Saucier UMC reaches out to community's children

12/5/2006

Special to the Advocate 

Special care was taken to ready the house and set the table. 

The fellowship hall sparkled with confetti, balloons and streamers. The altar was carefully dressed with children’s toys and books. Tangerine T-shirts were screen printed for each invited guest. A kid-friendly meal, including mac-n-cheese, nuggets, popcorn balls and Jell-O bites, was lovingly prepared. 

But the question that loomed heavy on everybody’s heart was, “Would they show up on Sunday morning?” The invited guests were more than 50 children and youth who participate in Saucier United Methodist Church’s Wednesday night outreach ministry. 

Faithful drivers make several bus stops in the rural Gulf Coast community each week to pick up “the least of these.” So many children and youth want to participate that the van has to make two runs. Plus, other volunteers run smaller circuits picking up a carload of little ones here and there. 

 It is an impressive sight when the van pulls into the parking lot. The large door swings open and out pours a sea of children ranging in age from 3 to high school students. Yes, they are loud. Yes, they are rowdy.  

However, they get along well and obey the house rules. It is not foreign to see an older youth shepherding a preschooler into the fellowship hall where they gather. What unfolds is a fun night of fellowship and food that manages to smuggle in Jesus between the Domino’s pizza and tetherball matches.  

Anticipation filled the air Oct. 29. No one knew when the church van pulled into the parking lot if it would be full of happy faces or disappointingly empty. 

The congregation almost jumped for joy as about 40 kids marched to the front of the sanctuary donning their bright orange T-shirts. Most of these children joined the Sunday morning worshippers for the very first time.  

The children blessed the parishioners with a song and dance to Whatever, an upbeat pop tune about doing “whatever you do, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus.” After their  offering, one little boy leaned over and whispered that this was the first time he had ever been to “church.”  

The first thought was to respond, “No, darling, you are the church.  And all your friends that are here today are the church. And Mr. Buddy that picks you up on the van. And Ms. Dorothy that makes those yummy cupcakes, and Ms. Memory that leads the ministry team. And everyone that helps with Wednesday nights. All of us make up the body of Christ.” 

However, that might be a theological pondering for another day. Instead the response was, “I’m so happy that you are here today. And I hope to see you back again really soon.”