My church has a tradition of Family Thursday Night Out. We have participated in it since my oldest child Ana was a “Bible Bear” at age 4. We’d all have pizza and wings for dinner at the church. The girls would go to Pioneer Girls, the boys to Christian Service Brigade. My husband Sam lead the 1st and 2nd grade boys in “Tree Climbers.” I went to prayer circle followed by handbell choir. It was a fun night to hang out with my church family.
For many different reasons, the last few years, Family Thursday Night had become just another activity. The older kids’ involvement with sports often interfered with Thursday night. Sam’s work schedule changed so that he could not consistently come. I never thought Philip would be able to handle a program such as this so I stayed home with him. I ended up dropping off the 1 or 2 kids that could go and returning home.
This year things are changing.
Daryl, one of the rangers of the Stockade program for boys grades 4-6, has invited Philip to come for a couple years. Last year I said no. There was no way I could see Philip sitting for a meeting. I didn’t even know he would understand what was going on. This year, with all that we have seen transpire with Philip’s communication, I said yes.
Our first meeting was last week. Sam and I were his shadows. Philip refused to go in the gym for the play time in the beginning. It was so loud and echoey. We did not force him to go. When the boys got back from recreation, they convened in the Fellowship Hall for their meeting. Philip sat with the 5th grade boys which was good because there were only 2 of them while the other groups were bigger. The leaders introduced themselves followed by Philip and the other boy Adam. I can tell Adam is kind and patient, just the kind of personality Philip would feel at ease with. I could tell Philip was comfortable with everyone as he actually sat quietly and participated well! They went around the table talking about their favorites. Philip answered his favorite food was “TACOS” (we had tacos for dinner and he had 2 bowls of taco meat). His favorite sport was “GYMNASTICS.” Favorite animal was “DOG.” And his favorite Bible story character was “SAMSON.” When asked why, Philip replied, “HE DIED KILLING PHILISTINES.” I am finding out my son is definitely your typical boy. Afterwards the boys got in the big group and sang songs and watched a video about Jesus. It was so neat to see Philip being part of the group.
Today Philip again skipped the play time and instead went over his “achievements” with Ranger Daryl. Achievements are things done at home to earn badges, like in Boy Scouts. His Stockade book has many different kinds of activities such as recreational activities, finding out how things work, helping others, and exploring God’s Word. This week we worked on the Exploring God’s Word activity through reading Mark chapter 1 and answering questions. Philip showed Daryl he knew the answers to the questions: What was John the Baptist’s job? “PREPARE THE WAY OF THE LORD.” What did God the Father say about His Son? “THIS IS MY SON WHO I AM WELL PLEASED.” What is a fisher of men? “MAKER OF DISCIPLES.”
When the boys returned from playing football, Philip and Adam played Bible Bingo. They were on the same team and had to pick numbers on the Bingo board and answer a corresponding question about a character in the Bible. Philip surprised us all by naming the correct answers to almost all the clues on his turn. The first question was “Whose job was it to name the animals?” Philip spelled, “ADAM.” Ranger Sam asked, pointing to Adam next to him, “This Adam?” “N,” replied Philip. Philip continued to answer correctly naming PHAROAH, SAUL, ELIJAH, ELISHA, PETER, and SAMSON. The only one he got stuck on was which disciple was always bringing people to Jesus. He tried “PHILIP,” but the answer was Andrew. Ranger Sam told them to come next week with a clue for a Bible character that might stump one of the leaders. We’ll be working on that this week!
The meeting ended with songs and the story of John Harper, the preacher aboard the Titanic who preached the Gospel as the ship sank and brought people to Christ before he died in the icy sea. When Ranger Sam prayed and asked the boys to raise their hands if they had received Christ, Philip raised his hand.
As I came out of our Stockade meeting and went to pick up Lia from Pioneer Girls, I felt a renewed appreciation for my fellow Christian brothers and sisters who work with our kids each week. They have included and embraced Philip, as well as all my kids, as their own to grow and nurture. I excitedly told my friends Nichole and Melanie about how Philip did and they shared my joy. “You’ve truly gotten your miracle!” exclaimed Melanie. “I really have,” I said.
To me, Family Church Night Out used to represent a collection of families getting together at church. I now see it the way Christ truly envisioned it: It is one family in Christ coming together in the spirit of unity and love.