"The Road" to Oak Park

From “Kidztown” to “Rock City” to now “The Road,” I’ve spent the last five years working with our young elementary kids on alternating Sunday mornings. Though we are sent the lessons plans during the week so we can read and prep beforehand, many times I found myself skimming through the lessons plans the morning of as the early group of kids start trickling in. And though not ideal, this was usually enough time for me to get a handle on the week’s lesson. The lesson plan format was usually the same: a bible review game, then an application-to-real-life activity, fun practice of our memory verse and prayer, and finally a game that can keep going until parents arrive. The lesson plans are so awesome that it even has a script to tell us what to say if we really need it. So when I strolled in another Sunday morning this past spring without having read the plans, it was no big deal right?

Wrong.

I knew something was up when our team leader gathered all the 2nd and 3rd grade leaders to talk about our first activity. Why would we need to all get together to talk about a Bible story review activity? That’s when I actually read the plans.

“Acts of Service” Ok, our bottom line this month is about working together to change someone’s life, so this is expected.Guide kids to brainstorm ways they can work together to serve a person or group of people in your community. Like, actual people in our community? Outside of church? Encourage them to be creative, but also practical. This is something they actually need to be able to do. Wait, what?

Now I see why we needed to talk. This activity was definitely out of the ordinary, and quite frankly, out of my comfort zone. I mean, we were being asked to do something with our Sunday morning kids, outside of church. I was so used to just showing up, following the plan to help teach kids the lesson, then leaving it all at church. Sure, I’d be open to helping out with an event that Beth organized for us all, but planning something with the kids, on our own?

We agreed on doing something for the residents at Oak Park, the assisted living facility where our church office is located. We recalled how we held our Christmas party there with the residents, and decided that spending time with them for an afternoon of board games would be something that we could do practically and something that would help serve the needs of that community.

Fast forward to the present, and we have now done three “Games with Embrace Kids” afternoons with the residents of Oak Park. It’s never been perfect. For instance, the first time I didn’t help the kids understand the meaning of service, so there were a couple who didn’t participate because they thought playing board games was too boring. Also, though we always have a good group of kids and parents show up, we’ve always had a low turnout of residents. In fact, at our last event this past month, we had the biggest turnout of Embrace families (hooray!), but absolutely ZERO residents show up because of a logistical error (oops – should’ve called to make sure our event was on the calendar!).

And yet, so many beautiful things have come from this experience. After our first event (which I thought would just be a one-time thing), we had the residents asking us to come back, which led to planning more game days for the summer. I found so many things in common with a sweet lady who ended up sharing her testimony with me, and she even came to visit Embrace Church the next day. Even though we have only 4-5 residents come each time, they are the same ones we’ve seen since our first event so we’ve been able to get to know them a little better each time. And when we all showed up to an empty room because no one knew about our event? We all stood in front of the resident directory and looked for names of residents we knew, and knocked on everyone’s door to invite them to come play games with us. (We may have knocked on about 3 “wrong” doors trying to find the right Ms. Betty…who knew that name used to be so popular?)

It has been exciting to see the small ways God is working in the life of our church…through our “small” members. Who knew that a challenge to come up with an “act of service” would lead to this new relationship between the kids in “The Road” and the residents at Oak Park? I am thankful to be a part of Embrace and for this new outlet where we can help empower our youngest members to represent Jesus in our community, one round of UNO at a time. 

Contributed by Angie Kuo.