I didn’t grow up in a Christian home, but I did grow up in an average American home in the 80’s and 90’s. Christianity was still woven into the everyday and wasn’t offensive in public. Christmas I knew was about Jesus but to me it didn’t extend beyond the cute little nativity set my mom painted and sold at craft fairs. Easter I knew was also about Jesus and his death but I didn’t understand that and I knew nothing about the resurrection. Most of what I learned about God came from the Andy Griffith Show (which came on CBS after my mom’s soap operas) and from the evangelical neighbors next door and their daughters who were determined to tell me about God.
Each day I’d head outside in the backyard to play. The neighbors would also play in their backyard everyday. They had a “real” playset straight out of a catalogue; needless to say I desperately wanted to play on their playset. I was terribly nosey and watched through a knot hole in the fence as they put the set together, each screw made me more envious. When the set was done at last the new neighbors emerged to play. I watched with curiosity; sure these girls must be rich and spoiled to have such an amazing thing in their backyard.
It took a few days of watching them for me to realize they seemed pretty normal. One girl was my age and the other was only a year and a half younger. They seemed like best friends, a strange concept for me since my own sister was so much older than me and was currently in middle school and wanted nothing to do with me. At last, on a whim, I climbed to the top of the fence peaked my head over and said hi. That was the beginning of a very fruitful friendship. Each day they’d play outside on their playset and I’d climb the fence, poke my head over and chat with them.
I learned they didn’t go to my school because they went to a private Christian school, I had tons of questions about that. How was it different from my school? Do they learn about ‘normal’ things or just God? Are they nuns (I’d seen Sound of Music and in my head nuns went to school to learn about God)? Then I was curious why they weren’t out playing one beautiful Sunday morning and they told me they were at church. This of course was another source of endless questions.
I couldn’t to this day tell you what their answer were about God or church. I only remember that they patiently answered my questions and with just as much curiosity asked me questions about what my life without God was like. The point isn’t that they were perfect evangelists with all the right answers and they led me to God, the point is that they talked about God and they fueled my curiosity and left me hungry for more.
I serve in UpStreet partially because of these 2 girls who went to a church I knew nothing about and came home excited to talk about and share their experiences with their curious neighbor who climbed a fence everyday to talk to them. I hope that the kids that walk through the halls have a great experience and develop such a love for Jesus that they go home just as excited and filled as those two girls did that they can’t help but share it with all the other kids they encounter. Our influence isn’t just on the children and the families that walk through the doors, it extends to all the doors those kids then walk through. I never knew who taught the Sunday school class those girls went, and their teachers never knew me, but through the love they poured into those girls they also touched my life.