It was a great pleasure the first Sunday in June to shepherd 23 kids among Zion’s youth to the Oshkosh YMCA’s Third Annual Mud Run. Water and mud and getting dirty is a great combination, a natural draw for both pigs and humans.
It would not have happened without the help of parents and grandparents and sponsors and community volunteers. It was a fabulous time thanks to YMCA staff and volunteers. It was not hard to find sponsors at Zion for the kids in our care. Thank you!
The mission of the YMCA is clear: to put the Christian principles of love, respect, honesty, responsibility and service into practice through programs that build a healthy spirit, mind and body for all. It is an association open to all, but what makes the YMCA a special place is that the fruits of the Spirit as the apostle Paul calls them were in strong evidence at the Mud Run: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. The Spirit blows where it wishes, and God gives his Spirit and the fruits thereof with great freedom.
Every organization that serves the community has by God’s grace a founding charisma. That of the YMCA is summed up by a Latin proverb: “mens sana in corpore sano,” "a healthy mind in a healthy body." It is a privilege to partner with the YMCA with that Latin proverb in mind, and with a commitment to making sure that the fruits of the Holy Spirit are in evidence in our lives.
That same Sunday was Graduation Sunday for West and North High Schools in Oshkosh. It was a joy for me to attend the ceremony for the North HS graduates and congratulate students who are a part of Zion, and others I have tracked since they arrived in the US years ago. What progress they have made!
The weekend following a dozen ladies prepared traditional South Sudanese dishes in Zion’s kitchen from 8 pm at Friday until 4 am on Saturday. I paid them a visit around midnight and they were having a grand old time. The graduation festivities in a local hall on Saturday night attracted family and friends from across the Midwest. I offered a prayer of thanks and took a lot of pictures. You could really feel the love for Garang, Gout, and Diing, among the first boys of South Sudanese heritage to graduate from high school (two) and college (one).
There were many unforgettable moments. Garang's father's speech, in which he honored Garang's mother with great passion. Gout and Diing's mother who sang a song she made up on her own, with verses in praise of her two sons.
Gout, 6 foot 6 at a minimum, was a star on North’s basketball team. He was in church this past Sunday for the first time. He is warming up to the idea that Zion, where his mother attends regularly, might be his church as well, a place where he can hear the Gospel and find strength and comfort. What does it take to draw people of any age into the life of the body of Christ? It’s all about relationships.
At Zion’s Sunday afternoon service it is often the kids who read Scripture because their parents’ English is still improving. I ask for volunteers, and there are sometimes several who want to read. Moreover, they contend for the honor of serving as an acolyte. One of the boys this past Sunday asked to be my “assistant.” During the prayers of the church, there are always two or three who pray with great intensity. It is easy to get discouraged because we want more people to worship at Zion than currently do. But those of you who come with singing unto Zion, on Saturday or Sunday, you are already a glorious bunch. Don’t let anyone tell you any differently.
Pastor John Hobbins
Youth and Family Ministries
400 N Sawyer St, Oshkosh, WI 54902