We are so grateful to have kids on campus this summer for Kids Club, face-to-face. How we have missed being together!
It seemed right to build our summer theme around the stories in the Old Testament, where God’s people Israel began returning to Jerusalem from exile. Our stories come out of the books of Ezra and Nehemiah. I think our leaders were inspired to pick this theme as COVID 19 created a form of exile for us all.
I’m still a Kids Club teacher after all these years. It remains one of my favorite roles at Neighborhood; sitting with the Scripture and hearing them with and for children … children born into poverty, children with only one parent, children of immigrants, children who have had a trauma-filled year and half.
How do they understand these returnees from deportation, whose challenge (and desire) was to rebuild the city of their forefathers? How do they believe again with hope and expectation that God is on their side? How do they trust in the ultimate promise of the Kingdom of God while we teach that rebuilding Jerusalem was simply an archetype of things to come?
And your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt; you shall raise up the foundations of [buildings that have laid waste for] many generations; and you shall be called Repairer of the Breach, Restorer of Streets to Dwell In.
– Isaiah 58:12
I’d like to share a few of these promises that our Kids Club kids will be hearing this summer out of Ezra and Nehemiah, for them and for us too:
Like the children of Israel were faced with time and time again, our desire is to empower our kids to work towards something new – something that will bring about peace and a hope for a future. It may cost our community comfort; but the reward is far more valuable.
It takes confidence in God to come out of exile and take on the challenges of what is in front of us to do.
You’ve heard it said, “if only I had the faith of a child”. The children in our community are ready to come back to church and to some normalcy. They trust the authority in their lives saying its OK to be among their friends and caring adults.
But you can just feel it … the trauma of these past 18 months is evident in them. They have experienced a once in a life-time pandemic, lost loved ones, missed too much education, went without food, rent, parent’s jobs, and needed stabilities.
So it was with Israel. After 70+ years, God’s people Israel were invited to leave the place they were carried into captivity. Obeying God, they had “built houses, planted gardens, had children” there. They had forgotten their old world and had accepted their marginal status. Following Nehemiah and taking up the challenge of becoming “rebuilders” would take faith in God they had forgotten how to exercise.
The sufferings we have encountered need to be named so we can heal.
Nehemiah heard about the plight and brokenness of the city and wept. In his imagination, he could see the people who had been left behind for generations, living in squalor. He prayed. He prayed out of his lament, choosing to carry the suffering of his people.
We teach about this kind of prayer here. Lament prayers. This Kids Club, we will help our children learn to speak truth to God about their heartaches, their pain and their sufferings. Lament is a powerful understanding of prayer; it enables us to ask God to deliver us from sin, from distress, grief and fear. Lament prayer is designed to persuade God to act on our behalf. On the day we teach this, I will bring out a jar filled with lament prayers from previous year’s Kids Club kids. We teach children how to cry out to God.
The brokenness in our community is ours to rebuild. God has equipped us to do this.
Nehemiah, though an Israelite in captivity, had become a powerful man, a close and trusted advisor to the king. He was willing to leave the comfortable role he had been given to “move back” into the misery of his people and lead them to believe again that their lives could be filled with a promise of shalom. For Nehemiah, this belief that it was possible had become consuming. He could speak vision to the people who had been left behind. And he did.
Here is our challenge this Kids Club. To speak hope, vision and opportunity to our kids … who have been (so to speak) left behind. They are the future of our city. They are the future for their families. They are the future for the purposes of God.
Jesus has gone before us, inviting us to join Him, in His kingdom work.
Ezra and Nehemiah are unusual books. They end in an anti-climactic way. The people of God are returned to a functioning city and temple, but they still live as if obedience to God is optional. The rebuilding of the city, though existential, was looking to a future time. To a Jesus time, when God’s people, filled with the Holy Spirit, could participate in the things that God desires to do “on earth as it is in heaven”.
Kids Club invites children, even little ones, to believe that their trust and confidence in Jesus will lead them into the adventure of becoming “rebuilders” …followers of the Son of God, who gave Himself for us… that we might become children of God.
We long for this scripture to be fulfilled in their – and in our – lives…
And your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt; you shall raise up the foundations of many generations; and you shall be called Repairer of the Breach, Restorer of Streets to Dwell In.
– Isaiah 58:12