Don’t Give Up on ‘That Kid’
by Mariel Gutierrez
I grew up like many children of officers in the Church Of Christ – at the house of worship. Whether it was because my mom had choir practice or my dad had a meeting, or maybe there was an activity that day, they were there and so I was there too. Other waiting children always surrounded me and we’d play in the church grounds, often watched by the older baptized youth members. So by the time my dad (a Children’s Worship Service teacher back then) was having me sit in for Children’s Worship Service or CWS, at around two or three years old, I wasn’t shy or terrified of going. I can’t say I was the most behaved child all the time, to be perfectly honest I was “that kid.” The one that sits in the special row in the back, so that she didn’t distract all the other kids with her antics. I loved going to church but it was hard to sit still! My behavior was a problem.
During one CWS teaching assignment in our home local congregation back then, Scarborough, I remember my dad going over the lesson in our old black car and he pointed at me and said, “Then you say, life is like a grass.” I repeated it.“Make sure you listen to the lesson and look at me the whole time ok? Because I’m gonna ask you this question but you have to listen to know when I’m going to ask it.” He said sternly. I felt like an agent activated for mission, determined to be ready when my dad called on me to answer a question. During CWS, sitting in the back pew as usual, I was on pins and needles, listening to the lesson carefully and looking up at the CWS Officer assigned to me that day, following her lead when summarizing the blocks of the lesson we were learning. Then finally, it happened.
“What does the bible compare our lives to as humans on this earth?” my dad asked. Long arms darted in the air along with my vertically challenged reach, I swayed back and forth to make sure that despite me being one of the smallest children there, my dad would know, I knew this one! He called on me.
“Life is like a grass.” I answered. I remember the smile he flashed me, one bursting with pride. As I looked around me, he wasn’t the only one.
This small moment during Children’s Worship Service is probably one of my earliest memories. That little push of confidence, along with the eternal patience and support of the CWS Officers inspired me even in my young age, to listen and learn. What did God want me to do? Can I also be useful and help the Church as a kid?
By around six years old I was joining the Bible quizzes and competitions. I won second place in 1990, just behind my lifelong mentor and friend, Myra Obcena Bigayan. That year I also became a choir member. About ten years after that I became a CWS Officer myself, and almost ten years after that I was performing for the CWS as a Deaconess during a year end Thanksgiving Worship Service.
Today, my own children are not only making their memories but they are building the foundation of their faith through the Children’s Worship Service. My daughter Mattea is almost twelve, and she’s been in the choir for about five years.
My son Massimo has just graduated from being “that kid.” Like his mom, he held that title for a long long time but with the help of his role models, the CWS officers of Fremont and Livermore, he’s learning respect, consideration, and most of all what God’s expectations of him are. One Sunday, he rushed to the car after choir practice beaming: on his chest was a ribbon.
No, it wasn’t for ‘most behaved’ or ‘knew all the answers’ but he felt happy, loved and seen. Though life isn’t measured in rewards or beaming looks, it does spark that feeling of confidence. Now Massimo always recounts the Worship Service lesson for me on the way home and we talk about how we can apply that lesson to life.
It’s been more than thirty years since I first went to the Children’s Worship Service but it’s nice to know that along with the unchanged teachings and values of the Church Of Christ, the experience of community, safety, belonging and unity extended by the CWS Officers –yes even to the wiggly kids in the back- still remain. For that I am eternally grateful.