This evening was a first for me and my sister Linda. We volunteered to help out at an annual event at College Heights Christian Church, known as Jesus Jam. The theme of this special evening this year was Camping Under the Stars.
Along with many other volunteers, who decorated the building, prepared and served food, greeted, floated, and buddied up with guests, Linda and I donned appropriate “camping” clothes and showed up ready to help create a magical evening for local physically and mentally challenged adults.
Justin and Linda
Stations were set up around the church, with the auditorium transforming into a large dance floor. The room was strung with white lights and a colorful disco ball spun from the ceiling. The space was decorated with tents and artificial trees. Hallways sprouted more trees and were dotted with wild “critters”, canoes, artificial campfires and cute punched tin cans with flickering battery operated candles nestled within. The atrium became the mess hall, where hot dogs, beans, chips and cookies were served. Games were set up at various points along the hallways and a photo opportunity was available, in front of a large canoe.
As the time drew near for the guests to arrive, we all lined up along a long hallway, the largest gathering I’ve ever seen of smiling men and women decked out in plaid shirts, ready to be paired up with each arrival. As the guest and buddy walked together down the hall, we welcomed them to Jesus Jam with applause and smiles and waves.
Linda and I made sure each guest had a buddy, and then we floated, visiting with people, enjoying a meal with new friends, checking out all that was going on. Our friend Justin, who helps to organize and carry out this special event, invited us to attend this year, and gave me permission to take photos as I walked around. My sister and I eventually ended up in the large dance space, where loud music played and the most people had gathered. Excitement and joy overflowed here, as guests and their buddies moved with the music, laughing and talking and simply having fun.
As at any dance, there were some who chose to sit on the perimeter, watching, feet tapping occasionally. Each guest who sat as a spectator had a new friend sitting beside him or her…someone to talk to if they felt like it, or someone to just be present with. In a room down another long hallway there was a classic movie playing, for those who preferred a quieter atmosphere.
I was impressed. And truly, this is what love is all about, embracing all, welcoming all, being the hands, feet and heart of Jesus. This was perhaps the happiest and most happening place in Joplin this evening. I am so glad that I was there.