By Rev. Kay Ash
It is hard for me to remember a time when I was not surrounded by the wonder of children. There have always been children: the sound of their voices, the energy of their presence, the delight that comes from their perspective. I am so thankful that throughout my lifetime there have been lots of children, mostly because I really love children, but also, because it is through children that I best experience God.
Growing up here in Oak Cliff, close to Kiest Park, I had that kind of up-bringing where everybody on the block watched over me like a mom, none of our doors were locked, fireflies or cicadas were caught in mason jars and the dozens of kids were just like family. Not to mention, the more than two dozen cousins who were my actual family and who “dropped by” so much that I thought they lived with us. There were so many of us at our epic nightly hide-and-go-seek extravaganzas that we did not always “find” everybody before dark. No matter what, we were safe and we were loved.
Of course, you would be right if you accuse me of romanticizing my childhood, but I do have such wonderful memories of Oak Cliff. However, if we strip away the sentimentality and my rose-colored glasses, those foundational parts of my childhood planted the seeds of ministry shared with KPUMC today. When unconditional love is shared, it often blossoms in unexpected ways.
The experiences that I remember most vividly, where I found God most often, happened in the afternoons (I really mean EVERY afternoon). After school or on hot summer days the kids would gather on the front steps of my house. I am 100% sure this had a lot to do with the cupcakes or cookies that were coming out of the oven at the same time, which were washed down with gallons of extra-sugared Kool-Aid. Besides the sweet treats, my Mom taught children to read.
Slowly but surely, word after painstakingly difficult word, all of us took turns learning to read Little Golden books. Perhaps it was the goodies, but no one complained; we just tried, day after day. Some were faster than others and some were confident where others were shy. But, in those gatherings, we were equal to each other and unconditionally loved.
My Mom continued this practice for decades after I grew up and moved away. She believed so strongly in education, something she yearned for herself. I truly have no idea how many children sat on our front steps over the years. I do know that all of them read, all of them ate gobs of sugar, and all of them experienced the sacred, holy, unmistakable presence of God. I am extra sure of this because so many of them told me at my mother’s graveside.
On the front steps of my home in Oak Cliff, I learned what the presence of God feels like; what is looks like, tastes like, sounds like and how enthusiastically God shows up, even in the midst of sweaty little kids. It was within these foundational experiences that the seeds of ministry blossomed into the hopes and dreams of Kingdom Come that we share today. I am so thankful to be back in the Oak Cliff area and so very thankful to have the privilege of serving at KPUMC. By the way, have you noticed? The people here at KPUMC are amazing! Let’s get together on an afternoon sometime soon.