Article and photo by Urban Alliance staff.
The children at Glory Chapel International Cathedral have been busy spreading joy throughout Hartford. During the months of January and June, 25 youngsters ages 5 through 12, set out on a mission to expand their reach of loving their neighbors by helping meet needs and build relationships in the community.
Their first stop was to bless community members at Love Kitchen, a ministry of Glory Chapel that provides non-perishable food items and a free prepared meal once a month. With gift bags that they previously decorated in tow, the children set up a display of new toiletries and personal care items and invited people who were partaking in the community meal to fill a bag with basic needs items they needed.
“At the Love Kitchen outreach, one girl who came to the meal with her family joined the Glory Chapel children’s ministry to help pass out basic needs items,” shared Jessica Sanderson, a children’s ministry leader at Glory Chapel. “First she helped her mother fill her bag and then helped pass out other items to people. And, at the end she shared that she had fun and enjoyed helping.”
The next stop was at a local convalescent home, where the children led a flowerpot art project.
“They went room to room inviting residents to join them for an activity,” explained Sanderson. “The children and residents painted together and at the end, the children helped the residents back to their rooms and distributed gifts to others at the convalescent home who were not able to participate in the activity.”
In addition to the activity, unlikely friendships were soon budding.
“One boy formed a strong bond with one of the residents,” said Sanderson. “He walked her down to the event, and they painted matching flowerpots, sat together, and talked. After the event, he visited her and brought her a gift.”
“I didn’t know I was going to make a friend,” the boy shared. “I want to go back and visit her soon. Maybe I can bring her another gift.”
But even before these acts of outreach were made, the children from Glory Chapel were hard at work planning these projects with adult leaders. Last year, youth and leaders from Glory Chapel attended a Youth Empowerment Institute training provided by World Vision, through Urban Alliance’s Next Generation initiative, which helped strengthen their capacity to partner with youth from their church in ways that lead to sustainable community transformation. Backed with grant funding from Urban Alliance, the projects began to take shape.
“It is the first time we planned an outreach event that the children took an active leadership role in preparing and implementing,” said Sanderson. “Usually we think of the children’s ministry as an outreach for the children. This gave them the opportunity to lead and be instrumental in actually carrying out the outreach. For many, it was one of the first times they were able to serve through our children’s ministry. Many of the children saw themselves differently after the projects. They recognized that God can use them to make a difference in someone’s life. Many are talking about what they can do next and are excited to plan their next outreach event.”
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