• Beth Bowman

It was the summer of 1982 and I had just completed my senior year of high school. I was packed up and headed to New Orleans for the summer. Carver Baptist Mission Center in New Orleans recruited recent high school graduates and college students to serve in their summer programs with children and students. The recruiting letter explained that we would be serving in an African American neighborhood. I was one of a team of 28 eager to serve who came to Carver that summer. I left, armed with a brand new NIV Bible, a heart to serve and an eagerness often apparent in people headed for the mission field with a target and a goal.

My parents and my grandmother took me to Carver on the appointed day. We were met by Bro. Herbert Martin at the door. He was tall with an old fashioned flat top hair cut, filled with a contagious enthusiasm for mission work and...black. We stood there in shock while Bro. Martin explained the program to my parents-what was expected, where we would stay, etc.

Soon the other summer missionaries arrived and my parents and grandmother started the trip back home. I don't think any of them were settled about leaving me and I sure was not settled about staying. Although the presence of the other summer missionaries helped, I could not see beyond basic skin color. My lofty ideas were being challenged. They needed to be.

The summer was filled with heart change-both from the kids we served and in my heart. Although there are a tremendous amount of memories from that summer, one memory stands out the strongest. One of the tasks of the summer missionaries was to take turns riding the van for pick up. I don't remember if I volunteered or was assigned but the first day of picking up the kids for the summer program, it fell to me and my summer missions partner to help. As soon as the van left the mission center, Bro. Martin opened up a large box of ginger snaps (he ate these by the boatload), turned to me and asked, "So, Beth, tell me about your time alone with God today and what He said to you."

Now I am in shock that he talks about the Lord, well, like...he knows Him. Like, really knows the Lord. I have no idea what I said, or if I said anything at all. I do remember that Bro. Martin proceeded to ask the other summer missionaries about their time with the Lord and then, he shared about what God was showing him in the Bible and how those verses impacted him. As he shared, my heart was challenged. Here was someone whose faith permeated conversations and whose love for God was evident in His actions. Here was a black man whose faith was so vital and so alive that he couldn't stand it until he shared it with someone. I was used to having these conversations only in Sunday School and well, in a group of all whites. Not like, well, on a bus full of inner city kids, cookies flying around and in the noise and traffic of a metropolitan city.

Bro. Martin died this year...a fact that makes me very sad. It doesn't upset me because he is gone-his body is healed and he is with the Lord. But it makes me sad in that I never told him what he meant to me. Or how this girl experienced a deeper understanding of what it means to be a Christian-without bias or prejudice or preconceived notions.

Bro. Martin, thank you for investing in this eagertoserve but notwelltraveled girl and hundreds of college students just like me over the course of your ministry. Thank you for seeing, not what I was but what I could be as I grew into being a more mature Christian. Thank you for seeing past my faults and challenging me to become all I could be in Christ.

I hope that you know that the person I am today (and hope to grow to tomorrow) is because of your investment. I wanted you to know that my love for people of all colors and cultures started when I walked into Carver and met you.

I can't wait to see you again....I'll bring the ginger snaps.


Updated: 3 days ago

Dear Sunday School Teacher

I know you are a bit overwhelmed trying to navigate what life should look like during this Coronavirus. With school schedules, work responsibilities and family life in disarray, it's easy to set aside your church volunteering responsibilities but here are 6 plus 1 quick ways you can continue to teach and invest in little lives while home and doing your part to prevent a spreading virus.

1. PRAY for the kids on your roll-by name. Call out each individual name to our Heavenly Father. Picture each face as you pray, asking God to bring comfort, peace, healing, and joy. Pray for their parents, too...maybe a whole lot!

