By Lisa Vogan, director for children’s ministries at Amherst (New York) Alliance Church
Editor’s note: Lisa tells how her church’s annual Teacher Appreciation Dinner, spearheaded by the Kids’ Ministry, honors and serves those who daily influence the lives of youth in local Amherst schools.
Mr. Coleman* watched Steven* rush into his classroom, coming to an abrupt halt at his desk. He noticed the excitement on the young boy’s face as he caught his breath. Steven handed Mr. Coleman an envelope. “I hope you can come!” he said before turning and disappearing out the door and into the hall.
Curious why this normally quiet and reserved boy had been transformed into one who resembled a dog chasing after a new toy, Mr. Coleman quickly opened the envelope. Curiosity turned to wonder. He thought for a moment. A church hosting a dinner to honor school teachers? How nice . . . strange . . . different. . . . It’s been a long time since I have stepped foot inside a church. But it seems important to Steven. Mr. Coleman marked his calendar and filled out the RSVP card.
With Childlike Faith
Steven had listened intently when his leaders in Kids’ Ministry talked about how important it is to find ways to share God’s love with those around us—even at school. He heard that its mportant to find ways to honor, encourage, and listen; to genuinely care for our community—just like Jesus did.
An upcoming event was planned, giving the kids an opportunity to encourage their teachers, coaches, or those who spent time mentoring them—a Teacher Appreciation Dinner. Guests would even receive a gift!
Steven was the first in line to pick up the invitations to his church’s Teacher Appreciation Dinner. “Winning with Great Teachers,” it read. Great! A sports theme, he thought. He could hardly wait to invite his teachers.
That evening, Steven carefully addressed each envelope. He thought of each guest, hopeful that all would be able to attend. Steven prayed for each by name, as his church leaders had suggested. He prayed for God to encourage them with the invitation and that He would bring those who most needed to sense His love.
Then Steven and his family prayed that his guests would feel welcome and see God’s love by his actions and words. He prayed about what he would say on the response card. “‘My teacher is great because . . .’ Well, that’s easy!” he said as he began to write.
In the morning, he could barely keep from running in the school halls to deliver the invitations before classes began. With a smile as wide as Texas and the invitations tightly in his grasp, Steven greeted teachers eagerly, handing each their own, somewhat wrinkled, personal invitations to the dinner. He felt sure it would be the best event they would attend all year
A Teacher’s Heart
The night of the event, Mr. Coleman arrived early. He turned into the parking lot, surprised and grateful to be greeted by friendly attendants who directed him to a parking spot. They offered a warm handshake and hellos as he climbed out of his car. He felt his heart rate pick up speed as he approached the door. Mr. Coleman took a deep breath and glanced up at the windowed door. Smiling faces of all ages pressed against the glass squealed in delight. He smiled and found himself relaxing with each stride. Before his fingers touched the handle, the door swung open.
“Welcome to Amherst Alliance Church! We are so glad you are here! I’m Kim . . .” He was escorted to a registration area, where Steven, poised with excitement, was waiting to honor his special guest.
Mr. Coleman sat absorbing every sight, sound, and smell. The room was full; the conversation plentiful. The food was delicious. He watched with amazement at those who served the food.
They all seem so happy to serve . . . and seem to get along . . . and they are all so nice, he thought as he ate his dinner. He was encouraged by the pastor’s expression of gratitude, thanking the teachers for impacting and investing in students’ lives—it reminded him of why he had chosen to be a teacher.
There was laughter as well as tears as students shared their own words of thanks. A gift was given to each teacher. Every guest was recognized and honored by name. Then the pastor prayed a blessing on all the guests . . . in the name of Jesus.
As the pastor said “Amen,” Mr. Coleman sat for a moment; he sensed peace cover him like a warm blanket, not quite understanding its source. He opened his eyes and realized the evening— its every detail an unexpected blessing—had come to an end.
He raised his head and noticed Steven standing at his shoulder, with a broad smile on his face. “I’m so glad you were here, Mr. Coleman!” Steven said.
“Thank you so much for inviting me, Steven,” he replied, overwhelmed by the genuine care of this community. “I have never been to anything like this. How wonderful that your church does this. I had a wonderful time.”
Steven escorted Mr. Coleman through the crowd of guests and hosts. With an enthusiastic handshake, Steven said, “Thanks again for coming, Mr. Coleman. I’ll see you tomorrow.”
“Thank you, Steven. See you tomorrow.”
Mr. Coleman drove home, lost in his thoughts: It’s been a long time since I have been to church . . . maybe I will see what’s happening here on Sunday.
What You Can Do
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