FirstFest at The Loop on October 31 was about much more than costumes and candy, inflatables and indigestion (from all the candy, of course). God always has bigger plans for it than just that!
Hannah Stovall, the staff member who coordinated FirstFest, recently wrote about her takeaways from the event on the blog SozoWomen. In her post (shared below), she tells how God used FirstFest to connect a family with another ministry of the church — the Thru the Roof Special Needs Ministry.
By Hannah Stovall, Children's Ministry Associate
Last Thursday night, the church I’m blessed to work for hosted our annual
Halloween alternative fall festival. The planning and preparation fell to the children’s ministry team this year and, while we love a good party, this was a lot of party. I referred to FirstFest often as my “baby” and—let me tell you—after close to nine months of dreaming and planning and thinking and rethinking, I was ready to see the thing.
Everything came together, rain cleared just in time, people came in droves, kids got all the candy they could want, and people who had no church home at all felt welcome in ours. That’s the whole point.
But the real, beautiful fruit of it? I got to see a little of that on Sunday morning.
In the last year, I’ve been grateful to see something so good and yet so uncommon take place in our children’s ministry. Our special needs coordinator, Denise (who happens to be one of my flat out favorite people on the planet), planned and talked and made a way for children with special needs to participate in kids’ worship with us on Sunday mornings.
If you think that sounds obvious or like a no-brainer, I’m so glad; but the truth is this: it is not the norm.
In many churches, these beautiful children are not only not allowed in children’s programs, but often the entire family is asked to leave. Can you imagine? It’s hardly what I think Jesus had in mind when He said:
“Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” Matthew 19:14
These kids are brilliant. They’re funny. They’re precious. They scream a little louder and run a little faster and worship and learn a little different than most, but they’re not just special. They’re amazing.
And they are welcome. Their families are welcome.
Our doors are open. In they come. Let me just tell you —
It is the best thing I’ve seen.
Sisters get to worship alongside the brother who’s never been welcome. They know, “my brother’s loved here.”
Daddies whose hearts have been so hardened by the hard life they’re living? Their hearts are softened and opened to let the Lord lead their families.
Mommas who, after being asked to leave and leave and leave again, have run out of fight? They’re ministered to and loved on and encouraged.
Typical-learning children are being taught so well how to interact with, love on, and appreciate these new friends who worship and learn a little differently.
I told you. It’s the best thing I’ve seen.
So yesterday morning, Denise and I were standing in the back of kids’ worship and she leaned over to me, pointed to a sweet little girl sitting next to a buddy, and said:
“See that girl? We’ve prayed and tried to get her family here for months. They would never come, but they came to FirstFest…and now here they are.”
Just like that — I was so proud of my “baby" because by it, someone's baby finally had a safe place to worship and grow.
If you are that momma who is running out of fight, keep going. Keep looking. Doors may have been closed on you countless times before, but there will be open ones.
And if you’re in the Houston area, come see us. We would love to worship with your baby.