2. WRITE to your kids. Send each an individual note and let them know you are thinking about them and praying for them. Include a question about the last Sunday School Bible lesson you taught or a question and the verses for the lesson this next week. If you have access to any Bible lesson activity pages or worksheets, mail those with your note. Adding a joke is optional but sure appreciated. Find cute jokes here: https://redtri.com/best-jokes-for-kids/slide/1

3. Make PHONE calls to any of your class guests from the past six months. Use the current crisis as a springboard to check on kids and their families. Many of your previous guests may be kids whose families are not plugged into a faith community. This provides a great chance to share with them your church's response to the virus and what your church is offering in spiritual growth for this time.

4. VIDEO your Bible lesson for this Sunday and send it out to all of your kids. Be sure to keep it upbeat and fun. Your example shows Bible teaching and spiritual growth is a priority-no matter what is going on in the world.

5. Depending on the age of your class members, USE APPS such as GroupME, WhatsAPP, or SLACK or Social Media groups such as on FACEBOOK to create a group for your kids and their parents. Host a Bible Trivia Contest on a particular day and time. Award small prizes to winners (toilet paper anyone?) -be sure to mail the prizes as soon as you are able.

6. Encourage FAMILY MEMORIES with a Photo Challenge! Ask families to take crazy pictures and post them in whatever platform you use. For instance: Post a video of your family singing a hand washing song or post a picture of your family gathered in the smallest place possible in your house.

7. In every interaction with your kids, REMIND them of God's love and thoughts toward us. His care toward us exceeds any and every crisis we may face-

How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God!          How vast is the sum of them!

If I should count them, they would outnumber the sand.          When I awake, I am still with You.

I know you gifted, dedicated teachers also have some secret sauce you are using to keep up with your Sunday Schoo kids, please let me know! Let's encourage each other as we love the kids God has entrusted to us.

Booking your Sunday School leadership Fall Training Event?

Contact me at beth@bethbowman.net

I stinking love to equip kids ministry volunteers to serve!


Dear Parents of school aged Kiddos-

My heart goes out to you as you make quick plans, reassess work responsibilities and juggle childcare during these days of uncertainty. Here are some quick thoughts as you navigate through this unprecedented journey:

1. Talk to your kids and have an intentional conversation about the Coronavirus. Your kids-especially older preschool and grade school aged-have heard enough snippets about the virus from television, social media and discussions in the family. Sit down with them soon and share age appropriate information. Emphasize what everyone is doing to curb the pandemic and what personal habits they can conduct. Ask what concerns they have and answer their questions as honestly as you are able. Reassure them of your love, care and protection. Explain what measures your family is taking to prevent spread of the disease. For some children, they may need more than one conversation. Be open and caring-kids need a safe space to share their feelings and thoughts.

2. Use this time as the GIFT that it is! Most of us (me included) have become far too busy with priorities other than family. Here are five things you can do with your kids this week:

*Find your mom's chocolate chip cake recipe and make it with your kids. If it doesn't involve toilet paper or hand sanitizer, I'll be you can find the ingredients at the store.

*Read that book to your kids that has been on your "to do list" for a year. (This may be a great time for chapter books)

*Get out those board games. CandyLand, Monopoly, Clue (but not UNO. This crisis will be over before you finish that game)

*Watch old family videos. Kids love to see and hear their stories.

*Stop and learn how to play your kids video games. Get smack dab in their world and hang out. Be sure to beat them at least once, or twice if your child is in middle school.

3. Lastly, do not forget others. Use this time to serve TOGETHER.

*Make some calls to relatives you haven't seen in a while-or even a FaceTime call. They will love seeing and talking with your kids!

*Check on your elderly neighbors and lead your kids to take their trash can to the road or another outside task.

*Get out the craft materials and let your kids make homemade cards for a teacher, friend, or your pastor. Or how about thank you cards for public servants such as the mayor of your town or the police? (Sanitized hands please)

Let me know your thoughts and what you are doing that works. Your encouragement could be the secret sauce for another at home parent. We can get through this together.

Lastly, as a Christian, here's one of my fav Bible passages when I get a little Corona-Crazy..

"Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." Philippians 4:6-7