As junior social work major Bethany Franz and her group pulled up to the park, they were greeted with huge smiles and kids running to the cars before anyone had even gotten out.
They were attending one of the new ministry outreach programs of Hope for the Hungry, called Hope Play Day.
The Hope for the Hungry volunteers split up into two groups going to the two different sites, Mitchell Circle and Belle Oaks Apartments, which they usually cover during the week. This time, they would be staying longer than an hour.
“Each semester Jen Sutton (director of children’s ministry at Hope for the Hungry), Johanna Bartlett and myself sit down and plan events that we want to organize for the kids to participate in,” Franz said.
“We decided to plan this play day so we could do something different from what we do weekly. We wanted to hang out with the kids for longer than an hour to continue to build deeper relationships with hopes of sharing the love of Jesus with them through our actions and words.”
The activities during the day included baseball, chalking, hula hoops and cooking hamburgers.
Franz and other members also decided to make Hope Play Day Valentine’s Day themed by creating cards and decorating red and pink cookies.
“The Bible activity we did that day was from 1 Corinthians 13 relating God’s love to Valentine’s Day,” Franz said.
Hope for the Hungry usually meets Tuesdays at Mitchell Circle and Thursdays at Belle Oaks Apartments, with either Franz or Bartlett leading the group in their familiar blue shirts.
Their main goal is to go to these two local low-income/government housing facilities, play games, tell a Bible story and develop relationships with as many children as God places before them.
The group’s mission statement is “Sharing the Bread of Life with a Starving World.”
Many students are thrilled to be a part of such a good cause.
Freshman exercise and sports science major Morgan Baker said, “We feel like we need to help all these little kids and take joy in helping others. It’s our duty as Christians to help. Jesus even said in the Bible in Matthew 18, ‘Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.’”
Sophomore social work major Kristen Kimmel said, “I love seeing the way college students react with kids. We turn into kids ourselves by playing with chalk, playing on the swings, or hula hooping.”
It’s no secret that the children love having the UMHB students as their temporary playmates and friends.
Franz said “One thing that made me smile on Saturday was when one of the kids was covering her sugar cookies with pink, red, and white icing with sprinkles and making a mess. She blurted out that she was having fun. Also, since we were making Valentine cards, three of the kids gave me one, which definitely made my day.”
Some of the children in Hope for the Hungry have been influenced by the group. Some who used to complain about the Bible story being read every week now love it and ask the leaders to pray for them before they go.
Sophomore nursing major Kaydie Cochran said, “I love Hope because it’s like a mission trip but not far away or halfway across the world. It helps you realize that missions can be anywhere.”
Franz said they are planning other projects for March 26, April 8-9 and April 20.
“We definitely plan on doing an event like this again. We have a few events that are currently in the planning process that we would love for UMHB students to be a part of.”