In a lower-income neighborhood by the school where I teach is “The Neighborhood Impact House.” A local church* provides a cozy family environment with homework help, arts and crafts, music lessons, sports activities, a community garden, and a kid-friendly bible study. Children and youth flock to this home, and I go more for the gifts of grace received than for anything I can offer.
Last Thursday, I drove up to see church volunteers in costumes playing basketball with children and grilling hotdogs.
One young boy spoke my sentiments out loud, “This is the best party I’ve ever had.” His eyes never left the plate of food a kindly woman prepared for him.
When I went inside, the kitchen filled with children decorating cupcakes. A woman laid frosting and candy decorations before wide-eyed children.
Before long, faces smeared with Kelly Green frosting and fingers sank into the tiny chocolate cakes.
I looked down the hall to see a young woman tutoring several youth. A mother sat patiently watching her daughter receive the help she needed.
Upon entering the room, the ministry leader gently moved a little girl’s hand saying, “There you go. You can do it. Trace the letter with me.”
Pumpkins for decorating stacked high on the table in the art room next door. Little hands reached for their favorite pick. They drew happy faces mirroring their own.
Life and hope swirled through every room of that home and poured out of the front door as children giggled and scurried about. Fun and joy flooded the garage and front yard. If I were to close my eyes, I would have transported back in time to our family’s BBQ’s when my own children were young.
“Mrs. Luna,” I heard as a young girl came along side for a hug. “Mom, this was Eric’s teacher.” She said these words in English for me and then in Spanish so her mother could understand. I had taught her brother several years earlier. Her mother’s face lit up with interest, and I wondered whether this girl just might be in my literacy class next year.
I felt and watched the life surrounding and filling that home with love. As I snapped pictures of the happiness in motion, I fought back the tears thinking, This is family. This is church.