You have risen to every challenge.

Long before Coronavirus, shelter-in-place, and social distancing became part of our everyday language, we planned to write you at the end of spring and say, “Hey! You made it! You did it! These months were hard, but you rose to the challenge. Our kids and communities are better because of you. Thank you.”

Then the world turned upside down. But we have a feeling this message is needed more than ever, given the circumstances.

By the time the end of the school, club, and ministry year rolls around, we will be all worn out; by end of May our appreciation for leaders has reached peak levels. But this year, you’ve blown us away. Your commitment to discipleship, to children, to ministry, has risen to every challenge 2020 has thrown at you—and then some.

We’ve heard stories of child discipleship taking place over Facebook, Zoom, YouTube, and the old-fashioned telephone. We’ve heard how you provided lunches for at-risk families in your communities, or set up drive-by stations for check-ins. You’ve banded together to support sister churches with high rates of illness. You’ve put together care boxes and sent award packages through the mail, you’ve written out cards and letters by hand. You’ve driven celebration parades past children’s houses. You discovered young siblings, older siblings, and even parents are watching online-Awana alongside your regular kiddos and took the time to disciple entire families of all ages. You’ve led kids and parents to Jesus over the phone or through a screen.

And now, even though the calendar has turned to June, many of you are making plans to stay in touch, to keep the lines open for the children and families in need of support throughout the summer months.

So today, we invite you to take a breath. Receive our socially distant hug or high-five and know how deeply grateful we are that you rose to the challenge, that you raised the ministry bar for the kids in your communities. We give thanks for the important work you do, raising this next generation of resilient disciples.

This generation of kids will never, ever forget these formative months—and they will never forget what you poured into them, how you were there for them, whatever that looked like in your setting and situation. As the years blend together into distant memory, these months will stand out, forever—and so will the love of Jesus you have demonstrated so vividly.

Would you hold out your hands to Jesus and receive this blessing? We join with the Apostle Paul in declaring:

…[We] have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in [our] prayers. [We] keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know Him better. [We] pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which He has called you, the riches of His glorious inheritance in His holy people, and His incomparably great power for us who believe. (Ephesians 1:16-19a)

You did it, friends! You got through these challenging months, and you have made a difference. There will be more kingdom-work coming around the bend—and we’ll be here, ready to brainstorm with you what that looks like in the midst of whatever 2020 throws our way. Most of all, God’s Spirit will be there with all the strength and resilience we need.

But for now, take a breath. Get some rest. You earned it!