Kid’s Place Returns to Park Place Community Center
By Vivian Atkins
It feels like home—to older kids as well as parents who walked the halls of the former Park Place Elementary School when they attended Kid’s Place at the North American Convention. The building is now a center of activities and service projects since Park Place Church opened a community center there. The building is greatly improved—it even has air-conditioning, something the former attendees had never enjoyed.
The marketplace, or Matsuri, was transformed into a magnificent Japanese cultural experience. The children enjoyed a traditional Japanese tea, shopped for a kimono, acted in Kabuki theater, dove for pearls, and visited Mount Fuji. One of the stations in the Matsuri was the Cranes of Hope, a mission project to send ten thousand folded origami cranes (seebazuru) to Japan. Each crane has a prayer inside. Traditional Japanese culture believes that the gift of a single crane is giving a prayer from one person to another. The gift of a thousand cranes means that one’s prayers will be answered.
J. J. Wilson designed a beautiful Japanese garden in memory of Cheryl Johnson Barton, who loved Kid’s Place and gave the children so much of her time and effort when she wrote curriculum for them for ten years. Tuesday morning, before the children arrived, Cheryl’s parents Don and Betty Jo Johnson sat in the garden reading her favorite Scripture verses and quotes from her books and blogs. Her daughter Stephanie and her family, as well as other members of the Global Missions family, visited throughout the day.
Michelle Parker, Kid’s Place director, shared that we had a new generation of kids who had never attended Kid’s Place in that building. They ooo’d and ah’d, especially when they entered the marketplace. Park Place Center had a children’s group who came to attend a community center activity on Monday and ended up registering for Kid’s Place because the kids thought it was “so cool.”
Activities were enhanced by missionaries Christy and Terence Van Dam, who also wrote this year’s curriculum, and former missionary Dondeena Johnson. In Dondeena’s class they learned that there are many things about life in Japan that are similar to life in America. Everyone eats, sleeps, goes to school, and works. The differences are in how we choose to do all of these things.
Carolyn Ansley, Little Kid’s Place director, planned activities for the little kids to learn about Japan this year. The travel center was one of the kids’ favorite activities. They experienced everything that a traveler does to get ready: packing bags, getting tickets, checking baggage, scanning tickets, and boarding the plane. On board, they experienced the feel of turbulence on the place, entertainment, and snacks.
In arts and crafts, they made a carp fish sand art and paper dolls. They loved the water center, where they played and learned about why good drinking water is needed and how the Japanese wash their clothes. They studied where Japan is located on the world map in relationship to where they live. In the food center they made fruit Sushi and learned about family life with Zonia Mitchell, who spent twenty years in Japan. In the music center, they sang children’s songs in Japanese; one highlight for the children was playing on the Japanese drums.
Whether in a tent, a university classroom, or the rooms of Park Place Community Center that still echo Kid’s Place voices and laughter from years past, the event is meaningful and all so important in giving the children a world vision and a reason to serve.