Over the Fourth of July weekend our family gathered for our daughter Kate’s Bridal Shower in Battle Creek, Michigan. Our children and their families either flew or drove in from Virginia, Florida and Ohio. My 86 year old father even drove up from Indianapolis, Indiana. The focus of the event was on Kate, but the newest addition to the family, 3 month old Madison, received the most attention. Everyone wanted to hold her and make her smile. At three months a smile is her biggest accomplishment. Well, that and a good toot. I look in her eyes and wonder what life will be for her.
Back in 1997 I looked in the eyes of another little girl. Actually, I looked into her eyes and the eyes of her sister as well. Her parents had just joined the church I was pastoring. The girls were four and three years old. When they came to church they were always dressed the same, all pretty and petite. They were cute little girls. They always stood in the receiving line with their parents after the worship service and greeted me with a handshake. Two years later I baptized the newest addition to their family, a little boy named Nicholas.
During the last 10 years I lost contact with the kids, although I saw the mother at meetings about once a year. This last year I got to shake the hand once again of this little girl who is now seventeen years old. Her name is Jessica Arnold and she was being introduced to the Detroit Annual Conference at Adrian College as a person who had helped enhance our conference’s covenant relationship with Liberia.
Jessica decided that she needed to become more involved with helping people. She began by collecting books and funds for the C.W. Duncan School in Monrovia, Liberia. She established a Board of Directors, created a Facebook page and began promoting her project. The money she raised was for student tuitions. The books she collected were new and used textbooks. She raised more than $5,000.
After the presentation I had the opportunity to talk with Jessica and her mother, Nancy. I told her that I was so proud of her – not just because of what she had done, but because of the person she had become.
When I think of Jessica, I think of our Nardin Park youth who are giving of their time and effort in Tennessee for the Appalachia Service Project. I think of the youth who participated in the 30 Hour Famine and raised more than $5,000. I think of all the Middle School Youth who will be participating in our Middle School Service Week, donating hours of their time in service to others. As I think of them, I think of my little “Maddy,” and what she will become.
Years ago I was talking to a teenage boy. I was sharing with him that I thought he possessed a great deal of potential. I intended my comments as a compliment to who he was and who he was becoming. Unfortunately, he didn’t receive my words with great enthusiasm. Rather, he stared at me and muttered, “Thanks, but I don’t need that kind of pressure!”
All of us have potential. Some days we live up to our potential. Some days we don’t. I always enjoyed the challenge, but then again, I guess that for some people potential puts them under a burdening pressure that is uncomfortable and repressive to their personal growth. Perhaps, it’s how we perceive what potential offers to us that makes the difference. For me it is an open door inviting me into a future full of possibilities – even at my age!
There are so many wonderful people at Nardin Park. There have been so many wonderful ministries that have taken place over the years. There is so much potential here. There is still much left to do and to become. The same is true for each person’s individual life. May God help us to live into our potential.