This past Wednesday I went to help out at the Chicken Noodle Club with Donnie Snook and the team. This is something that I hope to be a part of regularly from now on. Not only are people needed for this vital ministry, but it is also a good way of getting to know some of the local people in the Lower South End.
I was warned several times that this club was rambunctious and that it may be overwhelming for a newcomer. So slamming back some chocolate courage I headed down to the local elementary school to walk the children from there to the St. John the Baptist Catholic Church.
When I went into the school I was directed to the second level where the children were already lining up. Everyone had a partner. "Two by two in a straight line" was shouted a number of times during our... spirited walk. I was given two partners, a girl on my right and a boy on my left. Introductions were made by them beginning with a loud, "Who are you!" When I told them my name was Paul, I was in. "Are you coming to the after school program too?"
I learned a number of things on my first day with the Chicken Noodle Club. The first really surprised me. My walking buddy informed me that I had a "squeaky voice like South Park." Who knew? Another thing I learned was the heartbreaking truth that these children are starved for attention. They crave affection, and there is a particular need for father figures. There were a number of times the lessons from PRISM (Prevention and Response Involving Sexual Misconduct) flashed into my head. Repeated requests to be picked up, or to sit on my knee made me very uncomfortable. In truth, holding hands took me out of my comfort zone. It took me some time to reflect on this and to I realize that this is a very public ministry. So, while care is always needed to ensure the safety of our children, it is a safe environment.
The third thing I learned was that more people are needed for this ministry. When it was time to walk back to the school, four children came and wanted to be my walking buddy. Four. We need more hands. It does not take a lot. I was amazed at how quickly the time went. In talking with Donnie, I discovered that people could come on their lunch hour. A person could go for lunch early, say from 10:30-11:30 to help set up. Or come from 11:30-12:30 to converse with the children, walk them to and from the church, help maintain some order, and share the love that Jesus has for each one of these boys and girls. Another option would be to come from 12:30-1:30 to help clean up following lunch. Many hands make light work. In this case many hands could make a profound difference in a young person's life.
It is now Tuesday and I find myself looking forward to tomorrow's lunch. I want to hear how everybody's week was and what they did on their Easter weekend. It will be great to get to know these young people more and more as the weeks go on. Please pray for the children who attend the Chicken Noodle Club, and for Donnie and the team as well. And perhaps you could consider how God could use you to make the lives of these children a little better.
For more information about the Chicken Noodle Club visit this web address: http://saintjohn.cioc.ca/record/HDC0196