It was one of those children’s church mornings that makes you want to live forever.
We had had a glorious story of Elijah being fed by ravens (2 Kings 17). The kids had soaked up every morsel, just as Elijah had his bites of food. They had been interested and fully attentive. I had quizzed them about the story from beginning to end. They knew every answer and could share the complete - and accurate - story with their parents in the car on the ride home, which is every children’s teacher’s dream.
We had made raven/blackbird crafts to help remember that God had used them to provide food for the hungry prophet. We had played a relay called “Feed Elijah”. Picture it with me: Large black oven mitts with big glued-on eyes were “ravens.” Pieces of sponges represented the bread and meat in the story. A picture of Elijah’s face-enlarged from the lesson-hung on the wall across the room. Each child put the “raven” on his/her hand, picked up a piece of “bread” or “meat” and raced to feed Elijah, dropping their sponge piece in a bowl by his picture. Then they rushed back, gave the mitt to a teammate and repeated until all the food was gone. It was an awesome relay! The kids cheered and squealed as we played. Best children’s church EVER!
I was watching the time closely. We still had several minutes left before the service was over and the parents came to get their kids. I had black balloons in a garbage bag, hidden away for this very moment. We formed two teams, one on each side of the table. The kids hit the blackbirds/balloons back and forth. After one minute, I called time and the team with the least number of birds/balloons on their side of the table won. We played a few times.
I had one more game. It would be the pièce de résistance: “Fly, Blackbird, Fly.” You may not know this fabulous game … because I had just made it up that minute. The goal was to keep all the blackbirds/balloons up in the air – period. We volleyed them back and forth trying to keep them from touching the floor. The kids jumped and giggled as they hit the balloons. It was such a joyous moment for the kids, and me. This was a children’s church morning to remember-forever! I took out my phone to record a short video of the kids playing “Fly, Blackbird, Fly.” I smiled to myself and couldn’t wait to show it to our youth pastor!
I was putting my phone back in my pocket when I heard the scream.
Grace* had gotten BUSTED IN THE MOUTH WITH A BLACKBIRD!!! Dad gum it! Bradley had smacked it with all his might and launched it right into her face! Her lip was bleeding, too! She started to cry for her mommy. I grabbed a wet paper towel for her to put on her mouth and tried comforted her. “He didn’t mean to do it,” I told her. Then, trying to rally, I said: “Those stinkin’ blackbirds!” Bradley told her he was sorry and then continued to fling balloons into the air. Most of the kids were so busy with the game they didn’t realize there had been an injury.
Grace continued to cry for her mother. No longer could she remember the wonderful lesson of hungry Elijah and all the grand things we had done during that best children’s church ever.
When her mother collected her, I ran through the whole getting face planted with a blackbird story. Her mom was fine and said Grace would be fine. They had had a tough week; she had gotten stitches just a few days earlier because of something else.
So long, best children’s church morning ever.
*All names of children have been changed to protect the innocent and guilty.
Dawn Reed is a newspaper columnist and pastor's wife in Prestonsburg. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.