Just as a body, though one, has many parts,
but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ.
For we were all baptized by one Spirit
so as to form one body
— whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—
and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.
Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many.
I Corinthians 12:12-14
I felt led to do a service project with the youth but something that would really require work of them. I know that 30 Hour Famines are popular, and the old raking the leaves thing is good, and canned food drives are always useful but in my personal experience, not much is really required of the kids. They don't do that much. And in a society where we're doing less and less, I wanted something that required work, effort, thought, and maybe even getting coaxed out of a comfort zone.
So I came up with a Santa Shop idea where we would make the gifts and sell them. Then, in a flash of divine intervention I changed it to Three Kings Gift Shop. After all, Santa's great but he wasn't at the manger (well, neither were the wisemen really but that's a whole other issue...). I suppose we could've gone St. Nicholas but I'm just now realizing that so oh, well! Anyway, I digress...
I spent hours combing Pinterest, reading directions, and carefully selecting gift ideas that fit a couple important criteria.
1) It had to be something people would actually want.
2) It had to be something we could make at minimal cost so I could keep our prices low.
3) It had to be something simple enough for even non-crafty people to make.
I found ten things which met those criteria. I put together a little catalogue and order forms. I ordered some literature from Samaritan's Purse and talked to the teens about raising money to purchase items that would go to people in third world countries. Items like goats, donkeys, honeybees, and fishing boats. Items that would profoundly change their lives, not just their day or week. Their lives.
Then, I prayed. I prayed for moderate success because I was afraid of failure. Oh, ye of little faith. What if Peter or Paul had prayed for moderate success just in case they couldn't really lead all those people? What if Moses had only wanted moderate success? What if Abraham? Joshua? Gideon? Deborah?
And I think the teens only expected moderate success. They set a low goal for themselves of only $200. And for a minute there, it looked like that was going to be it. But then....
God didn't answer my prayer. He had His own agenda He was pushing and my potential for failure was not a deciding factor for Him. It never is.
The project exploded. We had over-whelming success. We raised $870, more than quadrupling our goal. I was humbled, the teens surprised, and the church family energized. God is good.
Then, I had to figure out how to make over 350 items. Egads. But this wasn't really my job. God had a plan. He'd had it worked out from the very beginning. All the way back to when He first planted this crazy idea in my brain and in my heart.
He planned on using this project to bring our church family together. You see, we've been hurting. It's a long story and quite ugly and this post is about celebration so I won't elaborate. It suffices to say, we've been hurting. We've been in need of something to make all of us feel connected and alive again. But I never imagined it would be this and that I would be part of it.
Last night 28 people, 14 adults and 14 kids (an all time high for youth attendance, actually) came together at house to make crafts. And it was busier than Santa's workshop. After several runs to houses for extra olive oil, after re-making several items because my measurements were off, after figuring out the best way to roll a square piece of paper into a cone, after deciding the perfect way to make a scarf for a snowman and turn a book into a tree...we had completed 5 projects and made well over 250 items. In just three hours. With no complaining and with lots of laughter.
And I noticed something. Everyone naturally found their place. Leaders took charge. Crafters used their experience and artistry to help others in this new area. People tried new things. Everyone pitched in. This is the Body of Christ in motion. Working as one. Glorifying God with our actions. So this is what Paul meant, this is what James wrote about. Faith in action, the Body together.
One boy collected a fistful of money to buy pizzas and breadsticks. A teenage girl prayed, one of my teens that always steps up to pray when everyone else feels tongue tied. She prayed for us, for our gifts, for the people we've loved and missed being able to come back and join us. She forgot to pray for the food, but ti didn't matter. God was there, He knew our thankfulness for His blessings. And this was the true breaking of bread...true communion, even if it was pizza and not a holy wafer.
I had set out to find a project that would bless other people, show the kids that they can make a difference, and help teach our youth how to work together with joyful spirits. But God had other plans. These things still happened but His plan was greater than mine, loftier than mine. He will bless the money we raised and the people whose lives it will help. But He blessed my life through this project and He blessed our humble, faithful church. He is truly the God who sees us, and He's been watching over us the whole time. And last night, He reached out and healed us. He was with us in the mess of olive oil on the counters, hot cocoa on the floor, and hot glue stuck on fingers. And that's what happens when the Body of Christ works together.
As the body without the spirit is dead,
so faith without deeds is dead.