How Kids Week Helped Me Fall In Love With Christ When I Was 35

How Kids Week Helped Me Fall In Love With Christ When I Was 35

by Gina Haynes

Note: At the time this article was written, what is now called VBS was called Kids Week at Mercy Church.

I was not raised in a home that worshipped a powerful God. I grew up in Northern California with divorced, wanna-be hippie parents, who only used the Lord’s name out of disappointment or rage. As a child, I went to church maybe five times. My mom had migrated to America from Amsterdam with her Jewish father and Christian mother, who, at the time, were fleeing the Holocaust. Her family life was filled with dread, terror, and strife. My dad turned away from Catholicism as a teenager and joined the race of self-made men. By the time I was in high school, I was just living my life the best way I knew how. Around this time, and despite my parents’ lack of faith, God allowed me to have a sense of Him without any biblical knowledge or traditional mentoring. One of the biggest turning points in my life was in my twenties when my older brother had an overnight conversion to follow Christ. My family and I found his conversion to be off-putting, alarming, and the aroma to be foul-smelling. I would hear the sin-laden testimonies of his church friends and think, they obviously needed Jesus, whereas I’m not doing sinful things, so I don’t. Thankfully, however, my skepticism did not stop my brother from sharing the Word with us or praying for our salvation.

A few years later, I was living in Manhattan and dating the man who would become my husband. I had secretly thought I would devote myself to any religion that my future husband practiced, so as our relationship developed, I asked to tag along with him to his church. That was the beginning of my church exposure. Seeds were planted, but I didn’t really grasp the gospel. I seemed so deaf to it. It did not pierce my soul. Both my husband and I thought people were generally good and we were too, so why worry about changing anything?

We got married in a church, moved to Charlotte, and enrolled our three girls in a church preschool. My 4-year-old, Julia, got invited to a friend’s church’s Kids Week. Never having heard of such a thing, I was touched that it was FREE and the mom had volunteered to take Julia to and from each day. The second day Julia was sitting at our kitchen table singing, “Take me home to Jesus,” and it stopped me in my tracks. It was the first time I can recall the Holy Spirit speaking directly to me. This was not just a catchy Kid’s Week song we had been playing in the car. It wasn’t even a song she had been learning at Kid’s Week, it was just my daughter singing her stream of consciousness. Thanks to my children participating in this Kid’s Week, we learned and memorized our first bible verses. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding,” was downright shocking to me with my 35 years of believing I was the god of my own life. On the third day of camp, all the families were invited to a FREE dinner with the church members. The warmth and comradery made me want to belong. There was obviously something different about these people, and it was attractive. On the last day of camp, I wasn’t ready for it to end.

Around this time, my husband had been attending a new church where Sunday mornings consistently left him in tears. My children had encountered Jesus, my husband, it seemed, was being pursued by Jesus, and yet, I found myself resistant to my need for Him. I couldn’t see my own sin, and I didn’t know that I needed to. God lead me to ask the church I was attending to be a part of a bible study that really read the bible, which I had never even opened. Through this bible study, God showed me first Jesus’s sacrifice, and then very slowly, my sins became apparent to me. I was riddled with control, stinginess, and most of all, pride.

It’s apparent to me now that through my husband and my children Jesus was steadily filling our home with his presence. It’s incredible to me that through a local church’s kids program, my daughter learned words and songs that changed my own heart. I’m thankful to that mom who invited me to sign my daughter up (even if the only reason I said yes initially was for free childcare) and grateful to the powerful God that saved and changed my family.

To invite your friends to Kids Week, click here.