Written by Dr. Diane Davis, Dublin First UMC
Members of two churches in downtown Dublin have joined hands in order to provide a Christian witness to the children and families of the Southside Community in the central city area. Partnership between the two churches, Howard Chapel United Methodist Church and Dublin First United Methodist Church, is nothing new, as the two churches have cooperated in a weekly soup kitchen for 16 years.
Rev. Patricia Brown of Howard Chapel UMC and lay member Dr. Diane Davis of Dublin First UMC became acquainted through serving at Heart of Georgia Walk to Emmaus events, and Rev. Brown mentioned her concern about the children who lived in the housing projects surrounding the church. Though Howard Chapel UMC had activities for children and youth, those in the neighborhood would seldom attend the regular Sunday events. During the week, however, Rev. Brown noticed that unsupervised children showed up at the church “every time the doors were open.” Previously, Howard Chapel member Cynthia Walters had initiated and taught a Tuesday afternoon children’s and youth Bible study, but there were not enough helpers to continue it when Cynthia accepted employment in another city. Providentially, about the time Rev. Brown and Diane were discussing new possibilities for children’s ministry, Cynthia returned to town and was able to give them the benefit of her previous experience. She now serves as co-leader of the program.
A desire to teach children the Gospel and to provide mentoring by consistent and loving adults led to the formation of “The Kids’ Connection” – a good Wesleyan name! - in September 2009. The program targets children ages five to 11 and consists of a weekly meeting held on Tuesday afternoons at Howard Chapel UMC in which the children gather for Bible teaching, singing, games and crafts, and a meal. Though elementary children were the primary focus, children from ages two to 15 attend!
As one can imagine, the sessions are very lively with such a diverse age group. It’s quite a sight to see “Mr. Lawton,” “Mr. Terry,” and “Mr. Marcy” – all on the positive side of 50 – helping to lead the song, “Father Abraham Had Many Sons” through all seven verses complete with motions! Another memorable event was the reenactment of “Joshua and the Walls of Jericho,” in which a motley collection of 30 adults and children marched seven times around the outside walls of Howard Chapel UMC, blowing horns and eventually shouting their heads off. It was a wonder the church walls didn’t come tumbling down!
Outside of the regular Tuesday meeting time, the children have had many field trips, including learning excursions to the Heart of Georgia Technical College. During one visit they disassembled (and reassembled) several computers, and on another occasion, heard about the law enforcement training program. They attended the Dudley Baptist Church “Festival of Lights” and children’s worship service at Christmastime and just recently traveled to Helena to attend a performance of the “Ugandan Thunder” – a choir of children from the Royal School and Orphanage in Uganda. The group somehow ended up seated in the choir loft, just behind the performers, which was a nightmare for the chaperones, as one adventurous child became fascinated with the baptismal pool behind him, and then nearly all the children just had to get to the bathroom right then. However, a poignant moment came when the coordinator of the Ugandan choir talked about the Christian brotherhood/sisterhood of the children from Uganda and those just behind them, from Dublin, Georgia. He instructed the Ugandan children to take off their cross necklaces and place them around the necks of the local children. That made a big impression on the Dublin kids, and they will soon be raising funds to help supply water to the Royal School and Orphanage.
Future plans include a series on sexual abstinence taught by a nurse from Communities in Schools, more sessions at the Heart of Georgia, a trip to the Martin Luther King, Jr. Center in Atlanta, picnics, hikes, and fishing trips. This summer, all children who qualify in terms of their attendance and behavior will receive scholarships to attend the Dublin District Youth Camp or Epworth By The Sea elementary and middle school camps.
The goal of the Kids’ Connection is to tell the story of Jesus and show His love to the children in a way that is supported by the consistent care of concerned adults. We ask for prayer, that God will pour out his Spirit on this ministry and on the children and their families so that they will come to know Him and to understand that the Christian walk means a radical commitment to a new way of life. Pray that God will inspire other workers to join the ministry so that it can meet more of the children’s needs, especially for the active presence of mentoring adults in their lives.