewood Bible School started in 1992 when Helen Stinson wanted to do something for the children in her neighborhood. And for many years she and Joye Brannon and members of the youth choir held Bible School in Helen’s front yard. This is not your typical Bible School. It’s outdoors, all ages of kids are in one big group, and kids just come and go as they please. And you know what? It’s hot out there, and you better bring your bug spray, and it’s hard to do crafts when they keep blowing off the tables. And you really better pray that it doesn’t rain. But it worked, and it’s still working. The kids kept returning each summer, and are still returning, because of the relationships that Helen had with her neighbors. She knew all the families, which ones didn’t speak English, where the kids went to school. She even brought the kids to church with her. And through her efforts, those of us who helped with Bible School started to build relationships, too.
In the early 2000’s a large new park was built for the Rosewood neighborhood, right across the street from Helen’s house. We were given permission to use the park for Bible School. The use of that space has been a great blessing. We have space to play games, serve food, and gather together with as many as 40 kids and their parents. We sing songs and tell Bible stories and do art projects right out in the open where everyone can see. Kids are always asking, “what’s going on? Is it for me, too? Do I have time to go get my friends?”
Indeed, our VBS has come a long way from its small beginnings. It has even inspired an offshoot tutoring ministry. But Rosewood is still about the small things. It’s about a small little lady who is dedicated to serving God and her neighbors. It is about 4 year old Hailey who was too shy to talk to me until Louise Burroughs gave her some streamers and taught her a song. It’s about the simple snacks donated by the ladies of our WMU. It’s about our young adults who come to the park and play endless rounds of the bucket relay. It’s about our youth like Christopher Lyle who lead the kids in crazy dances. In fact, I think we can probably attribute much of the kids’ excitement this year to the wonderful work that our youth did leading the Bible School last summer. Rosewood is about the small gifts of time, talent, the listening, the smiles. It’s about the shared blessings and mutual transformation that come from doing unto others, taking care of the least of God’s children, and helping the meek to inherit the kingdom.
But let me go back to the beginning, back to the excitement about the church people being here. Rosewood is a neighborhood of hardworking poor, of immigrants, of Habitat houses, of families and extended families living together, playing together, and caring for each other. It is also a neighborhood of run-down rentals, single parents, teenage mothers, and families who often don’t stay in the same house more than a year. It is a neighborhood with drugs, crime, and gangs. We have absolutely no idea how much joy is behind that exclamation “the church people are here.” We have no idea how much this neighborhood might need to know God’s love. But we do know that God’s love is there. God is working in Rosewood. We know it because we have built relationships with the people, and we have built a reputation of goodness and love, so much so that the people remember us. But that doesn’t mean that all the work is done.
Now, like I said, this ministry has been working for 22 years, and some of y’all still didn’t know about it until about 5 minutes ago. If you have never been a part of this amazing ministry, let me invite you to join us – join us on a Thursday night or just pray for us. And those of you who are already involved – spread the good word. Thank you.
There are 2 weeks left to join the fun at Rosewood VBS – Thursday, July 31 and Thursday, August 7 from 6:30-8 pm! Rosewood Park directions: Wendover East to Summit Avenue North, right on Meadow Street, park is on the left.