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How are the Children?

Grand and terrifying Masai warriors of Kenya offer each other a traditional greeting- “Casserian Engeri.” It means, “How are the children?” They do not ask each other, “How are you?” or “How’s your day?” but rather they ask about the next generation. The Masai believe that monitoring the well-being of their children is the best way to determine the current state of their society and its future health and prosperity. Their traditional response is: “The children are well.” I wonder how we would respond to that question today.

On Wednesday, July 3rd the Philadelphia Inquirer’s front-page headline read: “Getting past a deadly day of gunfire in S.W. Philly.” The following article described the carnage of July 3, 2023, when a man dressed in body armor walked nearly a mile through the streets of the Kingsessing neighborhood of S.W. Philadelphia shooting eight people at random. Twoyear-old twins and their mother were injured that day as they drove to a family barbeque. A year and a day later, on July 4, 2024, horror struck again in that same Kingsessing neighborhood. A man in an SUV shot into a peaceful gathering, killing one and injuring nine. Five of the victims were teenagers. How are the children?

In contrast to the horror of Kingsessing’s 4th of July, the gathering on the lawn of Lenape Valley that day seemed rather idyllic. Families lined our corner property that day to enjoy the traditional Chalfont parade. From newborns to grandparents, the crowd assembled to cheer fire engines and scouts, politicians and the local karate students. Children had bags at the ready eagerly awaiting the next candy toss from passing groups. Our Lenape Valley welcome team passed out water, treats and an invitation to our Vacation Bible School along with fun little toys for the children to enjoy. In spite of the heat, the gathering was peaceful, even joyful. In the light of our 4th of July festivities, we could easily respond to the Masai greeting with a happy “The children are well.” But quietly we still worry about the world in which our children are growing up. Truth be told, the challenges facing our society today can seem overwhelming. The economy that stresses all of our budgets and leaves some of our neighbors in poverty, homelessness, mental health and addiction challenges, social media, climate concerns, and the general lack of civility in our daily discourse pose challenges that daily threaten the wellbeing of our children.

Such big problems seem to demand big solutions, thus our politicians rightfully model government programs with taxpayer investment. Some of those efforts will bear fruit, but the story of a tiny church in a small town in Texas offers another approach. On July 4th a film was released entitled Sound of Hope: The Story of Possum Trot. Angel Studios, that produced The Chosen series, created this cinematic telling of the true story of a small town in East Texas that decided to tackle the problem of foster care. Over 600,000 children languish in foster care every year, yearning for the stability and love of a forever home. That number is overwhelming. Where could we find homes for that many children? The response of a pastor and his wife- “We can take two.” Then, that pastor got into his pulpit and challenged his congregation. “If we can’t wrap our arms around the most vulnerable among us, then what do we really have? Noise! Noise is what we have!” Pastor Martin and his wife encouraged 22 families in their small town to adopt 77 of the most troubled children in the foster care system. As the credits of the movie roll, the stories of those children- now adultsflash across the screen, leaving the movie crowd with a hopeful message of the power of community and Christian love.

Roger Ebert, the long-time movie critic, described The Story of Possum Trot as “your standard warm, fuzzy tale of Christian love.” Yet even Ebert’s skeptical review could not deny the heartwarming, deeply sincere message the movie tells about the power of charity and community. At the Chalfont parade, I talked with two families in our community who have heard Jesus’ call to welcome a foster child into their homes. There are 400,000 churches in our country today. Imagine if one family in each church welcomed a child into their home, two-thirds of the children in foster care today would have a family- a big problem answered one child at a time. We can take that same approach to the challenge of hunger and poverty in our community. Every Sunday, I watch a 92-year-old member bring her bag of groceries for our food collection that helps to feed hundreds of families in our community. The generosity of Lenape Valley to our Deacon’s Fund has helped to keep a roof over families who are struggling in our community. Last week, your contributions offered scholarships to two children so that they could enjoy our Push the Rock sports camp. Next week, your volunteer hours and your generous contributions will create a safe haven in our Vacation Bible School, where children will learn about the love of Jesus. In each of these simple steps, we make a difference that matters- one child at a time.

If you are looking for a place to escape the heat, or if you need a moment of inspiration in the midst of a nasty election cycle, I recommend Sound of Hope: The Story of Possum Trot. Listen for God’s call in a “warm, fuzzy tale of Christian love.”

With you enjoying a little movie popcorn,
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