The community of faith came together as one recently in Mayo and I got to witness first-hand what can happen when giving is given freely.
Although I have heard of Operation Sting held yearly at the Alton Church of God Life Center I had never physically participated. I had no idea what I was missing and I hope to be a part of this life-changing event from here on out.
Pastor Tim Hamm started Operation Sting 11 years ago and it has steadily grown in outreach and volunteers. This year there were 12 churches involved and several beauticians who gave the latest styles in haircuts at no cost.
The purpose of the gathering is simple. It is to bless the children of our community with needed school supplies prior to the first day of the school year. The blessing includes backpacks, an assortment of school supplies, clothes, new shoes and socks and haircuts. Along with these necessities, the students, their families and the volunteers enjoyed hot dogs, popcorn and refreshing drinks. The sharing of these things was impressive, but that wasn’t what made this so heartwarming to me.
Let me take you there from my perspective; when I arrived with my daughter, Vickie, and four of my grandchildren that had also volunteered, I was swept along in a sea of busy folks. They were setting up tables, arranging stations for haircuts, and buzzing about in the kitchen preparing food. It was organized activity at its best.
I spotted my pastor’s wife, Amy Croft, and we walked in her direction. Before we made it to her to ask where we could serve we were embraced with hugs and handshakes reminding me of a good old revival setting where God had washed away all the negative stuff and the only thought in folks’ minds was to share Christian love.
When we got to where Amy was standing she handed my daughter a pair of scissors and suggested she would be good at checking wristbands and keeping the lines moving smoothly. She looked at me and asked, “Do you want to wash the children’s feet when they get their new socks and shoes?” The revival feeling intensified and I accepted the opportunity with gladness.
The time to open the doors was preceded with prayer and then I joined several other volunteers to head upstairs. I knew most folks there – pastors, pastors’ wives, teachers at the local schools, business owners, working adults and retired grandpas and grammas like me. Our station in life didn’t matter, what mattered was the gift of ministering to the children and teens who would soon sit in front of each of us.
A veteran volunteer gave us a brief overview of what to expect as we sat, some on the floor, some in small chairs facing another chair with a pan of clean water between us. As I wondered how we could keep clean water if we washed several children’s feet we were told the young people, ages middle school to young adults, would replace the used pans of water with clean ones and would bring the correct size of shoes to us.
I was thrilled to see these young people so willing to do such a simple task. They could have been anywhere, yet they chose to minister to the children and to us by saving us the chore of refilling the pans with water. I grinned when I saw two of my grandsons standing with them. I don’t think they had ever observed a good old-fashioned foot-washing. I knew it would leave a lasting impression and I was tickled pink they had chosen to be a part of it.
Nearly two hours later I rose from my chair, tired but oh so humbled and thankful for the precious children that had sat in front of me. Their total trust as they’d placed their little feet in my hands and allowed me to share a moment of togetherness talking about their upcoming school year and washing their feet before placing new socks and shoes on them brought so much joy to me.
While we listen to a nightly barrage of bad news spotlighting teens that choose the dark side of life, I want you to remember there are teens in our communities whose names and actions will never make the national news for their lifestyle choices. And, there are adults who set a good example for them to follow without ever needing the accolades of newscasters. These folks go quietly about the business of making sure all who live in their communities are treated with respect and self-worth and have the basic needs of life.
I know – I was there.