16: sonshine kids

Church hall alive with the footsteps of children. The aroma of turkey and all the fixin’s wafting up from the kitchen. Big kids helping little ones with plates of food.  Boys being reminded to keep their hands to themselves.  Children sitting in groups talking about their day.

It’s Thanksgiving Dinner at SonShine Kids. I wish you could see the smile on those kids faces as they pull apart the adorable turkey treats Carla made (a sweet dessert of oreos, reece’s, candy corn… all fashioned into little turkeys!)  Four hours in her kitchen devoured in minutes… ahh but for these kids to know that someone delighted in them enough to fashion such an elaborate snack. It is worth it. The giggles as I attempt to convince them that they are held together with hot glue… but they know better.  They know this is a place that loves.

The shy grin when I ask my little friend why she didn’t save me a seat. And the electric smile when she finds me at another table and slides into the chair next to me. Shining eyes peering at me from a dirty face… a face that has broken my heart and caused me to love.

A tap on my shoulder. Another little friend sneaking up beside me. She stands there, not saying a word. She seeks attention, but is too shy to speak first. I ask if she has my hug… and she does. She always does. We talk about school. She reminds me again who her teacher is. Looking her in the eye. For the moment she is the only one of importance. It’s a small gift… yet she looks for it week after week.

Songs sung.  Our Pastor leading us through the motions. Little kids with arms raised high.  Lessons on self-control. Games played. Tickets earned and names drawn.

I am so thankful for this incredible, beautiful, rag-tag group of kids God has entrusted us with at SonShine Kids. The bellies and souls that we get to feed.

It is not always easy. Boys can be rowdy. Girls can be needy.  We have had our fair share of sick kids and messes to clean up.  Children that only know attention of the negative sort. Kids piled in the van sometimes lead to a bloody nose.

But when you see volunteers cleaning that child up with such great love… and then wrap him in a brand new coat to replace the soiled one.  Coats on hand, for just such a time as this…

It’s worth it.

When you see entire families step into relationship with Christ because a van driver took the time to bring their kids to SonShine Kids week after week, for years… it’s worth it.

When a little girl slips beside you on a metal folding chair, because she knows that you care… it’s worth it.

When a child seeks you out each week for a hug… it’s worth it.

When bright blue eyes and freckled faces call to you in the grocery store... it's worth it.

When bellies are full, and songs are sung, and Jesus is taught… it’s worth it.

When my heart is broken and molded and changed by these incredible little souls who blossom and bloom in this place that loves…

It’s so, so, so worth it.

Some think that the high callings are those of pastors, or teachers, or missionaries… and certainly that is true…

But I think the highest callings are those of soft hands holding Kleenex to a bleeding nose.  Hours in a kitchen fashioning turkeys out of cookies and candy.  New winter coats.  Mashed potatoes and corn and green beans. Van drivers drowning in noise as they navigate city streets.  Bent knees before dirty faces.  

Ministering to the very heart of Jesus. What higher calling can there be? 

“The King will reply… 'whatever you did for one of the least of these, you did for me…'” [Matthew 25:40]

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