For many of you this weekend is not only Easter, but Lads to Leaders weekend. You will load up your church bus/van or personal vehicle with puppet gear, drawings, fancy clothes, and Easter baskets and head off to one of many L2L locations. I can remember my first Lads in 2003 with Hartselle Church of Christ. I was so frustrated at first that I wouldn’t be “home” for Easter. I wanted Abby to parade into the building in all of her Easter dress glory just like all mothers of darling little ones. What I didn’t know is that Lads would become a great part of my life and an even greater part of Abby’s.
For years Abby has participated in Lads. Starting at 18 months old she could say 3 memory verses in front of all of the ladies at church. At 3 she quoted the 23 psalm in Indianapolis at their very first convention. I was one proud mama. At 4 she quoted the beattitudes at the Nashville convention. She wanted so badly to give a speech. She couldn’t read yet so she memorized so she could participate. She loved going from congregation to congregation with the girls at Hartselle to give her “speech.” Because she started so young she was not afraid, but loved telling others what the Bible said. Year after year of going to convention and participating in K-2 (way before she was even in k!) she was finally able to compete in 3rd grade speech! In 4th grade she won first place, her dream come true! I was even the trophy handler on stage that night to award her with her first place trophy. Best. night. ever. In 5th grade, I watched her stand on stage as a finalist in speech for Winner’s circle and beamed with pride as she didn’t place, but shook hands and congratulated those that did. So proud of her.
We love Lads to Leaders. We love having a program that teaches our children to participate in Biblical activities year round. Abby has participated in every single aspect of Lads that she has been eligible to. Every year I watch as she fills out her Lads form just checking every box she can find. She loves puppets, (who doesn’t?) song leading, and speech the best. She will also work fervishly to complete her preconvention entries like audio speech, video speech, article/editorial, bulletin board, etc. And, ofcourse we can’t forget the artwork that we so lovingly cart into the hotel. For Abby it has rarely been about the trophies. Like any child, she of course is excited to win. Who isn’t? But she truly loves the activity itself. She loves the company she has when she does puppets. She loves leading singing with confidence and not being afraid to give a speech. She loves the knowledge she has gained through wonderful experiences with members of the church. She loves being in a hotel filled with thousands of christians that all have the same goal: HEAVEN! I have watched with pride as my sweet girl has gained confidence and love for the Lord in this activity. Lads to Leaders is not just a program that rewards you for Christianity. Lads is a program that grows young Christians and molds them using God’s word. It encourages them to use God’s word daily in their lives and in every aspect of their lives.
This year we will not be at convention. Abby was able to send in many preconvention entries via the internet. She is heartbroken that she will not be there to perform a puppet skit with friends, give a speech, and lead singing. She wishes she could see her current friends and past friends from other congregations. For Abby, Lads and Easter are connected and it just isn’t the same. However, I found it happily ironic that this year’s theme for Lads is “Go into all the world…” Abby is living the theme. She has gone into all the world. While she will not be at convention this year, she is using daily the knowledge and skills that Lads to leaders and God’s word has provided her with. She is not afraid to teach, lead singing, or pray aloud. She is willing to help teach the Tanzanians in any way a 12 year old girl can. She left her comfortable home, best friends, wonderful school, and family behind to save souls in a foreign country. That’s a tough row for anyone to hoe much less a middle schooler. We will miss Lads convention so much this year, but I couldn’t be prouder of my Abby walking the walk. I wish all of you the best of luck at convention. Keep those arms up for puppets, speak loud and clear, perfect your arm movements for song leading, and most of all keep a great attitude. You are learning to go into all the world. You will use these skills to teach others about Christ. You CAN help others go to Heaven, because if you miss Heaven…you miss everything!