Monday, October 19, 2009

Details and Small Packages

Jill and I attended a banquet last night for Street GRACE, an advocacy organization combatting the sexual exploitation of children. A dear frind of mine is the Executive Director and she invited us along; we sat at the table with the keynote speaker, Paul Young, author of The Shack. Wow, what great storties he told about God's divine plan unfolding in his life. A line I appropriated from him is "God is in the details." Indeed he is, isn't he?

Here's a true story I wrote for the church and wanted to share with you:

Sometimes great things come in small packages. Such as a diamond engagement ring in a little velvet box, a favorite family photograph captured in just a few bytes of digital memory, a song that describes a lifetime sung in less than three minutes.

Or a baby born in a manger who would become the Savior for all mankind.

Emily Stone and Caroline Mock are small packages, both not yet in their teen years, but both already doing great things.

Tagging along with an older sister to a Gold Rush event, the two friends happened to visit the Huntington Creek Apartment complex in Doraville, home of some fifty low income families living just off the runway of the Peachtree DeKalb Airport. While there Emily and Caroline began to play with the smaller children who lived in the complex, darting around on the pine bark covered playground adjacent to the parking lot, ducking under and around an old and battered swing set.

It didn’t take Emily and Caroline long to realize that the swing set was really an accident waiting to happen. Rickety and made of wood, it was older than most of the children. Dry rotted and splintered with nail heads protruding and rungs missing from the ladder, the set would best be repurposed for firewood. Only one of the original four swing seats still hung above the ground, and its chains were rusted and groaned whenever someone took a seat. Kids stood in line waiting their turn, and now and then disagreements broke out as those waiting grew impatient with the one who rode a little too long on the sole swing.

Emily and Caroline talked about their new friends on their way home and wondered out loud if they could do anything to make the playground safer and more fun for them.

They also talked about the upcoming Compassion in Action weekend and somewhere in that conversation an idea was born: the girls would organize a carwash and lemonade sale in their neighborhood to raise money for the purchase of new playground equipment. The young entrepreneurs went door to door explaining their fundraiser, and did indeed wash a few cars and sell a few cups of lemonade.

Yet in the end Emily and Caroline were only able to raise $100, far from enough to purchase the $1800 gift they had in mind for the youngsters living at the Huntington Creek Apartments.
But word of the girls’ ambitious CIA project began to spread, and before long enough money was donated to the cause to cover the cost of the new playground equipment.

On the Saturday of the CIA weekend the girls, their dads and other volunteers gathered at the apartment complex to assemble the structure. Soon the parts, wood beams and platforms, green rubber swing seats, a fireman’s pole, a climbing rope and sliding board lay on the ground, and the excited young residents danced around wanting to know when they could use the new swings.

A few of the older boys offered to help and soon were holding pieces in place while volunteers tightened bolts and screws. The younger children, too small to help and too impatient to wait, did their best to play with the pieces that were not yet ready to be assembled. One boy held the sliding board above his head with his hands while the smallest of his neighbors climbed up his back and then slid down the slide.

Emily and Caroline did their best to keep the children away from the power tools, and eventually additional and welcomed help arrived. Other volunteers came with snacks and crafts and quickly a small group formed on the perimeter of the playground. Children laughed as they colored pictures of Jesus performing miracles and pasted together symbols of faith to use as decorations in their homes. Hot dogs, sodas and chips were served, and no one seemed to care when a light rain began to drizzle on their heads.

No one cared because just a few yards away the playground set was slowly taking shape, rising above the pine bark, strong, safe, large enough for everyone, and promising loads of fun for years to come.

It took six hours and many hands to assemble the new playground equipment, serve the food and supervise the craft activities, but it only took the hearts and imaginations of two young girls – Emily and Caroline – to inspire others to join them in demonstrating the love of Christ and bringing Glory to God.

Sometimes great things come in small packages. Your seemingly small gesture of service or charity may be a priceless treasure to its recipient. What are you willing to give? What dreams could you help come true?

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