My friends, we do not have a distant God. We have a God that is living and active. We have a God that cares about lost sheep and about imperfect shepherds. We saw God working for, with, and through us this past week as we served St. John’s in Redwood Falls, Minnesota.
We had a blast at St. John’s, and especially enjoyed staying with the Gartners. Michelle, Dave, Nic, and Luke were amazing hosts, and I can honestly say that this week we were neither bored nor hungry. We ate like kings. We played basketball, golf, baseball, Brawl™, and Chess; we celebrated 3 Birthdays and a father’s day, and we laughed more than we have in a while.
The VBS we were involved in didn’t start until Tuesday morning, so we had all of Monday to relax and get acquainted. It was Caleb Schultz’s birthday, so after we prepared for VBS, he spent much of the day with his fiancée, Becky. Peter and I found some stuff to do in the meantime. Thankfully, St. John’s was short a few players on their church league softball team, so we helped fill in some spots. I think we did alright…Peter hit a grand slam.
On to VBS! We had a blast with the kids in Redwood Falls. We each taught the daily Bible lesson to a different age group, and we tackled the music as a group (big surprise there). You could tell by the smiles on their faces and the energy in their dancing and singing that the kids were having a good time with the band. They especially enjoyed our foot-stompin’ Bluegrass arrangement of “Peace Like a River.”
Ever since Peter bought an electric pickup for his banjo, we’ve started incorporating the banjo into our music a little more. Bluegrass is a surprisingly big hit with kids. Seriously. Try it sometime. On a musical note (see what I did there), this summer we’ve had more time to focus on our music than we have in the past, and it’s been a huge blessing. Instead of doing enough to get by (which happened a few times last summer), we’ve been able to work on the fine details of our music that make it sound even more polished and professional. It’s hard to beat a summer’s worth of playing music and telling both young and old about Jesus.
Let me tell you about Miclain. Miclain doesn’t go to the same grade school, like most of the campers at VBS. Miclain, a 1st grader, was always really pumped about VBS. He was excited to see us in the mornings and was always interested in the lessons. After the first day, Miclain came into the class and we had the following conversation:
Miclain: “Hey, Mr. Caleb (that’s what the kids call me these days).”
Mr. Caleb: “What’s up, Miclain?”
Miclain: “Mr. Caleb, I told my mom about the story we did yesterday.”
Mr. Caleb: “Oh, about Bezalel?” (We had just learned about him because he helped build the tabernacle and used his gifts to serve God)
Miclain: “No, about what Jesus did.”
It took nearly all of my self-control not to pick up this small boy, give him a huge hug and shout to the world “YES! THIS IS AWESOME! EVERYBODY BE LIKE THIS GUY!” I think I was still visibly overjoyed—and Miclain seemed pretty happy too. If only we could all be that excited and that fearless about the good news of our Savior.
The same day, Caitlin—another girl whose parents don’t attend St. John’s—told us about the best gift she has received. We were talking about our favorite birthday and Christmas gifts as an ice breaker and after people told us about 4-wheelers, cats, games, and walkie-talkies, Caitlin told us, simply, that her favorite gift was “God.” Perhaps she was just giving a typical “Sunday School answer,” but I like to think that God had strengthened the faith in her heart through his Word. We went on to talk about the greatest gift of all—Jesus, but Caitlin had beaten me to the punch. What an amazing display of childlike faith that trusts without asking questions.
Caitlin's response made me think. God doesn’t just work faith through the sermons and the sacraments and the adult Bible classes, but he works and strengthens faith in the simple Bible lessons we teach our children. It's good to be reminded that their souls are just as precious as ours--just as capable of trusting in Jesus, and just as capable of showing Christ's love.
On Friday, we helped St. John’s promote their school and Early Childhood Learning Center as we played in the Redwood Falls Parade. We set up our instruments on a big flatbed trailer and played a few of our favorite hymns as we drove through the streets of this lovely town. We’ve never done anything like that before, and we may never do anything like it again, but we all agreed it was pretty awesome.
Last, but not least, we led worship Saturday night and Sunday morning. I preached and led the liturgy, while we played the psalm and all the hymns. We added some musical variety in our arrangements, including Caleb Schultz on the bass, me on guitar, and Peter on the Banjo and the rarely-used Cabasa! As he has been thus far, God was with us again in our praise and proclamation of the gospel. What an amazing opportunity he has given us!
Friends, please pray for us as we continue our summer ministry. Pray for all those who will hear the message we spread. Pray that the Holy Spirit works in the hearts of all those we meet. Pray that God keeps us safe and that he keeps us focused on HIM alone.
Grace and Peace,