"A Congregation that Welcomes Children"


“Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.” Mark 10:14

“Deep Run Mennonite East is a congregation that welcomes children”, a parent of our Deep Run East preschool observed after attending our Preschool Sunday service. We at Deep Run have a desire to share God’s love with our own children as well as those in the community. This is reflected by the many programs we have to offer. Our Bible School is well-known in our community as a great place for children to gather as they study the Bible, sing, work on crafts, and play games. Sunday School, Boys & Girls Club, JMYF, and MYF are additional opportunities for our children to grow in their love for God.

While we at Deep Run have many good options for our children to learn and grow, we realized that many of those opportunities were carried out in a rather drab physical environment; our church basement. Sedate blue- gray walls, broken up by white doors did not reflect the joy and enthusiasm of the children who gathered within those walls. However, that was about to change!

In the fall of 2009, Mae Kulp, then chairperson of Christian Education, called together a small group of women to begin brainstorming on ways to transform the drab basement into an inviting place for our children to gather. We began with the idea of converting our rarely used basement kitchen into “His Kid’s Café”, complete with a striped awning, “stone work” on the café front, and round tables. This has become a great gathering place for the children to enjoy a snack with friends before Sunday School.
basement2Kathy Moyer consults with Mary Blough, artistic designer for the project

While the newly painted café walls brightened the area up a bit; we had a sense that we weren’t quite finished. And so, that is where our dream began; a dream that seemed almost impossible to carry out. Why not bring scenes representing the Holy Lands into our children’s area? Could we realize this dream; did we have people who could both sketch and paint the designs we had in mind? It was at that point that we really began to see the work of the Spirit in providing people all along the way who had the skills and enthusiasm to make the dream come alive. A friend of Mae Kulp, retired art teacher, Mary Blough, listened to our ideas and sketched them on paper. A group of ten DRE members, many of them grandparents, painted walls which would become the canvas for the paintings. Kathy Moyer, Sharon Leatherman, and Kirsten Rice, our fine artists spent countless hours painting the scenes on the walls. Junior-high student, Katrina Rice, painted the wall outside of her Sunday School classroom. Our uninviting children’s area began coming alive with shops and scenes from the Holy Lands. A town street with terraced homes, trees and flowers emerged first, followed by a carpenter’s shop where a whimsical mouse plays among the wood as a cat snores nearby. A small gray donkey laden with a cart of fresh vegetables makes its way to the vegetable and fruit shop. The pomegranates, apples, lemons, and bananas, displayed in the shop, look so life-like one can almost taste them. Across the room in a Galilean kitchen a loaf of brown bread bakes in fire-burning stone oven. Beyond the shops, on the outskirts of town, a cow, sheep, donkey, rooster, and doves, all contentedly share a stable.

basement3What a transformation our children’s area has undergone since 2009, from gray walls to colorful scenes of places where we envision Jesus may have walked. The children have enjoyed watching the painting progress from week to week and each has his favorite scene. This, at last, is their special space to learn more about the Jesus who loves and welcomes them.

The congregation will celebrate the newly painted children’s area with a prayer of dedication and a coffee time in His Kid’s Café on February 26, 2012 after the worship service.

--Ruth Swartley

Mary Blough, retired art teacher and artistic designer for the project

Click on upper image for large images. Photography by Mae Kulp.