Panda for President!

Do they have a president in Canada?  Or a king?  I need to ask José and Grant tomorrow... We had a great and exhausting day today!

The morning started by attending church at Keele Street.  We arrived plenty early, because we didn't know what to expect.  Apparently the fact that we were early, and that we are all VERY white, made us stand out like sore thumbs!

Church starts at 10:30 in the summer.  During the winter, there are services at 10:00 and 11:30.  When we inquired from Grant about the late starts, he explained it was because of the subway schedule.  The metro doesn't begin running until 9:00 am.  Many of the congregational members live around an hour from the church, so the services cannot begin prior to 10:00.

We arrived at church and the worship team was practicing.  The team was composed of high school/college-age, Asian men.  They were very good.  José informed us later that the church (which has maybe 200-250 people every Sunday) has six worship teams!  It seems that almost everyone in the church has some sort of musical ability!  (Another way that our team stood out like sore thumbs!)

Church began shortly after 10:30, but a majority of the congregation trickled in after 10:45!!  It's very different from the farmers at Athens Christian who show up promptly at 8:00!

As caucasians, we were obviously the minority.  Within one sanctuary, there were Chinese, Japanese, Filipinos, Brazilians, and Africans.  I was moved to tears at this sight.  It was so amazing to see so many different people with so many different pasts and cultures coming together to praise the One who created those differences.

The service was relatively laid-back.  Most people were dressed very casually, but some were dressed in their own ethnic attire.

Grant preached a very well-researched sermon on 1 John 5:21 -"Dear children, keep away from anything that might take God's place in your hearts."  He reminded us that anything that takes God's place in our hearts, is an idol.

After the service, there was a potluck held in our honor!  With all these ethnicities represented, the meal was like visiting an international buffet!  Some of the interesting items offered: rice in a steamer, barbeque noodles containing hot dogs and meatballs, stir-fry, pork stir-fry, and noodles with red pepper and corn.


After stuffing our faces (in a very small fellowship hall - no tables, just rows of chairs), we finished setting up VBS decorations and doing last-minutes preparations.

We set up a table out front to encourage registration from community members.  We also visited the park within the block to tell the families about the program.

What worked the best to gain attention though, was the giant panda costume that Doug wore!  Most people driving by would honk and wave when they saw this cuddle-y black and white bear!  ;)  At the park, kids flocked to the panda for hugs and high-fives.  It was really too bad that the temperatures hovered around 100° today, and poor Doug had to take lots of breaks so he wouldn't overheat!

[I interrupt this blog post to change hotel rooms.  Our air conditioner wasn't working...  Now, back to the regularly scheduled program...]

Now, I've directed five other Vacation Bible Schools in the USA.  I've developed a great schedule and a strict to-the-minute plan.

In five minutes tonight, that all went down the tubes...

Kind of like church, some people showed up relatively late for VBS.  Some people (volunteers) didn't even show up at all!  We only had around 15 kids (2-12 year-olds), but that wasn't discouraging because this is the first Vacation Bible School that Keele has hosting in five years.  What was difficult for me, was the lack of a schedule.

God is stretching me.

After 45 minutes of VBS, I finally took a deep breath, prayed a short prayer and realized that God was being glorified.

The kids were having A BLAST!  Kids and adults alike were laughing so hard, singing so loud, and encountering Christ's body.  And can you believe it, they were experiencing these things outside of my minute-by-minute schedule!!!

I have been SO blessed by the people of Keele Street Christian Church.  At the end of the week, I will return home with a full and grateful heart.  The child-like faith, but appreciation for the study of Scripture, has been inspiring.  The warm, hospitable welcome has been refreshing.  The love of our panda costume has been hilarious.

Please continue to pray for our VBS.  Also, pray for my heart and my willingness to serve - no matter the circumstances.

And pray for Keele Street.  Pray for the community.  Pray for the congregation.  Pray for changed lives.

Soaring to New Heights!

Guest Post - The Reverend