Saturday, I was making preparations for Sunday’s service and mentioned to one of our volunteers, “I’m not sure who is on the schedule to teach children’s church tomorrow.” She raised her eyebrows and pulled me to the side and whispered, “Um. . . Samantha signed up to do children’s church tomorrow. She has been talking about it all week. I know she’s planning on it. What should we do?”
Samantha has been off and on homeless for the past few months, sometimes living in a tent, sometimes living with a guy that she is sort of dating. As is the case with so many of our folks, Samantha has some mental health problems. She is often loud—extremely emotional. Generally clean (physically and chemically), but kinda on the wild side. Oh, but she loves us, she loves Joe’s, and she loves Jesus.
A few months ago on a Sunday morning, Samantha came to me with tears pouring down her face and asked me to pray for her. She said, “This morning I recommitted my life to God. I want to live for him.” She has been coming to church faithfully ever since.
I found Samantha in the coffee shop and asked, “Are you planning to do children’s church tomorrow?” “Oh yes!” she cried out. She went on to tell me that she had been to the library to get a book to read to the children. She ran to her bag and pulled out a large picture book called, “He is Risen.” I smiled.
Talking a mile a minute, she went on, “When I was a little girl, my mama loved God you know. She gave money to people in need. She helped everybody she could. I miss my mama. I wish I could feel her near me. I haven’t felt her in a long time. There was a book she used to read to us. When she’d ask what book we wanted her to read, we always said, ‘The Selfish Giant.’ It’s by Oscar Wilde. Do you know the book? I want to read that book to the children tomorrow. It has Jesus in it, I promise. I couldn’t find it at the library. I was so sad. Do you think you could find it for me? It’s really important. I have to read it to the children tomorrow.”
Without taking much of a breath, she continued, “I bought some egg coloring stuff to do with the kids, but I have no way to boil eggs. Do you think you could boil some eggs for me? I also bought some candy to give to them. Do you think it’s okay for me to give candy to the children in the morning like that?”
Then suddenly, tears filled her eyes. She paused for a moment and then said, “Miss Jamie, for years I have hated Easter. A guy I was with years ago took me away for a special Easter weekend, but on Easter Sunday he beat the crap out of me. Every since, I have hated Easter. All I could think about was how he did that to me. But tomorrow I am going to change what Easter means to me. Tomorrow, Easter is about Jesus and the children.”
Samantha would be doing children’s church.
I went home and searched the internet for “The Selfish Giant” by Oscar Wilde. I found it and printed it for Samantha. Oscar Wilde. A homeless woman reading Oscar Wilde. I boiled eggs for the kids to color, and I called my daughter Jessi to ask if she would be willing to be a “children’s church helper” tomorrow.
. . .
It was time for church to start. Our small crowd was gathered. Worship band ready. Normal chaos reigning in our beautiful Sunday mess. It was time to start. But no Samantha. Where was she?
Someone ran up to me with the telephone. On the other end, Samantha’s voice, “I’m late. But I’m coming. I will be there. I promise!” I told her, “It’s okay. We’re planting and dedicating the Community Garden first this morning. You have time to get here.”
Sure enough. Here came Samantha running through the door—crazy-eyed and crazy-haired—just as the worship music began. She ran right up to the front, where hands raised, she sang at the top of her lungs, “My God is mighty to save” and “Roll away your stone, I’ll roll away mine!”
Time for children’s church—Samantha (and our daughter, Jessi ) took the children to color eggs, to eat candy, and to hear the resurrection story from the Bible—and from “The Selfish Giant” by Oscar Wilde.
Easter. Hope. Redemption. Restoration. Purpose. Meaning. Joy. New Life!
(Samantha’s name has been changed to protect her privacy.)
Here’s a link to The Selfish Giant