The Ramadan weekend gave us and our church youth a much-needed break. Basically, it was our church annual youth camp. If you are wondering how Vj and I qualified as ‘youth’… Well, we do consider ourselves physically and mentally young. Secondly, Vj was in the organising team. So both the factors gave us a reason to join our youth!
Of all the camps in the past, the venue chosen for this year’s camp was the best! It was at a place called Carmel Campus on the outskirts of Hyderabad. It’s a 12-acre land, very lush and green. It was a pleasant contrast from the noisy, dusty, crowded, concrete city. The atmosphere was calm and serene. We couldn’t hear anything but birds chirping and cows mooing (and of course a bunch of giggly youth!).
Apart from the facilities such as rooms, dorms, chapel and auditoriums, the campus also had a good number of domestic birds and animals!
KT and her little friends were simply enthralled by all those colorful variety of creatures! They would make faithful visits to each bird and bunny every morning, noon, evening and between camp sessions!
Each time a bird would chirp, KT would tell me, “Amma, birdie calling me!” and she would run to its cage and speak with it. Once she told me, “Amma, small birdie hungry. Give chicken. Birdie will eat munch, munch!”
We were announced all those birds were for sale and those interested can purchase them along with a cage. Living in an apartment complex, it is not practical to have birds although I was so in love with those tiny ones. But I simply asked KT if she wanted to take a few birdies home. She nodded, “Sure, Amma!” I then told her, “But Sweetie, the birdies will keep dirtying their cage. It will become smelly. Will you clean it?” She replied, “Amma, Dadda will clean!” 😀
The geese playing in its little pool was another sight KT and I enjoyed!
The pigeons and chicken were an adorable lot. They shared their space and they seemed to enjoy each other’s company, unlike the grumpy turkeys! I don’t know how many of you like turkeys, but I find their face quite unappealing. They were restless, aggressive and kept shooing us away by puffing up their feathers!
Although, the place where the bunnies and cows were put up was slightly smelly, they were such darlings that the kids simply enjoyed watching them!
The campus also had a small play area. Nothing fancy. Just an ancient steel merry-go-round, a slide, a see-saw and a couple of swings. But for these kids who are growing up in apartments, starved of a good play area, this one was a treat!
On a serious thought, it is really disheartening that growing cities have deprived our kids of such simple joys – greenery, playgrounds and parks. Wish the government takes an initiative to build parks in each neighborhood in such a way that commuting to local park should not take an hour or more like it does for us right now!
The kids had such a blast. What happiness a little greenery and fresh air could bring!
I had a wonderful time as well. Not just the campus and the creatures, the camp itself was powerful, reviving, refreshing and life-transforming!
At this point you are probably wondering what’s the ‘request’ I’ve mentioned in the title. Here it is –
On Day 1 of the camp, as the first session began, the kids were fine with praise and worship. But the minute the speaker came to stage and started teaching, the little ones became very restless. KT started to beg and plead with me to take her out as she was eager to see all the birds and animals. In the past there was an incident in UK last year, where I was asked to leave the church along with KT by a member of the congregation when KT made the slightest noise. On that particular evening there was no Sunday School and neither was there a playroom for children. So I spent the entire two hours outside the church taking care of KT! On other instances, though people didn’t as KT and I to leave, we’ve got angry stares from people, compelling us to leave!
As KT was becoming persistent and with voice levels increasing, I was reminded of that incident and immediately ushered her outside not wanting to disturb the youngsters listening to the sermon. Moments later, the speaker’s wife, also a mother of a 4 yr old and 7 month old, followed me out. She came to me, courteously invited me back inside and said something that changed my whole perspective. She said,
“Mj, bring KT back inside. Don’t worry if she’s noisy. My husband doesn’t mind. It’s important that you listen to the Word of God that is shared. Also, we may think that kids won’t understand the sermon. But without our knowledge, God’s Word that is so powerful will impact their spirit!”
Oh! How glad I am that she shared this priceless truth with me. I spent the next three days attending all sessions, listening to some incredible spiritual truths! And yes, with KT 🙂
The reason I wanted to share this here is because so many moms and dads, like me, miss out hearing the Word by taking their kids outside fearing they may disturb the serene atmosphere. This happens on a very frequent basis especially in our Indian churches and meetings because they are not well equipped with a children’s room or mother’s room where volunteers take care of kids.
Here’s something we need to know – JESUS IS NOT DISTURBED BY THE PRESENCE OF LITTLE CHILDREN! In fact, He Himself said, “Jesus said in Matthew 19:14, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them!” It was the disciples and now us who feel children will distract and disturb. How wrong we are!
Mommies and dads, next time DO NOT sacrifice listening to the Word for the sake of your kids. We need the Word and so do our kids. Here are a few tips to keep the little ones occupied and quiet during the service –
- Have a kiddie bag exclusively for church and prayer meetings
- Pack it with a coloring/activity book and few crayons
- Stack the bag with their favorite snacks and fruits
- A bedsheet, which you can quickly spread and put them to sleep
This works out great for toddlers and preschoolers. It may not guarantee you pin drop silence, but definitely a great peace of mind!
And a kind request to pastors, speakers, elders in church, parents of grown-up kids and youth (UNTIL, you build children’s room and provide children’s volunteers), please be more gracious and tolerable with babies, little kids and their parents. Look at them they way Jesus did. Don’t allow the smallest noise to distract you from listening to the Word. I agree, a parent must usher their baby/child out if he/she is crying insistently or making way too loud noise. But on other instances, enjoy a child’s presence. If Jesus could tolerate it while addressing thousands of thirsty souls without a microphone and speakers, I think we have no reason to complain about a child!
Having said that, I thank God for the great time we had and the piece of heaven we got to enjoy =)