“Why are we at the park?” a curious teenager named George shouted from the back of the van trying to talk over about five other conversations.
“You will see soon enough” came the reply from Paul the youth group leader as he tried to park the van carrying eight boisterous teenagers. “Now everybody out quick, quick. We almost missed it.”
“Missed what?” asked 13 year-old Rebekah, the youngest in the group.
“Just listen. Do you hear that?” Paul asked as they scurried along the path to the middle of the park where Sarah, Paul’s wife, was waiting for them with a full picnic spread out on a plaid blanket.
“All I hear is bells from the church on the corner” Jessica answered.
“Exactly” was John’s quick answer. As the unofficial leader of the small group of junior high students it had been his idea for the outing.
There were squeals of excitement when the teenagers spotted Sarah and the feast that was to be their dinner. The girls ran over to Sarah to hug her and touch her growing belly, all of them filled with enthusiasm about the coming baby. The boys were focused on the food which included fried chicken, mashed potatoes, potato salad and corn on the cob.
Over bites of apple pie John started to gather the group together in a circle. “Now we all know that this is our last meeting for the year. We hope and pray you will not forget any of the memories or friendships you have made. We will start tonight with a game that should review the year, encourage everyone, and show us how important our times together have been.”
Paul continued “Does anyone know why we came at this time and to this specific park?”
Jessica asked “Does it have anything to do with the bells we heard coming in?”
“Ding ding. We have an answer” the comedian of the group Paul answered.
“Yes, Jessica that is correct” John stated and at the same time he gave Paul a look to silence him. “We wanted you to hear the Ding-Dong of the bells to introduce our last game of the year. Although you can hear them daily at this park at 6 pm, they are played mostly at times of celebration. And that is exactly what we want to do tonight, celebrate the past year and its precious moments. We say ‘Ding’ and a name and that person has to say something they celebrate or are thankful for this year. Then ‘Dong’ and another name and they share something. Are we ready?”
“Yes” the teenagers replied in unison.
“Okay.” John said. “I will go first. Ding – Meeting new friends. Dong - Paul.”
“Finding out Sarah and I are having a baby” was Paul’s answer. “Ding - Robert.”
“Spending Christmas with my family. Dong – Thomas.”
“Sorry, I can’t think of anything at the moment. Can I pass?”
“It doesn’t have to be related to the group” Sarah interjected. “Are you sure?”
“Okay. Let me try again” he said as his lips contorted in a look that meant he was thinking. Finally he answered “Getting an A on my mid-term history paper. Ding – Rebekah."
“That’s easy. The first time I came to the group and Sarah was so nice to me. No one has ever been that nice to me. Dong – Sarah.”
“Really? Thanks for the encouragement. We always want people to feel welcome. I love the games we play and getting to know you all. Ding – Abby.”
“My parents got back together this past week. Dong – Sam.”
“Really? That’s great” Sarah and Paul spoke in unison. “Oh, sorry Sam.”
“No worries. I value all the friendships I have made because I was suicidal earlier this year until my mom forced me to come and I learned about God’s love. Ding – Toby.”
“We had no idea. Glad to know we could help you know more about HIM. On that note I am thankful for the opportunities to share my faith and make a difference” was Toby’s response.
“Who’s next Toby?” Sarah asked.
“Oh, I forgot. Dong – Jessica.”
“Perfect days like this spending time with friends. Ding – George.”
“My answer is that I start work at my first job on Monday!”
“That’s fantastic George. Thanks for sharing everyone. Now who’s ready for some Frisbee?”
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