Today I made cookies and colored cards with children.
One of the things I really love about my community of faith, First Baptist Church of Ahoskie, North Carolina, is their ecumenical spirit. We partner with area churches in a variety of ministries which include benevolence, Vacation Bible School, food pantry, backpack buddies, and Operation Inasmuch—with which I began this day.
At 7:30 a.m., with habitual diet coke in hand, I helped welcome brothers and sisters into our fellowship hall for the beginning breakfast and devotion. There were folks from a wonderful variety of congregations: non-denominational, Native American/African-American, mainline, and African-American congregations. Ages spanned from three to ninety-something, a lovely patchwork of people with one goal in mind; to serve others in the name of Christ.
Like most Operation Inasmuch days, ours included a children’s project. I had the privilege of serving as its leader. Our project was two-fold. We were going to bake cookies and color cards of thanks for our local fire fighters and police officers. And we were going to put together the ingredients for bean soup, layered in clear gift bags with attached card (also colored by the children) containing cooking directions. I had bought enough ingredients to make about twenty bags.
I loved watching the children delight in all the ingredients of the soup recipe. There were black beans and green beans, white beans and red beans which were oh so fun to pour into large bowls. There was dried mustard which prompted a “Yuck!” There was dried onion which caused another child to wrinkle up his face in disgust. “It takes all this to make soup?” one child asked. “All these ingredients go together to make the soup taste good,” I replied. Another child asked, “What are we going to do with it when we’re done?” Ah, just the question I was hoping someone would ask. “We’re going to take them to the Food Pantry. Do you know what the Food Pantry is?” And thus began a wonderful discussion about the hungry in our community.
On to the cookie baking and card coloring. I was pleasantly surprised when not one cookie was swiped and eaten! Every single one ended up in a gift bag. And the cards were adorable. The black and white drawings of a fireman, a fire dog (Dalmatian, of course), and a policeman bloomed with color. As we delivered the gifts I enjoyed watching the recipients get a kick out of the pictures of orange fire dogs, green policemen, and purple firemen. And as they held the still warm cookies in their hands, they offered a heartfelt thank you to the children. Mission accomplished!
It was a great morning spent with a terrific bunch of children helping to feed the hungry and offer thanks to those who help keep us safe. The afternoon was a completely different scenario.
By 2 p.m. that day I was robed and ready to help officiate the memorial service for one of our long-time senior adult members who had suffered under the debilitating effects of Parkinson’s disease. He was ready to go, and his family was ready to let him go.
“Mr. Smith” was a member of “The Greatest Generation,” a generation that is, sadly, fast approaching its end. Lately, as I’ve helped celebrate the life of many of these generational giants I have sorely grieved their loss. What will our world look like without them? Who will follow in the footsteps of those in that generation who modeled hard work, strong ethics, and exemplified commitment to faith, family, and community? At the end of the service, as these thoughts were running through my mind, two finely dressed members of the U.S. Army came forward to provide the military honors for which Mr. Smith was due. As I listened to the strains of taps, and as I watched the folded American flag being respectfully delivered to the son, tears streamed down my face. “Thank you, God,” I thought, “for this man, for this family, and for this faith community that binds us together.”
It’s a humbling experience to help honor a life. Every time I lead or assist in a memorial service or funeral, it is my constant prayer that all I say and do would beautifully honor the life of the deceased, would help the family both grieve over and celebrate that life and that God would be glorified through it all. I hope that was accomplished that day.
The day began in the joyful company of children and ended in the somber, comforting fellowship of a faith community helping celebrate the life of a dear brother in Christ. It was a good day. Thanks be to God.
Anita Thompson, associate pastor for music and worship, First Baptist Church, Ahoskie, North Carolina.