Tuesday, May 26, 2015

JESUS: SOMEONE FOR KIDS TO LATCH ONTO.


                                                      By Ada Brownell

      “The police came last night to our house to get Daddy,” the little boy announced. “He hid in the back on the shelf in the closet and they didn’t find him!”
      His eyes sparkled with triumph.
      The report came during our opening moments at the Dunamis Academy, an after-school and summers program where I heard similar stories. Dunamis means supernatural power.
       I started the program at our church daycare after retirement. A number of the elementary children in the class were Social Services children who didn’t attend our church.
      When I had the idea for the after-school program, I was concerned about latch-key children because I’d written about them in my work as a daily newspaper reporter in Pueblo, Colo. I prayed about it and thought God would raise up a pastor with the vision to use the church’s empty spaces to reach youngsters who needed the gospel, bring the congregation’s children into deeper knowledge of the Word, and help children not doing well in school with tutoring. I hoped spiritually mature teenagers and other volunteers would help.
      Then I spoke to the daycare director and she also caught the vision because the older children already enrolled in the daycare after school and summers needed something constructive to do.
      The first summer the director taught the lower grades and I took upper elementary. We continued the program after school and summer for two years. We charged a nominal fee to children not enrolled in day care. There was no charge to students already enrolled.
      Summers for three hours Monday through Thursday we sang, prayed, played, studied Bible stories, memorized scripture, did skits, saw object lessons, participated in discussion, listened to guest speakers, did crafts and learned how to operate puppets in ministry (the children’s pastor taught puppetry).  Daycare children stayed for a leisurely afternoon.
       On Fridays we went on all-day field trips to ministries in Colorado Springs to show children some of the ministries for which they could prepare. We watched a Christian radio missionary who was broadcasting the gospel around the world. We visited Focus on the Family. At David C. Cook we saw how artists create illustrations for their publications. We visited the Navigator’s castle and others. The next year we visited soup kitchens, homeless shelters and other charities in our city.
      We had guest speakers, two I’d like to mention. The teenager emigrated from Africa, told about the differences in freedoms there and America and taught a song in Swahili: “Hold on to Jesus.”  The other was a public high school teacher through playing a game called “Virus X” taught how quickly sexually transmitted diseases spread.
      According to the last statistics I gathered, five million elementary-age U.S. children grow up with no supervision after school. Twenty-two million adolescents are unsupervised between 3 and 6 p.m. on a typical day, according to the U.S. Department of Health’s Child Care Bureau.
      At the same time, thousands of large church buildings are unoccupied except for a few people working in the office.
      Large numbers of America’s youth have never heard the gospel. The church is losing young people to secularism.  Some churches have eliminated Christian education, thereby carelessly dropping their sterling silver youth down the garbage disposal. Churches that emphasize discipleship often have only a small percentage of children and youth receiving training.
      The first summer of the Dunamis Academy, my two daycare assistants accepted Jesus as Savior. Most of the children also invited Jesus into their hearts.
      It was a great deal of work partly because I wrote my curriculum, led the music, chose scriptures to memorize and led the training sessions and competitions. But I felt great spiritual reward. If I were young again, I’d love to help establish more programs like it.
      One note I’d like to add. Quite a few churches have after-school programs, but the ones I’ve seen don’t emphasize the gospel. We informed parents we would teach undenominational Bible classes and had them sign their permission. We didn’t have one parent opt out. In fact, we had great feedback, with parents coming to awards ceremonies.
      I imagine they were like my dad when our family started going to church. He told my mom who hadn't been born again yet, “Let them go. I heard they teach children to obey their parents.”