There are a lot of things Kindergarteners just don’t understand. I had a long conversation this morning trying answer the question, “when is the Fourth of July?” For some reason the logic of the Fourth of July being on July fourth was way over the little dude's head. One of our pals didn’t understand that if you really need to go to the bathroom you should sit on the toilet. Instead she stared at herself in the mirror and peed on the floor. Sometimes it feels like we teach the most obvious things. Mer has an incredible gift of patience. A shout out to everyone that spends their days helping little brains understand the basic principles of the world, it’s a hard task.
However, there are things they really understand. We have had two new friends join us this month, Michael and another Markel. They had a lot to learn about the culture of UCA and the rhythm of our school. The veteran UCAers understood that they needed help learning and they eagerly came alongside to help. One of the new guys was pushing at recess and before I could make it over to remind him of Rule #2 (use kind words and kind actions), Kistin (who was a victim of the push) stood up from the wood chips, calmly walked over to her offender and kindly said, “hey friend, at Urban Christian Academy we use kind words and kind actions.” I was overwhelmed with pride. His response was perfect. “Oh, okay. I’m sorry, are you okay?”
I could go on and on with proud moments like this. Moments where the love that’s been so tenderly poured into each little heart is starting to bud. There are stories of great academic achievements. Stories of compassion and perseverance and integrity. Spring is here and our little class is blooming in the most beautiful of ways.
Perhaps the thing they understand the best is Jesus. The Monday after Easter we had a huge celebration. We were eager for Easter to be celebrated in grand fashion because the story of Easter matters in the grandest of all ways. We spent all of the Lent season preparing for the day we could shout at the top of our lungs from inside a bounce house, “Christ is risen from the dead!” Our preparations seemed simple enough, but their impact has proven to be immeasurable. When I introduced the idea of Lent to the scholars it was a train wreck. The first problem was that “ash” is hard for 5 year olds to say without getting it mixed up with the wrong word. A** Wednesday doesn’t hold such a sacred meaning. I realized they didn’t know what ash was so I had the great idea to light some paper on fire to create ashes. If nothing else, they were captivated. Once we got the ash situation squared away I went on to explain how some people give something up to remember how “Jesus suffered and was tempted” (that’s part of one of our class memory verses). Their minds started racing. I could see panic on their faces. Kistin was the first to burst into tears. “But I don’t want to give up recess!” She had come up with the idea of fasting from recess all on her own and although the idea held no actual weight, it sat heavy on the class. More tears started pouring. Once we got through the fact that we weren’t going to give up recess for 40 days we starting making real progress. We agreed that we would add something to the rhythm of our day: singing and praying.
Singing and praying for 40 days might have been the best idea that has ever come out of UCA. I wish everyone in the world could have sat in the room and watched these kids worship and heard the urgency and the faith of their prayers. Over the course of the 40 days some hard stuff happened. 3 friends left our class, we prayed for them. A UCA volunteer lost a nephew, we prayed for him. We prayed for every volunteer by name, we prayed for the kind friends who give us money and resources by name. You were prayed for, by five-year-olds who deeply believe that God will move mountains to show you His great big love for you. I hope you felt the repercussions of their prayers.
And then there was the singing. There is something about music that changes things. It softens and awakens hearts. It sobers us and reminds us of the why behind Urban Christian Academy. I believe with all my heart that Jesus joined the sound of our worship in filling up our space. I believe hat His Spirit was whispering His promises into the hearts of the scholars as they worshiped. Our halls have become filled with lyrics that we can not ignore. “Jesus paid it all, all to Him I owe. Sin had left a crimson stain, He washed it white as snow.” “Christ is risen from the dead, trampling over death by death. Come awake, come awake, come and rise up from the grave.” “How great is our God. Sing with me how great is our God, and all will see how great, how great is our God.” “Your life, your death, your blood was shed for every moment, every moment.”
And they don’t just sing these words, they believe them. My eyes have filled with tears so many days as five and six year olds sing to Jesus. When we have visitors join us while we are singing, I can see the tears in their eyes too. Tears that burn with hope. Tears that overflow from hearts filled with gratitude that Jesus would come to a broken world and give up everything to find us and bring us back to His family. Tears of regret for all the moments we’ve wasted not believing that Jesus is only good, because in that moment it’s impossible to believe anything else.
Our kids and their raw hearts before our God keep us grounded.
Grown-ups don’t understand a lot of things. I don’t understand how UCA has come so far in so little time as an organization. I don’t understand how God chooses to love us even though we keep running away. But there is a very bright group of scholars who are patiently teaching us to trust deeply in the God they believe in with all their hearts. I’m slowly learning that God’s people are often quick to answer His call to care for His kids. You have provided in incredible ways. God is changing lives. Our best days are ahead…which is hard to fathom because these days are so good.