Last Wednesday, May 23, we held the “Red Carpet Awards” ceremony for Awana. It’s been the same theme for the past 5 years. We treat all the clubbers and leaders like stars for the night – they walk the red carpet to get their awards, they sit in VIP sections, they wear their finest clothes (I encourage the leaders to wear formals – be it old prom dresses or ‘tacky formals’ with over the top feather boas and sparkles, whatever they have on hand) and the decorations are gold, black, and blow-up Oscar statues.
This year it was no different, and yet, it was totally different.
This year it would be my last. My last award ceremony at that church. My last time to tell the kids that they’ve done such a good job and I’m so proud of them. Possibly the last time I’ll ever see some of them.
I’d be lying if I told you it wasn’t a hard night to get through. Bittersweet sadness permeated the entire building. Shortly after the kids started arriving, one disheartened-looking little girl walked up to me and handed me the sweetest card ever. I nearly lost it right there. This girl, she ONLY comes to Awana. It’s the ONLY time I ever see her, and although she’s never been in my small group, I always seek her out to be on my team for special events, like our girl’s tea party and T&T lock-in. But, until she handed me this card, I had no idea the impact I’d had on her.
Somehow – who are we kidding – by God’s grace I was able to keep it together until the very end. Until the moment when the pastor stood up and urged the parents and kids to thank me for my service – until I looked out at the moms digging for tissues – until, after the prayer, one special little boy ran onto the stage for a big hug.
I lost it.
I lost it as countless kids throughout the following banquet pulled me aside for a hug or a smile. I lost it as parents thanked me again and again for something that I simply loved to do. I lost it as I took photos, read cards, and said goodbye.
It was sad, it was painful, it was most definitely the ugly cry
But it was necessary.
And God saw it all. And He comforted me through it all. And he will bless these kids, too.
It was weird to turn in my keys and leave that night. And it’s weird to think that the building where I’ve worshiped for the past 20 years is no longer my ‘home’ – but, at the same time, there’s a great sense of peace, too.
I attended a new church this Sunday (post to come soon) and left knowing, just knowing, that all this – all the pain, all the hurt, all the searching, it was all leading here. Leading to great things.
And I’m grateful.
Genesis 16:13 “So she gave this name to the Lord who spoke to her ‘You are the God who sees me.’ for she said, ‘I have now seen the One who sees me.'”