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This devotional is part of a series in January that tells stories of “Bold Faith” written by CBF field personnel and members of a team composed of clergy and laity from across the Fellowship who are leading of process of prayerful discovery that will result in a faithful response. Find out more about this process called Toward Bold Faithfulness.
By Carol McEntyre
Several years ago, the Children’s Ministry Team at First Baptist Columbia, Missouri, decided to stop doing Vacation Bible School. Participation had been declining for years and we weren’t reaching visitors anymore. We still believed that God was calling us to minister to children and their families, but we weren’t sure how to move forward. Yet, we knew it was time to make a change.
Matthew 15 tells the story of the bold faith of a Canaanite woman. Her daughter is sick , like most parents, she will do anything to help.
When she learns that Jesus is nearby, she seeks Him out and despite the crowd, begins calling to Him for assistance. When He doesn’t answer, she moves toward Him, falls at His feet, and begs Jesus to heal her child. To our utter surprise Jesus says, “Let the children be fed first, for it is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.” He compares her request to a dog begging at the table.
Some Biblical scholars suggest Jesus is being playful and remind us that the word “dog” can be translated as “puppy.” Other scholars point out that Jesus is fully human and, like most first century Jews, perhaps had some animosity toward the Canaanites. Whatever the motivation, Jesus’ reply isn’t enough to drive her away. Instead, she responds with a little attitude: “Of course, Lord. But don’t dogs under the table get scraps dropped by the children?”
She is tenacious and will do whatever it takes to see her daughter healed.
Shockingly, Jesus isn’t offended by her sassy comeback. Instead, he is impressed with her quick wit and bold faith. Immediately, Jesus heals her daughter.
The Canaanite woman reminds us that bold faith means believing that God is at work in the world. She also reminds us that faith sometimes requires a little tenacity or courage. Instead of walking away when an obstacle appears, the Canaanite woman changes her strategy and re–engages.
At First Baptist Columbia, even though participation in Vacation Bible School had been declining, it was difficult to let go of a long–held tradition. We knew that we needed to change strategy and re–engage; yet we were unsure of the path forward.
We began to do some research and learned that parents in Columbia have a difficult time finding children care right before school starts in August because all the summer day camps have ended. In addition, First Baptist has a Child Development Center which provides early childhood education for preschoolers. A few of the children attend First Baptist, but the vast majority do not. They are also closed for two weeks right before school starts in August. When we talked with the Director of CDC and a few parents, we discovered that they too need childcare during the break.
Believing God was calling us to help meet a need for childcare and with a desire to minister to children, we launched First Kids Camp. First Kids Camp is a full week of all-day camp right before school starts.
Immediately, the number of children participating tripled and we had several visitors from the community. It has also been a chance to build relationships with the families who utilize our Child Development Center. While I wouldn’t quite compare what First Baptist did with the faith of the Canaanite woman who sought healing for her daughter, I do believe our church demonstrated courage and a little tenacity.
Instead of simply giving up, we were determined to find a new strategy for ministering to children and their families. It was a bold step, not to mention a huge undertaking, for us launch an all-day week-long camp. Though this new path forward has come with its own set of struggles, it has continued to be a blessing to both our church and our community. With all this in mind, I realize again that bold faithfulness is believing that God is at work in the world and that having faith to join that work sometimes requires the courage to change strategy and re–engage.
Carol McEntyre serves as the senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Columbia, Mo., and co-chair of the Discovery Team for Toward Bold Faithfulness in her role as CBF’s Moderator-Elect. To engage in bold faith alongside Carol, take CBF’s online survey today at www.cbf.net/survey.