She Chose Church
By Gordon Ashley of Paducah, KY, USA
Brothers and sisters, do not be weary in doing what is right. —2 Thessalonians 3:13 NRSV
Our congregation has had a youth ministry for at-risk kids for 12 years now. Aleecia was one of our first week kids. When we started, I called her a “hip clinger.” She was small for her age at seven.
When she arrived on Wednesday nights, she would land on my wife’s lap, starved for adult attention. She stayed there all evening. When Debbie got up to teach a class, Aleecia held on to her hip. When the kids went out to play, she stayed on Debbie’s hip. We had to peel her off when it was time to go home. She remained an active part of the group for over 10 years, when she had her first child. We still keep in contact with her.
Several years into the program, she had to stay late at school. She was afraid she would not get home in time for a ride to church. She started running the 12 blocks home. As she became tired several blocks from school, she stopped, leaned up against a church, and prayed that she could get home in time.
At the same time, I was driving around town picking up kids. One group I usually picked up had started walking to church. I turned the corner to pick them up (not my normal route), and Aleecia saw me! I was a block away, and she began running down the middle of the street toward me. I took her home to drop off her book bag and yell to her mother she was leaving for church. She felt that God answered her prayer!
Although she normally works on Sunday, Aleecia was at church recently. What struck me was that she was at church! Her mother is now in jail for drug offenses. So are her father and her mom’s current boyfriend—and her grandfather. Add her older sister and younger brother to that list. She is the only adult member of her immediate family freely walking the streets. She freely chose to be at church!
This congregation has clearly changed her life. She still has many struggles, but drugs are not among them. She has a church family for support.
Prayer for Peace
Faithful God, who never gives up on us, may we never give up on one another. Help us carry out programs that support community life. Bless our community with peace.
Spiritual Practice: Experience Congregations in Mission
Read and reflect on Doctrine and Covenants 164:9a–d. Reread the sentence, “If you truly would be Community of Christ, then embody and live the concerns and passion of Christ.” Make a list of the issues you feel mattered most to Christ. Make another list of issues that matter to your congregation. Reflect on the likenesses and differences. How can you help align the lists? Throughout the day, as issues arise, ask yourself, “Would this matter to Christ?”
Today, God, I will not shake off one who is clinging for life.