Our first Easter Egg Hunt at Ablaze Church was such a success and we were so inspired by the turn out, that we decided to host another one in 2008. Our team wanted to do a joint venture with Lord of Life across town and both teams had so much fun, planning, stuffing, buying things that we just knew God was going to bless our endeavor and use us to bless the neighborhood. We got to know people at LOL and they got to know us and we had so much fun planning this together.
We had over 8,000 eggs stuffed with candy and a lot of prizes. We had juice and cookies, live music and a message from pastor. We prayed for good weather. This was going to be awesome!
We learned a lot that year.
We learned that there is more to planning such an event than good intentions. We learned that we should have been outside, and that the need for such an event was larger than we could have imagined. Both churches settled in and set up and waited for the 750 people we were sure would show up.
We underestimated the crowds. Oh, we had 750 people all right give or take an additional 1,500. Mostly give. Our group of 50 volunteers wasn’t enough.
We learned so many things being over run. People kept filing in, and past the cafeteria to a holding place in the gym and finally to out back where our team of hunt coordinators waited – there were no walkie talkies between us, and no way of managing this crowd. While people inside worshipped, people outside broke past our lines and took all 8,000 eggs. Leaving about 1,000 people without anything.
Some of us ran for the hills, following in Peter’s footsteps of “I don’t know them.” Some of us tried to manage angry crowds from out front and some of us jumped under the prize pavilion splitting up prize baskets and handing out candy to the kids who didn’t get any.
We had things thrown at us, we watched parents walk right up and steal baskets from out of our hands saying their kid didn’t get anything and deserved it. We were sworn at, spit on, and screamed at – all by adults and in front of their children and ours.
Someone even stole my son’s digital camera.
Not all ministry events go as planned.
What I remember most about the day though, isn’t the screaming, crying (myself) and swearing. What I remember is watching our team (that stayed) take off their He is Risen shirts that we had made for the day and pass them out. I remember several neighborhood families jumping into the pavilion with us and drawing their swords at the angry crowd to help and defend us. We gathered up as much candy as we could, split up all the prizes that were left and passed out everything we had – including for some, the shirt off our own backs.
When it was all over, we threw away all of the previous entries for the drawing of the free bikes, and let everyone who stayed fill out a new entry and we gave the bikes away to two families.
We wanted to be Christ with skin on, we wanted to minister to the community in which we serve, and they ministered to us.
Mission work is not always fun, not always easy, nor does it always turn out the way we want. We left the school that day heartbroken, angry, and hurt – hurting not for ourselves but for the overwhelming needs that we saw.
See – we prayed over those eggs. We prayed that each person who touched an egg would be filled to the measure they needed with the Holy Spirit – we discerned some simply had greater need than others.
We all went home after the hunt, for a little while to rest before church started that evening. I went home, drank a glass of wine, cried and prayed. Then we came back at 7:00 to worship the one and only living God. 100% God, and 100% man. He too knows the crowds. He too was mocked, spit upon, sworn at and rejected. In His death and ressurection we find our life.
We all came back – every one of us to praise the living King and to thank him for the glimpse we got into the hurting of his people. And yet, one family of five stayed – and is still with us and they bring friends. Two more families remember us, and visit from time to time to pray with us and encourage us.
We made mistakes. We didn’t count the crowd and have a cut off. We didn’t have walkie talkies to communicate across campus. We didn’t have security. We over advertised. We were ill prepared.
But not this year. This year, we are trying again. This year, God willing, we will be prepared for those he sends us.