Wednesday, September 12, 2007

A Dab of Discourgement Will Do Ya!

I’ve always loved working with the kids in my church. There’s just something wonderful about their energy and enthusiasm that brighten any room. A few years back a friend of mine and I decided to give our pre-teens a special event at the church. It would be a lock-in, but it would be different. We were going to have all sorts of games, food, movies, fun, and just live it up for a night with the kids.

In those days Fear Factor was at it’s height of popularity. Somehow I got the wise idea to have a contest something like Fear Factor. We started with all the kids in a row along the wall. There were over twenty there that night – members and their friends. It was quite the social event!

Round one was a test of self-control. Each child had a slice of lemon that they had to eat without making a face. Well, my son and a few others puckered like the pinched lips of an angry school librarian, and they all had to sit out the rest of the contest.

Round two was a test of the stomach. Each was given a spoon, and then I brought out a can of corned beef hash…relabeled as dog food! Oh, it looked so real one of the girls who was quite light skinned turned absolutely pea green! One by one, they took a bite, and got back in line. A few bowed out gracefully while telling me I was insane and cruel. One nearly needed a bucket! And of course, one of the guys said, “Hey, this tastes like corned beef hash!” My cover was almost blown!

Round three was meant to be a test of endurance. What I’d envisioned was a test of endurance very much like sticking your hand down the side of an ice cream freezer when you have to loosen the bucket. The salt and ice make the water so cold it’s almost unbearable! Each child was given an ice cube to hold in their hand, and it was covered in table salt. The kid to hold it longest would be pronounced the strongest kid with much hoopla.

I should stop here and explain that in all my years of school and college, I never had chemistry or physics. No one ever explained to me the chemical reaction that occurs when salt and ice are combined.

Things were going well until one young boy said his ice had melted and we had him open his hand to get another cube. When he did, there was a HUGE blister. My throat tightened. The boy beside him said “my hand is burning!”. I realized what was happening and frantically shouted to them all “Drop it! Drop the ice and go wash your hands!” About that time they all started crying and running for the sinks and bathrooms. I’d just burned the hands of about 20 kids with a common chemical reaction. I’d burned them at church. I’d hurt them at a church function. I’d hurt them when their parents had entrusted their safety to me. I was devastated. Tears were flowing, and yes, some were mine. Out of disappointment in myself, I was going to do the same to my own hand except my friend and some of the kids would not allow it. I was so upset with myself.

The next morning when they parents arrived to pick up their children, I had to explain what happened. Most parents were understanding and realized it was all just a big mistake. However, there was one parent who did not understand. In fact, he was livid! He even called my house that night to give me a piece of his mind! I cried while he verbally tore me apart.

The next morning was Sunday. I couldn’t go to church. I was discouraged and devastated. The event that was suppose to bring all these kids a great night of fun and fellowship ended up bringing them burns bad enough some had to see a doctor! After the father that called the house had given me his opinion, I really didn’t need to hear any more. His words discouraged me to the point I thought of changing churches. I stayed home that Sunday and hid. The following Monday I heard how angry the school nurse was about all the kids who were burned at “some church event”. Oh, the rumor mills were working overtime that week!

Were it not for the words of a loving pastor, I’d never have had the courage to return to church. He explained that some people just look for things to complain about, and, just my luck, I got to be “IT” that day! He told me I needed to come back to the church, and that everyone understood and loved me.

Satan almost won. But what would he have won? He’d have won my absence the next 6 years of organizing and teaching a pre-teens class at my church and Bible School each summer. During those classes I saw kids saved, baptized, and begin to love Christ and make close church friends. Some of their families also came to join the church.

Years later as I was taking one of my son’s friends to church with us for the first time, he said, “Hey, I remember this church. I was here one night for a thing when me and a bunch of kids got their hands burned.” I’d forgotten him, and more importantly, he’d forgotten it was I! Yet on the night it happened, I felt this would be the scarlet letter I’d carry forever.

Don’t let Satan be your accuser. His opinion of your skills and intentions are not important, and neither are those upon this earth who try to take you down! Kick his pointy little tail and theirs out of your way and charge ahead with God’s work!

“And we labor, working with our own hands. Being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we endure” – 1 Corinthians 4:12

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