With all the stories of bombings and mass shootings that surround us on a daily basis, it’s hard to remain hopeful about the future of mankind. But sometimes hope comes when you least expect, maybe from a crooked little smile or a Kit Kat bar.
Last night was AWANA night. David and I arrived just as the opening assembly was getting started. We signed in and hung around the check-in desk, visiting with other listeners and eating cookies that were intended for kids who brought their Bible, their book and their 50 cents and who wore their AWANA t-shirts. We heard young voices join together as they pledged allegiance to both the United States and the AWANA flags and as they practiced songs they’ll sing for their parents at the end-of-year celebration in three weeks.
As the music faded, there was momentary chaos as the Cubbies (3 and 4 year olds) went to their room, the Sparks (Kindergarten through 2nd grade) stayed in the sanctuary for story time, and the T&Ters (Truth and Training, 3rd grade through 6th grade) burst out the doors for game time. We began counting noses and progress cards to see how many kids each listener would have. There were plenty of adults, so when the T&Ters streamed back in one door and the Sparks whooped and hollered their way out the other a few minutes later, each listener settled down with 2 students.
I sat on the steps with two girls who were enthusiastic and motivated and made good progress. The 25 minutes flew by, and it was soon time to leave the T&Ters to their group lesson, go corral Cubbies fresh from the playground and try to get them to focus on Scripture memory work for a few minutes. The sweaty little bodies swirled around us, waiting for that magic moment when someone called their name. There were fewer of them than of the older group, so I only had one progress card. When I called “Bill’s” name, his face lit up and he broke into a huge smile, displaying one large permanent tooth that stood out from the baby teeth around it.
We found a vacant spot in the hallway and settled down on the floor. My settling took a bit longer than his, and by the time I was seated, he had his book in hand and proudly held it out for inspection. The lesson he was working on required written answers and he had completed them at home, filling in the blanks with big block-printed letters. I was pleasantly surprised. Most of the books stay in the bags from one week to the next. I signed his page as he peered over my shoulder, and we moved on to the next lesson. We read about children in Nepal, and he drew a picture of the toys mentioned in the story. We completed the section, and he ran to the check-in desk to collect his reward.
In a minute he reappeared, sporting that toothy grin and a new jewel in the wings on his vest. He plopped down beside me, ready to get back to work. We read about King Josiah and how he smashed and burned the Asherah poles. I showed him a picture and tried to explain in words he would understand.
“People took pieces of wood and carved gods out of them and worshipped them. God didn’t like that at all,” I said.
“Yeah, because of the first commandment,” he said.
Somebody had definitely been working with him at home. He then showed evidence of more home study by reciting two Bible verses with just a little bit of prompting. He had worked hard and had earned the piece of candy each child receives at the end of the evening. I handed him a small Kit Kat bar and told him I was proud of him. He thanked me and turned to the serious work of unwrapping the candy. He carefully broke it in half and held out one of the pieces to me.
“Oh, that’s okay,” I said. “You eat it.”
“Awww,” he said, his grin fading. He looked like Mom when her Alzheimer’s was winning and my patience was losing and I refused her offers of help.
“Well,” I said quickly, “if you really want me to have it, I’d love to.”
“I just wanted to share.”
“Thank you. That’s very sweet.”
I took the chocolate-covered wafer from his hand, and we sat on the floor, sharing a silent moment of communion. It was a moment filled with hope.
And a child shall lead them. Isaiah 11:6
Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. Hebrews 11:1