In July of 2003, my family and I moved to Russiaville, Indiana, where we accepted the call to ministry at a small but loving meeting. I had given up the idea of going back into ministry after a rather lengthy spiritual battle. I was of the opinion speaking at a meeting for worship was one thing, but to make a commitment to another meeting was another.
Previously, my family and I were left deeply hurt and wounded. I never wanted to experience that pain again.
I was at the end of my recording process and was prepared to walk away from ministry all together and hoped the Christian Ministry and Evangelism Committee of Western Yearly Meeting would agree. But that didn’t happen! As it turned out I was recorded as a minister of the Gospel in Western Yearly Meeting on August 7, 2003, my mother’s birthday. The following Sunday my entire family and my new church family from Russiaville Friends Meeting came together to celebrate God breathing life back into my bones.
Struggling to begin fresh and trying to learn why God had indeed called us to Russiaville was not easy.
Although our meeting was adding new members, we were also laying to rest just as many as we were gaining. Our size would not change. Fortunately, the meeting was blessed several years before our arrival with a preschool to occupy the old parsonage next door. Young people would indeed continue to minister to Russiaville Friends and play a major role in keeping the meeting focused on youth outreach.
In September of 2003, I attended my first devotional hour with the preschool children at Williams’ Patch Preschool. My youngest child was one of the students. Picking up my pen and paper and leaning on my artistic training, I began our devotions each month with a drawing to illustrate the lesson. It went well and the kids enjoyed the time spent together. Once a month from that date forward, I would spend 30 to 45 minutes sharing a Bible lesson, drawing a picture, singing and praying with the kids. Summer came, and then it was time to start another school year.
Several of the preschoolers were returning students and were very excited to see that we would be spending time together again. The enthusiasm was short lived. The cartoon image I was drawing was borrowed and not an original idea. On the first day of devotions one young boy prolaimed his disappointment when he realized I was going to be drawing the same character once again. We laughed it off and continued with the lesson. But as the day progressed, I became more and more determined to come up with my own character. Before the month was over, I was working on a new name for my new cartoon.
I spent the first few months trying out my new character on the kids. I had to be creative and find ways to work him in to the devotional time. This new character quickly became a part of my life. The kids could not wait for the next picture to see what our new friend, Raymond, would be doing. By 2005, Raymond was a huge hit! Our devotion time became Devotions with Raymond. Additionally, a very talented member of our meeting, Ann Carter, joined the excitement captivating us with her musical gifts. Her creative and lively tunes captivated the children. I could not believe the ministry God had created through this simple little devotion time right before my eyes!
Most of our young people advanced on in life and began attending college. My own three little ones grew up fast and were no longer comfortable coming forward during worship for a children’s message. Every time we attempted to begin a new youth group, it would thrive for a while. Then life challenges became real obstacles and the group would fall apart. Our meeting began to consider, how does a church/meeting minister to little ones when they have no little ones themselves?
Our answer was, “You stop waiting for them to come to you. Instead, you go to them.” Williams’ Patch Preschool in Russiaville, Indiana, right next door to the meetinghouse, was the place for us to be. Thanks to Maria “Williams” Ramseyer, we were blessed to have a place to share the love of Jesus Christ with a new generation of young people. We praise God for giving to us a ministry to love and enjoy children even when we have no little ones ourselves.
Within the last nine years, Russiaville Friends Church/Meeting has had the blessing of planting seeds of faith in nearly 200 lives. Since 2003, we have been able to provide nearly 70 hours of ministry through this personal devotional time. That’s nearly 30 hours more than if we had spent 10 minutes each Sunday for the last nine years in children sermons. What we were not able to do in worship on Sunday mornings, God blessed us once a month at a local preschool!
If you had told me in 2002 that I would be blessed to be a part of such a vital outreach program, I would’ve laughed. I would have said, “This is not just my ministry outreach.” However, it is one belonging to God. All who attend Russiaville Friends Meeting have the opportunity to respond to this outreach with energy and love. Without the meeting’s continued request for my family to answer another year’s calling, the preschool ministry would not have materialized. Without Mrs. Ramseyer’s willingness to partner with Russiaville Friends in providing the community with a top notch educational program, our unique ministry would not happen at all. I don’t know about you, but our ministry is what I would call stewardship in action, wouldn’t you?
Since 2003, the preschool has had many of its own obstacles. Today the preschool also holds a class for toddlers in the basement of the church. It has steadily provided the area school corporations with quality training and education for all those heading off to kindergarten.
We love our Patcher’s! We praise our God for this wonderful blessing! We are praying for many more years of continued success for this ministry and for Williams’ Patch Preschool.
Jamie Lyon is the pastor of Russiaville Friends Meeting in Russiaville, Indiana. His wife, Carol, and he are the parents of three children: Nathan, 18; Hannah, 15 and Olivia, 13. Jamie is involved with Samaritan Caregivers Organization of Kokomo, Indiana, and is a freelance artist. Carol is employed with Dental Care of Kokomo and loves quilting and serving on the Quaker Haven Camp Board. Nathan recently earned the Eagle Scout award and is a senior at Western High School. Daughters, Hannah and Olivia, are committed musicians and are members of Western High School’s Class C State Championship Marching Band.