Highlights from my Life of Music and Ministry
Wednesday, August 12, 2009
July 27 thru 31, 2009, Music By Laurel Jean, in partnership with Lakewood United Methodist Church, Lakewood, IL, Grace United Methodist Church, Charleston, SC and South Carolina’s Dixie Land Guide Dog Users, Inc. hosted a day-camp-style Vacation Bible School as part of my Children's Chaplaincy for blind youth. We have named this event "Camp Lakewood", in honor of the Lakewood, IL UMC that presented me with my first Braille Bible when I was a child, and continues to sponsor my Children's Chaplaincy.
This VBS was designed especially for blind kids, who seldom have an opportunity to fully participate in church. Our theme was "Seeing and Being God's Light". Day-campers shared music (with brailed lyrics), enjoyed devotions (in Braille and audio formats), acted out interactive Bible stories, went on a couple of outings (including a trip to Grace Church) and did other activities, all designed especially for them.
While the kids learned about God and brushed up on their independent living skills, they also were boosting their self-esteems and having lots of fun! Scroll to the next six posts to learn more, and to see pictures taken during this event!
Thank you for your ongoing prayers and support. God bless you, and keep His Song in your heart!
Here I am with day-campers during our first day of Camp Lakewood worship.
Our first day of Camp Lakewood was truly a blessing. We had two kids, T and S, ages fifteen and thirteen. T's great-grandpa, Jerry, came with T. He was a tremendous help...and I think he had as much fun as the kids!
The theme was "Seeing and Being God's Light". We talked about how God's Light is love, and we talked about prayer. We had a worship time with prayer and music (including brailed lyrics). Miss Marti came to help out with her gift of telling interactive Bible stories. We did a fast-forward thru the Old Testament up to Joshua. We talked about Rahab and how she helped God's spies, the Israelites. The kids got to be the spies and hide while Rahab chased away the soldiers who were searching for them. We went for a walk around the neighborhood, allowing the kids to work on their cane skills, then we had lunch. Miss Audrey grilled hotdogs for us. The day-campers helped me fix the rest of the food while I taught them our table prayer, which we sang.
After lunch, we made "Romans 8:28 ice cream in a bag", to illustrate God making "all things work together for Good". We played a game of Uno, then we closed in prayer.
Here is Miss Marti, a Camp Lakewood "sighted angel" volunteer, preparing our interactive Jordan River dramatization in my driveway.
Our second day of Camp Lakewood flew by. Another camper, sixteen-year-old B, joined us. We began again with Worship music and prayer, this time actually taking praises and prayer requests from the kids. We talked about how God always answers prayer, sometimes with "yes", sometimes with "no" and sometimes with "wait".
Miss Marti came again today to tell us about how God's power broke thru some really strong barriers, the Jordan River and the Wall of Jericho. We reenacted both of these Bible stories in my driveway.
Marti created a riverbed out of plastic bags, towels, shells and some smooth stones with crosses carved in them, soaking it all down with water. Then, when the children first tried to cross, they felt the mist of the garden hose. When God’s Word was lifted up, the water subsided and they were able to cross. Everyone took turns picking up smooth stones until we had twelve, to build the monument on the other side of the river representing the twelve tribes of Israel. Afterward, each child got to take one of the cross-engraved stones home.
The Wall of Jericho was constructed out of shoeboxes. The kids found the base of the wall with their canes, then walked around it six times and blew imaginary trumpets and the wall tumbled down around
After that, T’s great-grandfather, Jerry, had a surprise for the campers. He had brought T on his motorcycle, and two of the day-campers got their first motorcycle ride!
We prepared lunch, talking about how the events we had studied apply to our lives today.
Our lunch was accompanied by edible mini-walls, which we constructed out of peanut butter and crackers. This helped some of the kids work on their technique for spreading peanut butter. They had to do this independently. Try spreading peanut butter with your eyes closed!
After lunch, we played Uno and then we closed in prayer. We played three games of Uno, and each child happened to win a game. How cool is that!
Here I am with two of “my” kids, at the most compelling statue in the garden of Mepkin Abbey.
Day 3 of Camp Lakewood was a field trip day, dedicated to Jesus' birth, earthly ministry and death for our sins. We traveled about fifty miles to the Mepkin Abbey, an area monastery. On the way, we did our Worship singing and discussed the first coming of Jesus into the world. Then, we lightened things up with a game of "Animal, Vegetable, Mineral", which neither of the children had ever played before. Even Great-Grandpa Jerry, who drove, got into the fun of the game!
The monastery features a unique labyrinth (maze) made with very tall grasses. I wanted the kids to have some practice with their cane skills, and the maze was a wonderful opportunity to do that. It was exhilarating to see the kids' confidence increase as they found their own way thru the maze. S even used her ears to help her travel. The tall grasses bordering the path thru the maze were full of little crickets. "The crickets are like arrows!" she exclaimed excitedly. "they point the way for us!"
After our exercise in the labyrinth, we headed for the garden, where two sculptures awaited us. During HURRICANE Hugo, many trees fell, including two large oaks on the grounds of the monastery. A man looked at the fallen trees and saw a vision of two Biblical depictions, the escape into Egypt and the Crucifixion of our Lord. He brought his chain saw and created two of the most detailed depictions of these scenes I have ever experienced. I have been wanting "my" kids to see these for a long time.
We arrived at the first sculpture, and I asked S to read to us from her youth Bible the account of Mary, Joseph and Baby Jesus as they escaped from Herod. Then each child was able to feel the life-sized statue depicting this event.
Then, S read again from her Bible the account of the Crucifixion of our Lord. Just as she read that Jesus proclaimed, "It is finished," the chimes at the monastery chapel began to sound. Only God could have orchestrated such timing.
