Not too long ago we hosted the 5th Annual Riverbend Ranch Charity Carnival.  Our family started the Carnival in 2007 after Lisa and I decided we needed a way for our whole family to be able to join in to what God was doing around the world and not just be passive observers.  We chose James 1:27 as our family mission verse, “Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble and to keep oneself un-spotted from the world.”

Lisa and I both have huge hearts for kids and even though we prayed that one day we would have the opportunity to serve God directly in ministry, we had no idea where, when or with which ministry that might happen.  So the Carnival was born and we raised funds for the orphanages we couldn’t visit, the widows we wanted to bless and the children who were alone to care for themselves in places where we hadn’t been.

This year we were blessed by nearly 100 volunteers who came to the Carnival with a heart for service and a vision of their own to help!  Some worked with the horses, others sold tickets, dozens worked games booths, a few blessed us with song and worship, more sat in the dunk tank and others stood all day making and selling food.  We were humbled that God would tug on the hearts of so many to come help.

Our volunteers love God and love the opportunity to serve as families.  These families are friends from our past and present.  We met them through church, football, swimming, speech & debate, Facebook and by living in our community.  Their denominational heritage and affiliations include Lutherans, Presbyterians, Baptists, Church of Christ, Catholic and the famous “non”-denominational denomination.  The volunteers were a beautiful picture of God’s love and grace and they came not just to help us or even indirectly help Agape Children’s Ministry, but they came to serve the Maker of the Universe, their Lord and Savior.

The Carnival is a great day of fun and excitement, loads of laughter and smiles from hundreds of kids.  We raise funds for worthy ministries doing amazing work for the Lord in far away places where few people take notice.  But the Carnival also reminds me of Paul’s instruction from Ephesians 4:1-3.  “I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”  On Carnival day we all come together in Unity of the Spirit, to the glory of God.

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