The following post is from Trey Lyon, a CBF field personnel serving in Atlanta. You can read more about Trey and his wife, Jen’s ministry in this month’s edition of the fellowship! magazine. Throughout the week, we will be featuring blogs on Trey and Jen’s ministry at Park Avenue Baptist Church, particularly through their after school program.
In 2007, I sat in a new church in Bulgaria in a small village for Roma people (commonly called “Gypsy”), who for years were not allowed to live and trade in the larger city across the street. As I sat in this church, built by volunteers from Texas, on pews donated from Denmark and Dallas, listening to children sing songs in Bulgarian, old women sing songs in their Roma dialect and our team sing in English I was completely overwhelmed. At that point, God’s church had never felt larger or more connected for me than it was in that moment.
Fast forward six short years and that overwhelming feeling of connectedness is very nearly an everyday occurrence. On fifty-year-old shelves that once held dusty theology books and records of Associational minutes now sit hundreds of books from churches across Georgia and North Carolina, sorted by college students from Iowa State University (pictured). Each week, 25 children from elementary to high school sit in this room, on chairs from the Furniture Bank of Atlanta, at tables built by a lifelong member of Park Avenue Baptist Church, looking at quotes from Martin Luther King , Jr., Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Ralph Waldo Emerson and Toni Morrison painted by students from McAfee School of Theology. Beneath the students is a rug made of carpet squares donated by the Atlanta Youth Project and patterned by some creative teenagers from March Mission Madness of CBF of Georgia.
The re-organization of the library was necessary thanks to the creativity of a British book company which allows its representatives to hold fundraisers where men and women can buy some of the highest quality children’s books and earn free books for non-profits and after school programs. Our recent book party was a diverse tapestry of Baptists and Charismatic Episcopalians, old college friends and former church members. Orders came in through e-mail, facebook, and in person over veggie pizza. For the $640 worth of books sold, our after-school program got $275 to spend on quality educational books, not to mention those who donated money to us to buy what was needed—an encyclopedia of science and one for math, Spanish flash cards and storybooks like “I’ll be Me, You be You” which helps our bi-racial kids understand and embrace their uniqueness. We didn’t get the 40 books on our wish list—we had to make a new, much longer list. As Jen put it “It really was loaves and fishes—the rep kept telling me ‘okay, you’ve still got more money to spend!”
Up to this point—today–God’s church has never felt larger or more connected for me. We are part of a tapestry that is held together by Christ’s love for all of God’s children—including me and you. Without other co-laborers who have seen the work God is creating and stirring up around us and who have decided to join in, we could not carry out the work God has called us to.