Each of the children felt the crown of thorns on Jesus' head, His face, His beard, the cross and the nails driven into His hands and feet. Then we sang a chorus of "This Is The Day" and "Alleluia".
We stopped for a nice lunch, compliments of Dixie Land guide Dog Users, Inc. The children were allowed to interact independently with our waiter and waitress. We even sang our table prayer in the restaurant! A big thanks to Jerry, Audrey, Zack, Nancy, Luna, Max, Marti and Jackie for all of their help in making this day a success.
Here we are, getting ready for our scavenger-style Easter egg hunt!
Our "Resurrection Thursday", August 30 and Day 4 of Camp Lakewood, we had a spirited time of worship and music, then thirteen-year-old S led us in our opening prayer. We talked about the Resurrection and Ascension of Jesus, and what that means to us. We discussed the fact that, when Jesus is in our hearts, we can be sure that our sins are forgiven and that we don't need to be afraid when we die because we know that we will be with Him in Heaven. The kids were very open and understood the conversation very well.
For our fun activity, I decided that we should celebrate Easter with an accessible Easter egg hunt! I brailed scavenger-hunt-style clues and the kids and I set out all over the neighborhood finding Easter eggs! Before we started, we talked about how the bunny and eggs represent new life on Easter, and that Jesus is the One true Source of new life for us. Miss Audrey, Dorace (another "sighted angel" volunteer)and of course Great-grandpa Jerry took turns manning "egg stations" all over the neighborhood as the kids found the answer to each of the clues.
On this day, as they followed the clues on their Easter egg hunt, the kids were literally running down the street! It was so amazing to watch them in their excitement.
When they finished the Easter egg hunt, each of the children received a special token with the word "Lord" brailed on one side, and a cross embossed on the other. This coin is available at the Braille Super Store. We talked about how the empty cross is there to remind us that Jesus is risen!
Dorace and Miss Audrey went for our pizza, while Grandpa Jerry hung out with us and served as our sighted kitchen helper. We sang our table prayer and enjoyed a pizza lunch.
After lunch, I gave the kids each a Brailed word search that I had made for them. The word list consisted of twenty words based on the subjects of this week's study. None of the kids had ever seen a
Brailed word puzzle before, and they were so excited to be able to do yet another activity that their sighted peers do. We played another game of Uno, and then S led us in our closing prayer.
Here we are walking down the aisle of Grace United Methodist Church, Charleston, SC, the first stop on our Camp Lakewood outing dedicated to the Holy Spirit.
A successful Camp Lakewood drew to a close, with our final day dedicated to the Holy Spirit. We started with Worship, Music and prayer, then we began talking about the Holy Spirit. I told the children about how Jesus sent the Holy Spirit on the first Pentecost. We talked about how the Spirit gave courage to the early Christians and still works today in the Church. We talked about how the Holy Spirit can help us in our daily lives and give us courage to witness as Christians.
After preparing the kids for the day, we paid a visit to Grace United Methodist Church, where Pastor Don prayed with the kids and gave them their Certificates of Completion for Camp Lakewood. (Thanks, Arleigh, for designing these certificates!)
Then, John Johnston, another sighted angel and Grace Church volunteer, spoke with the kids about the layout of the church. They got to feel a stained-glass window, kneel at the Communion rail, and walk up to touch the altar. We even offered a couple of songs to God in the sanctuary.
After our time at church, we went to Wal-Mart, where there is a McDonalds. Each of the children was allowed to order his/her food independently. As we sat down to the table, the restaurant was very noisy. As we sang our table prayer, the room became very quiet and many people bowed their heads to join us in prayer.
For our Holy Spirit project, we asked Miss Marti to help us pick out items appropriate for the Shoebox Ministry of Operation Christmas Child, a ministry very near and dear to her heart. Dixie Land Guide Dog Users gave each child $20 to spend on items for the shoeboxes. The kids were allowed to find the items independently on the shelves, put them in the shopping buggy, unload the buggy onto the counter and pay for the items.
We got back to my place in time to play a few more games of Uno. Miss Marti even joined us for a game!
The real joy came when I asked T to lead our closing prayer. During this prayer, his very first, he openly accepted Christ into his heart. His Grandma asked, "Did Laurel Jean teach him that prayer?" We all assured her that these were his own words, at which point she started to cry. Well, we all cried, as T wrapped up his prayer and told God, "I want you to be in my heart forever, in Jesus Name. Amen."
I’m pictured here, singing with Taylor, who accepted Christ during our Camp Lakewood VBS for blind youth.
Sunday, August 9, 2009, at Grace United Methodist Church, Charleston, SC, this fifteen-year-old publicly professed his Christian faith, and was baptized by Pastor Don during the 11:00 AM service. There was not a dry eye in God’s house as T professed his faith aloud. Even Pastor Don cried along with the rest of us.
Special thanks to the folks at Grace Church, who even presented T with a dramatized audio Bible after handing him his Baptism Certificate.
We put T to work right away. He assisted me during the Children's Moment, and sang with me during the Offertory, "Open the Eyes of My Heart" ending with a chorus of "Alleluia". He got a
Another special thanks to T’s great-grandparents, who are raising him. They were absolutely beaming with pride.
Please continue to pray for Taylor, and for the rest of us as we nurture this beautiful, young Christian in his newfound faith!
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- God has blessed me with a Music Ministry that is still ongoing and growing after twenty-plus years. This includes my outreach promoting Braille Literacy in the Christian venue, and my recently-founded Children's Chaplaincy for blind youth. To make things a bit more interesting, I have also been blind since birth. I consider my blindness to be a unique gift from God, an opportunity to serve as an ambassador among blind and sighted folks of all ages, on all walks of life. To learn more about my work, from South Carolina to Central Illinois and beyond, please visit my Web site, and be sure to stay tuned to my Blog!