Now they were bringing even infants to him that he might touch them; and when the disciples saw it, they rebuked them. But Jesus called them to him, saying, “Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them; for to such belongs the kingdom of God. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” Luke 18:15-17

Two summers ago, the youth hosted a day camp for the seeking refuge in our city from the Golden Triangle of Asia (mostly from Burma and Thailand). The children and youth who attended the camp and the youth who served as leaders of the camps, all came with stories. I imagine if we had carved out space for storytelling, and had a fair amount of translators, we would have realized that we all sit next to what Trevor Hudson refers to as “a pool of tears”. Some pools may be wider and deeper than others due to circumstances they were born into, age and/or life experiences, but we all have our pools.

One day of the camp was spent at a indoor kid’s playground called “Bounce U.” ( http://www.bounceu.com/) It was fabulous! Blow up games everywhere and free space for children to play until their little bodies would not allow them to play anymore, or I said it was time to go. You would have thought it was Christmas. All round me were little faces plastered with smiles from ear to ear, sounds of uncontrollable laughter and absolute delight.  The spirit of joy was so strong and contagious, it even managed to get a hold of me. Before I knew it, I was sliding down the big slide with two little kids holding my hands as I screamed at the top of my lungs. 

Wonderful!

One of my favorite moments of our play day was when Thiengi ran and grabbed one of the Bounce U employees around the leg and said, “This is one of the best days of my life.”

New memories were being made, helping to wipe at least one tear from a face or two. For all of us new memories of joy, friendship, creativity and life were being made.  Some did not leave that experience the same.

 

To this day, a couple of us make our way to the homes of our sisters & brothers of the fellowship for a time of play, creativity and communion. Lately the community has grown a bit. There is a group from Whitehouse that has joined the party, alone with one of the youth I use to serve in ministry with in Greenville SC, and some children & youth from the neighborhood.

 

Every time I go, without fail, I am blown away by how much fun people can have with a ball, some paint, paper, markers, string, beads and bubbles despite language barriers and the number of particularities we all bring the table. I love it, I really do.  I often think, “More children need to experience this. Every child needs to have a creative play day in their lives, at least once a week.”

 

The more I go the less uncomfortable I become about being uncomfortable, and the more I realize things do not have to be as complicated as they seem when I am miles away.

We usually close our time together by singing “Jesus Loves Me” in the language we are most comfortable in, or we have one of the youth from the Golden Triangle Fellowship pray in their language. So at the end of our time together, I called everyone together and invited them to make a circle.  Today was the first day children who were not professing Christians joined the circle. Three siblings from Iraq who are Muslim did not hesitate to grab two hands. This was actually their first day playing with us, and I don’t think they had a clue what this big circle ending was all about.  But, they grabbed our hands smiling with anticipation.

 

Standing beside the circle was a family from Bangladesh whomI had unfortunately told Ciona not to bring to the circle, because I knew they were Muslim and I did not want to offend. How quickly we adults can make these distinctions, creating our circles based on what we have in common instead of creatively exploring all possibilities for everyone who wants to join can. There mother joined them and observed what we were doing. 

 

So here we are in the circle. What do we pray?

 

Well, we joined hands, dropped hands and began to offer this new prayer of Thanksgiving in our own languages…

If you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands. (clap twice)

If you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands. (clap twice)

If you’re happy and you know it, then your face will surely show it.

If you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands. (clap twice)

If you’re happy and you know it, stomp your feet. (stomp twice)

If you’re happy and you know it, stomp your feet. (stomp twice)

If you’re happy and you know it, then your face will surely show it.

If you’re happy and you know it, stomp your feet. (stomp twice)

There was a brief pause, as I tossed around a number of different words trying to think of what we could possibily say next.  “Amen” was at the tip of my tongue, about to roll right off when I heard one of the youth say…

If you’re happy and you know it, say “Hooray.” (Hooray!)

If you’re happy and you know it, say “Hooray.” (Hooray!)

If you’re happy and you know it, then your face will surely show it.

If you’re happy and you know it, say “Hooray.” (Hooray!)

Amen.

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