Friday, August 09 2019
On Sunday, August 11that 6:30pm we will set up tables at Wilton Farm and distribute school supplies and sign up children for Kingdom Kids. For the past five years or so, we have been joined by teachers and staff from Stony Point Elementary School. This is a wonderful event, and one way you can be involved is to donate school supplies. These are the items that appear in most of the grade level lists: Glue sticks, Clorox wipes, hand sanitizer, 24 count Crayola crayons, colored pencils, Ticonderoga pencils, marble composition books, two pocket plastic folders, three prong folders, and highlighters. A bin is in the hallway at Broadus to receive your donations.
This partnership has been a yearly tradition for almost two decades. Below is a story from Back to School Night in 2017. It originally appeared in the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of Virginia’s Mission Box curriculum. If you are interested in accessing that full resource, please email email@example.com.
The sun was beginning to set over the mountains when I arrived at Wilton Farm apartment’s parking lot. Members of Broadus Memorial Baptist Church had set up tables in an “L” before I arrived, and they were now scurrying around organizing and setting out school supplies by grade level. Two teachers from Stony Point Elementary helped make sure supplies matched the lists for each age group. All the while, children meandered around, skipping between the tables and the nearby playground. Some older children climbed trees, and the younger ones slid down slides and pumped their legs to take swings high into the air. Parents wandered up bringing more children and doing the work of keeping them all corralled and out of the street. I offered to help, but mostly stood back and observed. This Back to School Night was running like clockwork, and I was invited to partake in a beautiful expression of God’s love that I had absolutely no hand in creating. This breezy and warm summer evening was the backdrop for a local school, church, and apartment community to come together once again and support our children.
The Broadus folks – most of whom also volunteer in our children’s ministry, Kingdom Kids, where they build relationships through sharing Bible stories, songs, and meals with these same children every Wednesday night of the school year – gathered and settled the families and many children and gave instructions. The kids were divided into their grades and the youngest, kindergarteners getting ready to go to school for the first time, were invited up first. I stood at the backpack table, the start of the assembly line. Their little eyes were wide as they picked out the color pack they wanted. I smiled as they wrapped their arms around a bag that, while scaled to a kindergartener’s size, still seemed to overwhelm their tiny five-year-old frames.
As the kindergarteners picked out their backpacks, I heard familiar joking voices just behind me. Two of our freshmen–twins–who live in Wilton Farm had arrived on the scene. I had only been at Broadus a little less than a year, but they had been a part of Broadus’ family through Kingdom Kids, other Back to School Nights, Sunday mornings, trips to UVA basketball games, and many meals and moments in between–for almost their whole lives. They were baptized into this community and they now offered hugs, high fives, and jokes to the Broadus folks that taught them on Wednesday nights and Sunday mornings. They are the cool, older kids that the younger ones look to. Their smiles were infectious and they brought an air of ease and joy to the evening. I looked to them and was reminded of the intricate, long work that God does among God’s people. I am thankful for every Broadus member, every Stony Point support staff and teacher, and every Wilton Farm resident and the community members that have been a part of this journey. This is God’s work in the world. Bringing communities together, sharing what we have, receiving the gifts from those we meet along the way and then turning around and offering this story of belonging to others.
There is just something about brand new school supplies. They have always filled me with anticipation, inviting me to dream about the words I will write, the words I will read, the drawings I will create. I saw a flicker of this on the faces of our youngest friends as they made their way around the table for the first time. There were little squeals of excitement as they realized that all of this was theirs to take home and, in just over a week, to school. Their parents and older siblings helped open their bags and the children began to fill them with treasures. Their first stop? Books.
A community member, who is passionate about spreading the love of reading, and who connects with the children periodically through book nights at Kingdom Kids, had gathered piles and piles of books and invited the children to explore the titles that were most appropriate for their age. They slid their treasures into their bright, new packs and continued on. Here, as they rounded the bend in the “L,” they came face to face with the two teachers, for some their very own teachers, who would welcome them to Stony Point Elementary for the first time in a few weeks. They got to say hello, and I suspected, felt a little less anxious about starting their school journey now knowing another smiling adult face that would help them feel safe, loved, and smart.
After introductions, smiles, and encouragement the children picked out their favorite color notebook, paper, pencils, markers, and crayons. They finished off their journey by stocking up on classroom supplies–clorox wipes, tissues, hand sanitizer–all things that would help make their classroom healthy for learning. In just a few short minutes our new kindergarteners were equipped, celebrated, and invited into the excitement of a new school year. They were ready to learn and grow.
This year’s kindergarteners may have made a short trip around a table, but this scene was at least fifteen years in the making. I, like our kindergarten friends, got the distinct privilege of walking up and enjoying decades of relationship building without doing much at all myself. What a grace. I was welcomed into the fold of what God has been doing in partnership with Broadus Memorial Baptist Church, Stony Point Elementary, and Wilton Farm Apartments since the early 2000’s. To learn more about this journey and the community of faith I am now a part of, I sat down with our Associate Pastor, Margarete Gillete, to hear more about how all of this began.
It began, as things often do, with a relationship. There was a Broadus member who lived in a neighborhood near the church and whose daughter attended Stony Point. This naturally provided a connection point and pulled the school onto Broadus’ radar as a space to be a good neighbor. Margarete reached out to Stony Point’s Family Support Worker, Pat, and began to build a relationship. Things like this take time, Margarete notes. It took time to build up trust and to prove, simply by showing up again and again, that we were in this for the long haul. Margarete remains the contact person, and advocate, for this continued partnership. Even as pastors changed, she communicated the history of the work with Stony Point and the families in Wilton Farm and encouraged continued support and relationship building. Back to School Night is just one piece of the ongoing partnership between Broadus, Stony Point, and the children and families who are part of Wilton Farm. As trust grew between Stony Point and Broadus, Pat began to contact Margarete with more ways to support families. The number one goal in any of these support opportunities? Protect and celebrate the dignity of families being served. Whether it is providing a holiday meal, toys at Christmas, or gift cards for groceries, it is so important to “not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing” (Matthew 6:3). We serve families and strive to be good neighbors by listening to needs, and then meeting those needs in a way that celebrates the image of God in each person.
The image of God, or Imago Dei, we are all created in it; every Broadus member, every person at Wilton Farm, and every Stony Point teacher and support staff. We celebrate this unity by entering into the work God is doing in our neighborhoods. For Broadus Memorial Baptist Church, this looks like a commitment to Wilton Farm and Stony Point that spans decades. We celebrate, with our continued love, that God opened the doors for this partnership all those years ago.
At Broadus Memorial Baptist Church we believe we are called to love God and love our neighbors. The stories you read on this blog offer a witness to the ways we respond to God's love and seek to share that love with others.
Scripture describes the church as a body, made up of many parts. Just as your tiniest toe isn't aware of the intricate work your heart or brain do, it can sometimes happen that people in the church body only see what is happening immediately around them. Our hope is that reading these stories will help forge connection and inspire greater love and understanding for one another.
At Broadus we are a community defined by warm-hearted fellowship and thoughtful inquiry. We hope you see evidence of that in the stories we share here. We hope you know, or come to know, that you are a part of God's grand story and that you are welcome to join us, on a Sunday, a Wednesday, or any gathering in between.
The life of faith is a journey, and we are not meant to walk it alone. Our stories connect us and we are excited to share some of ours with you.
If you have a story you'd like to share or would like to connect in some other way you can send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or call (434) 977-7381.