We had our first Valentine's Day of Compassion here in Austin! A couple of sisters started this tradition three years ago in Berkeley, where we decided to transform Valentine's Day into a day of compassion, showing God's love to those people who are forgotten. Continuing this tradition, we got to visit the Salvation Army homeless shelter in Downtown Austin. It was a wonderful time, and a packed night!
We began the night at Pastor Manny's house by baking cupcakes, getting the crafts ready for the evening, practicing songs, and eating pizza together. That was a fun time of bonding! My favorite time was when we were singing and doing motions to "Making Melody", and Caitlyn commented, "I think you're liking this way too much." I know you were enjoying the song too, Caitlyn!
The night started off with singing and doing motions to songs such as "Shake a Friend's Hand", "Making Melody", and "Your Love is Deep." As we were singing "Your Love Is Deep" I was looking at each of the people's faces, the adults as well as the kids, and my heart really yearned for them to know how deep, high, long, and wide is God's love for them. I prayed that they would know how precious they are in His sight.
Right after that, Carlton came up to give a short message about how God is a shepherd who looks for his lost sheep because he loves and regards each as so precious. We had a special guest, Nathan the shepherd, visit us during the message. A very convincing shepherd, Nathan had lost his 5 sheep in the room, and so all of the children searched around the room to help find all of them. Carlton used this illustration to teach us that God searches in this way for all of his lost children, that He regards each person in that room as precious, and desire to bring each person home. In addition, we also were able to find out some interesting facts about Carlton, such as how he really loved to play with his Captain Planet toy when he was young.
Afterwards, Pastor Manny led us in games followed by decorating cupcakes and frames with the families. As each of the families and kids got to take pictures to put in the frames, it was so heart warming to see them enjoying the pictures so much. We found out that some of them hadn't taken a family picture in many years, and they just kept looking at the picture, and you could tell that they really treasured it.
Lastly, we can't forget the Great Maurice and his magic show. From coloring pages, to card tricks with signed cards appearing in wallets, both the kids and all the adults were in amazement.
I'm really thankful that on this Valentine's Day we could share about God's love with those who really needed love instead of taking cues from this world's culture. The fact that we were able to give the families at the shelter a fun night, where they were able to laugh and enjoy the whole program, they must have experienced a little bit of God's love for each of them. The kids there were so cute, and by the end of the night, we became really comfortable with each of them, and they with us as well. It was so great to see the kids starting to open up, to see the progression of them being able to look up to the college students by the end. I think it was a meaningful and touching time for all of us, and I look forward to visiting them again in the future!