One of the wonderful things that happens in our elementary schools on a weekly basis is the offering of a Good News Club. These after-school clubs are sponsored by local churches and provide children with a voluntary opportunity to hear about the love God has shown us in Jesus Christ.

For the past seven years the congregation I serve has had the privilege of being partnered with the Hodges Elementary School (GSI) to provide these club meetings. Remembering that the Bible makes clear that Jesus was greatly concerned for children, we spend our time on Tuesday afternoons simply being with and sharing in the lives of the kids who come to us. It is certainly our hope and prayer that the time we spend with them, telling them of the love that God has for them, will not only be a great encouragement to them, but will also plant seeds of faith that will one day take root and bear great fruit. But a funny thing happens on Tuesdays. While we seek to be a blessing, we find that we are also blessed. The children bless us with their love, joy, curiosity and even their energy — limitless energy on some days. To be sure, our volunteers sleep well on Tuesday nights.

In thinking of our time at Hodges, I have been reminded of the words of a pastoral mentor who made clear that we should not think that we take Jesus with us, not to the places we go and certainly not when we leave. Instead, when we arrive we realize that Jesus is already present. No doubt this is true of our time at Hodges. We don’t show up with him. He is already there. We know this is true because we see him in the atmosphere and culture of love that is present, even before we are buzzed into the building.

And if we have learned anything during our time there, it is that what we attempt to do in the brief amount of time we have is actually being accomplished on a daily basis by an entire community of administrators, educators and staff who pour every last ounce of themselves into loving each and every child, each and every day of the school year. They model, on their best and even most challenging of days, the awesome and transformative power of love that builds up and pulls close and embraces children where they are, then encourages them to a greater understanding of who they are and what they can ultimately become. It is a beautiful thing to witness. It reminds me of a T-shirt my wife has that says, “teachers can turn this thing around.” Which is exactly what teachers are doing — turning this world around as they love and lead their students forward.

The lyrics to a popular ‘80s song tell us, “And with a little help from above, you’ll feel the power of love. Can you feel it?” I think it is fair to say that the students at Hodges, and no doubt in each of the schools across the Lakelands, can feel it. And it is making all the difference in the world. In just a few short weeks our Good News Club, as well as those throughout the district, will come to an end for this academic year. What we know will not come to an end is the important work of love being accomplished by those who will continue their work into June. So we will pray, as we have for seven years, for our friends at Hodges. We are grateful for our partnership, awed by the amazing men and women who lead there, and blessed by the students who love us, just as we seek to love them, reminding us of the power of love.

Join us in praying for all of the schools in the Lakelands, that the power of love might abound.

Chris Leonard is a pastor at Rock Presbyterian ECO. He can be reached at cleonard@rpcgwd.org