November 22, 2015
Dear Fellow Travelers,
Balloons are so much fun, right? Everyone loves a balloon! They are colorful and can be twisted into fun animal shapes. Balloons usually signal a celebration, a party, definitely a fun time! Children, especially, love balloons. Give a young child a balloon and you made a happy friend!
In October, I was blessed to be able to serve with Compassion International in the Dominican Republic. At 2 Compassion Centers, we interacted with the precious children through 4 Bible School stations: Worship, Bible Lesson, Activities, and Crafts. I volunteered to lead the Craft Team and had super support from the Team. Generous individuals volunteered to fill any remaining space in their suitcases with glue sticks, markers, pipe cleaners, coffee filters, wiggle eyes, and lots more.
We organized all the crafty supplies into one suitcase and we were ready to go! This is going to be fun! The children, divided into age groups, rotated to the 4 different stations throughout the day. The Craft Team had an ideal location, I thought. We could glue and create under a nice shaded area with picnic tables. However, a large generator was loudly running which required us to scream the instructions to the children. Thankfully, someone eventually pulled the plug and the screaming stopped.
For one rotation cycle, we had a large group of 4-year-olds coming our way. They marched proudly towards the picnic tables where the creative magic was to happen.
But wait! What were they carrying? Balloons? Really? Who gave them balloons? We want names and there will be revenge! How will we get their attention? Our butterfly coloring pages can’t compete with a balloon! Now what will we do?
In retrospect as the leader, I made a bad decision. Yep, we took the balloons from them. Nicely. We tried to nicely take the balloons from their little hands. Have you ever tried to take a balloon from a child? Don’t. It was just one of my many moments of insanity. We promised them in English that we would hold the balloons for them until the craft activity was finished. It didn’t matter which language we spoke or which language they understood, all that mattered was what they were experiencing: strangers were taking their balloons! Grinch had nothing on us. Now, hand over the balloons!
There were many confused little faces, even some tears. The children loved their balloons; maybe it was the first balloon they ever received.
Then with all the handling of the balloons between the children and the mean strangers (yes, it gets worse), the balloons did what balloons tend to do. They POP! POP-POP-POP The loud “pops” scared the children, which brought tears. Then when they realized they no longer had a balloon, more tears. Yeah, we stink, stank, stunk!
What a disaster! How did this go so wrong so fast? We had pure intentions. We wanted to bless the children with a fun creative craft that tied in with our Bible School theme. Our hearts’ desire was to bless them and love them, not make them cry.
When this young group eventually moved onto their next station (Hey, Bible Lesson Team, good luck with the balloons during your lesson!), some with their balloon back in their hands- the few that survived this terrible ordeal. But some of the children left holding the remaining pieces of latex and a butterfly coloring page. They cared more about the pieces of latex.
If I had a redo, what would I do? Just enjoy the balloons. Just play with the children. Just cause smiles, not tears.
But God knew our hearts. He knew what we had intended to do. I am very thankful God knew our hearts so I could sleep that night and not take up drinking. He knew we meant no harm.
Luke 16:15 “….God knows your heart.” Acts 15:8 “God, who knows the heart….”
God knew we didn’t try to stink, stank, stunk. And that will have to do.
Note to self: Do not take a balloon away from a child.
Keep walking and take a balloon with you,