Something Beautiful and Surprising
I promise you: nowhere on the children’s director’s job description will you find the item, “Creates and maintains an effective ministry to the ever-changing Lumpkin family.” I should know this because I’ve searched for it several times, usually when contemplating whether to demand a raise. Obviously, I’m kidding about that (though keep your eyes open for an announcement about the Betty Carter Love Offering), but the truth is that working with foster children has become one of the most joyful aspects of my job.
Some of this relates to what you might call the “Altadena Paradox.” Our congregation is incredibly missions-minded and outreach-focused. We give freely of our money and time; we open our hearts and our doors to everyone. On the other hand, our church is nestled so deeply in the suburbs that even Papa John’s can’t find us. We’re mostly pasty-white, college-educated Southerners with nice houses and good jobs; those aren’t bad things in themselves, but they can make us intimidating to people who aren’t like us—especially people whose neediness and inner chaos have burst through the surface of their lives.
But God has done something beautiful and surprising; he’s called Jamie and Catie Lumpkin (who are just as pasty as the rest of us!) to open their family to children from the heart of the world’s chaos. It’s obvious that this calling demands more energy and focus than any normal, non-manic person has. When Jamie counts off Lumpkin kids on Sunday mornings before loading up the Tahoe, it’s like watching Captain Von Trapp try to herd wild bunnies. And when I get to have a (sometimes completely different set of) those little Lumpkins in my Sunday School class the next week, and I realize that God has brought them to us out of the darkest places to hear about the love of God, then my own sense of helplessness almost overwhelms me. I know that what these kids need is far, far more than I have to give. Unless they stay with the Lumpkins for a long time, they probably won’t even remember visiting AVPC, let alone what happened here in Sunday School. So I say a prayer for love and clarity, but also that God would go ahead of them and draw them to Himself.
So where’s the joy in that? Isn’t feeling helpless supposed to feel bad?
It does feel bad. It would be nice if life were a Hallmark movie, and a half hour of Sunday kindness could heal a wounded child. The joy comes from the reminder that Jesus is the medicine we all long for. It’s easy to forget how we need Him when we get good at patching up our own brokenness and insulating ourselves from the chaos outside the church walls. Then a Tahoe pulls up and the chaos spills into the Fireplace Room. Somebody’s coloring on your white board with a Sharpie. So what? She’s not even sure what this place is; you get to tell her that God loves her and show her that she’s more valuable than the lesson you thought you were going to teach this morning.
By: Betty Carter, friend and mentor to us Lumpkins
And, just so also happens to be Children's Ministry Director at Altadena Valley Presbyterian Church
Because of the One who is continually surprising us,