A Joy-Packed Reunion Filled with Love
Since last December, I’ve been describing this 40th anniversary year, where we would be celebrating with three “smaller” events before the big one coming, Dec. 3rd.
July 15 was the third “smaller” event. This one featuring the 35 years of summer program outreach — Kids Club — to the children and youth in our community. It was a reunion of the most phenomenal kind … kids from decades ago, all grown up with children of their own, most of whom are Kids Club kids today. Adults who were teen leaders in their day, with their kids in tow, telling the stories of how “mom and dad” met each other in this very program. Reminiscing with hundreds (and hundreds) of printed photos spread out on tables, hunting for pictures of themselves as children, finding pictures of their siblings, their friends, their old leaders. Hugs and selfies and memories spilled out everywhere, people running up to each other saying, “Ian is here”, “Have you seen Markie, he just walked in”, “Bo and Delta are outside”. This beautiful love was everywhere for hours, and as new folks walked into the room, the energy of remembering the shared life-lived escalated.
As I’ve said for decades, Kids Club is much more than a summer day camp. It is a destination, where relationships are made, many which last a life-time. It is the place of the first, or second or years of encounter with God. It is where young people first experience what it is to give your life to another as a leader and mentor. It is where whole families, even whole clans leave the tough stuff of life and come away for two weeks of fun, two weeks of love, two weeks of exploring the amazing gifts of our city. And this night of remembering, there were countless pictures of all of that.
Thirty-five years in that room. Besides pictures, there was a table with gently used Kids Club t-shirts available to take home, some from the 90’s. “Remember this one?”, you could hear people say. Another table had some of the books recently published out of the Neighborhood Ministries community that have Kids Club stories in them. There was a craft area, reminiscent of the projects we do as a whole community every summer that leave a legacy gift on our property. And of course, there was a t-shirt just for this event to take home, Kids Club Reunion 2022, 40th anniversary.
You know, over the years, as kids grew up, more than a few have already passed away. We remember them all the time, but for this event, we wanted to give particular honor to their lives. Outside in our prayer garden, we installed a memorial space with framed photos of these loved ones, candles and twinkly lights around, seating for those who wanted to spend a moment. Four of the pictures represent lives lost recently, one just a few weeks ago. It was a solemn space.
We were a room filled with people who have encountered God here, with each other, with worship songs we still sing decades later, with hope we were given, with miracles we experienced, with testimonies of changed lives. It was perfect. Exactly what we looked forward to, a joy-packed reunion.