Growth Spurt

By Amy A.

Enlarge the place of your tent, stretch your tent curtains wide, do no hold back; lengthen your cords, strengthen your stakes (Isaiah 54:2).

Photo Nov 26, 5 03 58 PMEvidence suggests that God has spoken that word—increase, expansion of our sphere—over the Peace Program. As this season of growth has unfolded, I’ve come to realize that what really gets enlarged, stretched, lengthened, and strengthened are not some figurative, easy-come-easy-go borders. They are the cords of my heart, the bounds of my literal, practical, honest-to-goodness capacity to think, plan, pray, love, and communicate. Right now, concerning Peace, I feel something  like a mom with a new baby must feel–busier than ever, carrying a greater weight of responsibility than ever, more aware than ever that I’ve never done this before and I only have limited control over where all this goes. Yet, while those emotions are definitely making this season memorable, none of them matter as much as the eternal beauty of what God is forming in my heart and in my midst—His own family.

Here’s what I mean. Here’s what I’m seeing at Peace that reminds me so much of God’s proclamation to His people in Isaiah chapter 54.

I’ll start with our kids. I don’t have the exact stats, but we are serving more unique children than we ever have. We are serving more kids period than we ever have—over 20 each day. We’re known and trusted in the neighborhood. Somehow, day by day, little by little, God is making a way for us to be able to meet the needs He has put us there to meet, be they academic, physiological, emotional, or spiritual. I’m constantly amazed by the Lord’s confidence in His own ability to provide for the increase, the increase that He provided in the first place.

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For a long time, the average Peace kid was a forth-grade girl. Now, we have a wider age range than ever, but our average kid by my estimation would be a seven- or eight-year-old boy. Another new little demographic has been forming lately within the program; we’ve been learning how to help and befriend the high school students who come through our doors. I don’t know if you ever noticed, but teenagers and eight-year-olds have very different needs. So let our curtains be stretched, our stakes strengthened.

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That includes our leadership, administration, and volunteer force. Those all used to be pretty much the same thing, and they were all able to fit inside the head of one man, who three years ago started and led and man-powered the afterschool program along with a handful (meaning, like, three) other volunteers. Transition after transition happened, and now the program is part of a holistic outreach by our church that touches families by serving parents, teens, and kids. Amy B. heads up a team of four coordinators—two education students and two business students. More than 20 marvelous volunteers from college and high school come and serve our precious kids each week.

More than twenty volunteers each week… as of a week ago. It happened like this. We heard that they let campus organizations set up a booth at the activities fair at Truman for just a buck. So we put our heads, Michael’s dollar, and some markers, poster board, and photos together, and BOOM! We had a booth. Turns out that there are several people who, upon learning about the program, agree with us that Peace is a pretty special thing. We now have a bunch of brand new friends, college friends, helping out at #20. The family is growing.

Finally, is any family complete without pets? Probably so, but apparently God didn’t think ours would be. So, in the span of just a few days, without any prior planning, the Peace Afterschool Program became the new home of not one, not two, not three, but four pet fish. Fish. Of all the things we asked for, all the resources we’ve begged and pleaded for, this… these… were not on the list. Yet they came, and there they stay. The kids are thrilled to bits—I mean, psyched out of their minds—but Amy and I are pretty much just scared that they’re going to die. The fish, that is.

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During this time of stretching out, we have become even more resolved to thankfully receive every gift that Father is pleased to send us—kids, big and little, friends, old and new, and fish, all those fish. It’s the only way to keep growing. It’s the only way for love to stay pure and not to become a pointless game of politics or pride. If living in the Midwest taught me anything, it should have been this: We can neither choose when a season comes in order to suit us, nor control the season when it does arrive. This is how God provides increase, how fruit is borne—in season.

Our freedom is in surrender. The joy of the Lord is our strength. Great, so great, is our peace.

All your sons will be taught by the Lord, and great will be your children’s peace (Isaiah 54:13).

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