It's VBS week at SmallWorld. I have been at our church for seven summers now, and I've dreaded VBS for the past six summers. Our church used to be a swamp of tension, misunderstandings, and assumptions that followed a 6-month cycle. Seems like every July, things would come to a head and the ugliness that folks were bottling up would come pouring out right around VBS time (which usually comes within a week of our quarterly congregational meeting). The kids were having fun; the adults were forcing smiles and avoiding eye contact. All kinds of behind-the-scenes drama was going on that left me with a burning in my stomach, a hole in my heart, and a clenched fist.
For the first time ever, I am enjoying the blessing of VBS. I'm not walking on eggshells. Our church has gone through much ugliness in the time we've been there. We have wanted to leave so many times. I've blogged about that before, so I won't go into it here. The point is...now the air is clear. In Sunday School we've been studying prayer, and this month we are focusing on prayers for the church as found in Ephesians. Yesterday we talked about God's “incomparably great power” and how we've seen it in our lives. There were many times that I could not have imagined our church ever reaching this point. All that dirty laundry and toxic talk. All that completely un-Christ-like behavior that is so particular to Christians.
But I have seen God's mighty power at work in our congregation, and it is a wonder to be a part of that. The healing has come through many sources: through an interim minister who wasn't afraid to reproach our wrongdoing, through an elder who wasn't afraid to show his brokenness, and our new minister, who is like this amazing gift at the end of a long journey. Through my husband, who says things to me like, "I can't be frustrated about the situation. I don't know enough about it." (How unlike me, who gets worked up about issues before I know the whole story.) And on a personal level, the healing has to do with God's working inside of me--a letting go of bitterness, injustice and rage; an attitude of patience and waiting; a calming. Lots of specific, directed prayer.
So I am enjoying VBS this year. Our former (that's another blog) minister and his family--AKA, our wonderful friends the Hancocks--are our missionary focus this year. Casey had to work, but Teri and the kids are staying here with us and attending VBS. Just them being here is amazing in itself for many reasons. Laurel has invited five girls to go with her, and they had a blast with her. My good friend told me that her girls had a great time last night and that she herself "had a great feeling in our church." She felt like it was a church that was growing. For me, growing means not in numbers, but in maturity. Movin' away from that milk and into the solid food....