I grew up in church and Sunday School. I attended vacation Bible school (fondly known as VBS to church people) at least once every summer. And starting about age 10, I always went to church camp during vacation.
We didn't always read the Bible, but we sure learned a lot of stories. And did a lot of Bible crafts. It was fun really, although I suppose it might sound a little boring to some people.
I'll admit that we skipped a lot of stories that frankly make teachers feel uncomfortable. Like, I never heard the story about Jael and how she smashed a tent peg into a guy's head. And I never heard the story about one of David's sons raping one of David's daughters. And we never talked about Song of Solomon. (I think Duane and I celebrated about ten years of marriage before I read that one.)
At any rate, skipping stories about sex or seemingly gratuitous violence means that teachers tell other stories multiple times. Like the story of Jesus feeding 5,000 people. The story is pretty remarkable, really, but it's so familiar to me that I forget not everyone knows these stories.
And I'm learning that I shouldn't assume anything.
Today, for example, my friend Amy Hall and her boys brought food to the Santee Food Bank. Amy and her boys are community volunteers extraordinaire. I mean, Amy raises more money for her school and the community of Tierrasanta than anybody I know. Plus she volunteers at her kids' school and works full time and volunteers for hospitality and children's ministry. I don't know how she does it.
But that's not my point.
As part of a Boy Scouts project, Amy's sons collected food for the food bank. And she had them study the story of Jesus feeding 5,000 people. I must say, this is a very appropriate story for a food drive. They brought the food to the food bank today, and Duane gave the boys a tour of the food bank. While they were there, they began telling Duane that they had studied the story. They didn't get into a lot of detail, but one of the boys excitedly remarked that this story was actually recorded in three of the gospels. Duane responded, saying that underscores the fact that it actually happened. Three entirely different people recorded the story. And then Duane commented that he wondered what all those people were thinking, leaving home without lunch.
Now, Duane and the boys were still in the food bank during this conversation, and quite a few volunteers were working. And listening to the conversation. The food bank is on the church property, but it's not run by the church, and not all of these volunteers go to church. Or know church stories.
One volunteer asked another about the story--he'd heard about it before, but didn't really know what happened. And the volunteer he asked didn't know so she sent the guy to Duane. And Duane got to tell the whole story, including how much Jesus loved the people then, and how much he loves people now.
And I think this underscores the idea that we can share our stories--and God's stories--randomly, all the time. And we never know who's listening in. And we never know how the stories will impact the listeners. We never know if they know God. Or they know God's story. And we never know how God will use our stories.
But we do know that he can't use them if we don't tell them.