A very merry un-birthday

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by Jennifer Hood, Cadet –

She came every week, sitting quietly in her chair. A painfully shy girl, Brianna has a sweet smile and an intelligent mind. This was clear, despite the fact week after week she never said a word.

Lynnette Baker, youth outreach coordinator at the Kroc Center, San Diego, has partnered with four local elementary school counselors to identify a select group of children. These are not troubled children; they are bright and do well in class. They’re quiet, however, and may be overlooked. The goal of this program is to give these kids a place for recognition and encouragement.

For six weeks I shadowed Lynnette as she taught lessons of positive moral values and self-worth. Although not allowed to share the gospel with the children or pray for them in class, her smile and kind voice clearly present the message of Christ.

I watched the children blossom in response to her genuine interest and encouragement. I rejoiced with Lynnette—and others in the class—as Brianna spoke up for the first time.

When the school term ended in late July, we invited the kids from the four partner schools to the Kroc Center for “Everybody’s Birthday”—an opportunity for the whole family to enjoy pizza, ice cream, crafts and games.

Since reservations were not required, we couldn’t anticipate the response. On the day of the party, we waited nervously, hoping the children would come. The first family arrived right on time. Within a half hour 10 families—a total of 40 people—were enjoying the activities.

After the food and a special rendition of “Happy Birthday,” Lynnette distributed gifts and invited each family to Sunday services. They also will receive follow up information about the corps’ many youth programs.

These days, with churches being told to stay away from public schools and with school funding being cut so that less and less one-on-one time is available, God provided an opportunity for The Salvation Army to be a helping hand to children in need of love and attention—children like Brianna, who became a lively chatterbox at Everybody’s Birthday Party.

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