“Coach Nick, Coach Nick, come play tetherball with us!” were the shouts heard as Nick and I walked alongside the fence of the playground of Lugonia Elementary School. Nick In’t Hout is one of the pastors at The River, a church in Redlands California. The River has officially adopted Lugonia, a nearby public school which has an overwhelming population of students attending with difficult circumstances. In response to that need, The River decided to faithfully send volunteers to assist in the library, tutor students, and help out in the PE program.
As Nick we entered the stucco building to check in and continue on with a tour of the campus, it seemed that everyone knew who Nick was, from the office staff, to the teachers, even the maintenance workers, and of course the excited kids who surrounded him as we walked onto the playground. Nick called so many of kids by name which resulted in countless beaming faces, along with laughter and smiles as the kids pulled him on the court to play tetherball. It was clear that something special was taking place.
The kids had persuaded him and went nuts as he jumped in line to participate; they danced around as they waited to take their turn to challenge him. I thought Nick may just let a young Spanish girl who gave it her all win, but no, it was a match to the very end. As the recess bell rang the kids begrudgingly lined up to return to their classrooms, shouts were heard about a rematch next time he comes. As we left the school we passed a group of students coming out of the library yelling, “Look its Dr. Seuss!” Nick responded in a whisper, “No, I’m just his brother.” When I asked Nick what that was about he told me that for Dr. Seuss’ Birthday he had dressed up as this beloved character and spent the day reading books in several classrooms.
As we left the campus I filled with so much joy! I was so blessed by what I had just witnessed. I said to Nick, “This is the Kingdom of God! Right here in the middle of a needy part of the city.” Nick and the other volunteers from The River brought the love of the Father in a tangible way. From tetherball games to reading “Fried Eggs and Ham,” heaven’s love was coming to earth and it was contagious. It reminded me of the text from Romans 14:17-18:
For the Kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and approved by men.
God’s pleasure, peace, and joy were all over that campus as King Jesus demonstrated the Father’s Kingdom through faithful volunteers being His love through beautiful acts of service. People like you and me living our daily lives!
I left challenged and motivated by the “Holy Ground” I experienced at Lugonia School. I want to be available do whatever it takes to bring the love of the Father’s Kingdom to earth, maybe even dressing up like Dr. Seuss.