Jana was eager to volunteer. Dave did so – begrudgingly.
Jana knows being with children is her passion. Her career has been in automotive marketing and parts, but being with kids feeds her soul. Twenty years ago, Jana moved here and jumped into serving with WardKids. Five years later, Jana and Dave married, and when he became a member of Ward, Jana said, “OK – you’re a member. Where are you going to serve?” His answer – “I guess I’ll work with you.”
Dave soon discovered that being a ‘big kid’ created an easy way to connect with them. “You can have fun and be yourself,” he said, “You don’t have to pretend. Kids are not judgmental. We share experiences and love, and they absorb that. It was an unexpected blessing.”
When their son entered the 2 year old group where they were leading, Dave and Jana felt special connection to that group of children. The following year, they were asked to move up and volunteer with the 3 year olds. During that year, they began to wonder if this was the group God wanted them to grab ahold of and keep with – and so, they decided to stick with that group of kids through their school years. Now those WardKids are 5th graders, and Dave and Jana have had special blessings because of their long-time relationships with these kids and their parents.
“When quarantine began, we immediately shifted into meeting with our small groups on line – Dave with the boys, and me with the girls. We’d take the first 15 minutes to connect, and then spend 30 minutes with the lesson, trying to add in some fun games and ways to interact,” said Jana. “Attendance was similar to when we’d meet on Sundays. We were even able to add in a student who moved to Germany last year.”
One of their greatest joys has been watching their group of kids develop and grow in their spiritual lives. “For the past six months, the girls have been encouraging each other and their empathy has grown unprompted,” Jana reported, “They have had their Bibles out during our Zoom calls. They have been sharing prayer requests and praying out loud for each other.”
“Just when you think the boys are not paying attention, they suddenly stop and give a heartfelt, thoughtful response,” said Dave. When I ask a question, or challenge them to find something in their Bible, they are able to do it.”
Dave and Jana also found they have been able to connect with parents better electronically. “We have sent emails and texts saying ‘please let me know how I can pray for your family, and we’ve had many responses, some very serious. The kids have been so resilient during this time, but parents have needed more support.”
Dave and Jana have discovered that serving in a Sunday morning group has opened up many opportunities for outreach. “We’ve connected with our son’s friends and their families through sports and scouting. More recently, we have partnered with other parents to create an after school ‘recess hour’ with activities after their long day of Zoom school. Three of our son’s school friends began attending Ward regularly before quarantine, and eight of them signed up for the (canceled) Ward Next Gen camp this summer.”
Jana said, “Being a volunteer with WardKids feeds my soul. I love to see them grow and I am wired for community. Even when I’m busy and stressed with responsibilities – it is so rewarding. They give back more than we give out.”
There’s now no reluctance in Dave’s voice. “Volunteering with WardKids has helped me grow in my confidence and in my own spiritual life. You can see the fruits of your labor. Hearing their thought-provoking answers is a huge reward. I’m an introvert, so working with the kids boosts my confidence to share my faith.”