Suffer Little Children
During the winter of 1957 there was an increasing exercise on the part of two sisters in the Lord to bring the Gospel of God’s saving grace to a number of children in the town of. Midland, Ontario, who were not in regular attendance at any Sunday School. This exercise grew, and coupled with much prayer resulted in the forming of a class of hobby crafts and Bible teaching, which came to be known as the “Sunshine Class.”
Invitations were given by word of mouth from child to child, and the first meeting was held in September, 1958, in the home of one of these sisters, with an attendance of ten to fifteen children ranging in age from six to twelve years. It was decided that the most suitable time for this age group to meet would be directly after school hours Tuesday to avoid conflict with other established activities in the community such as free skating, gymnasium classes, etc.
At the beginning the two sisters who formed the class were its only teachers. A theme song was adopted which has proven to be very popular with the children; it is sung at the beginning of each class, to the tune of “Children Won’t You Come to my Father’s House?”
“You are welcome here, to our Sunshine Class
Where we learn God’s Word.”
At the close of the class the words are altered to be sung:
“Won’t you come again, to the Sunshine Class
Where we learn God’s Word?”
In addition to the hobbies and the Bible lessons, each child is given a typed Scripture memory verse to be learned for the following week. The Happy Birthday song has always been sung to any child whose birthday may be close. Along with the original, the second and the third verses were likewise used.
“Happy Birthday, yes two,
Only one will not do.
Born again means salvation,
How many have you?
“There’s a Saviour for you,
And you need Him ‘tis true.
Jesus died for your safety
And happiness too.”
It was not long before the attendance increased so that it was necessary to add more helpers, especially for the sake of the hobbycraft which required more individual attention to each child. To mention only a few of the hobbies completed, these included painted molds, feltcraft, knitting, weaving, copper work, leathercraft, simple embroidery, ceramic tile work, plastic Christmas wreaths, etc. It was found that knitting and embroidering was perhaps too tedious for the children, as they would become discouraged at work that required any great length of time to complete. The rule has always been not to send work home with the children, and half an hour each week was found not sufficient time for this type of hobby. They generally prefer doing something on which they can see actual progress. Very small children, unable to do hobbies, are given colouring books, jig saw, puzzles, or lessons in sewing on buttons, etc.
At the beginning of the class’s history a “Silent Chair” was introduced. This method for assuring good attention was borrowed from a similar work in Montreal, and has always proven successful. Before the class begins, a chair is selected by one of the leaders as being the “Silent Chair.” Whoever happens to sit on this chair, provided he or she has been quiet and has given good attention, receives a small reward at the close of the lesson, when the “Silent Chair” is announced. Only rarely in all the years has a child been denied the special award because of misbehaviour.
By the end of the second year the home was no longer adequate for the increase in the attendance. A memory lingers of the day when fifty children practically took over possession of the house, overflowing from the basement where special work tables, chairs, blackboards, etc., had been set up; overflowing into the kitchen, the dining room, and the living rooms. These sisters had asked the Lord for blessing and growth for the class; nevertheless, they were a little bit surprised when the Lord actually poured them out a blessing which the quarters they then had could no longer contain.
It happened that in 1960 permission was sought for the Sunshine Class to meet in the local Y.M.C.A. Mr. J. W. Smith, Executive Secretary, was only too happy to accommodate such a group, but the matter had to go before the Board of Directors for approval. Remembering that the Y.M. C.A. is a world-wide fellowship of persons united by a common loyalty to Jesus Christ for the purpose of developing Christian persons and a Christian Society, the, Directors gave their full approval that the Sunshine Class be accommodated. Excellent facilities were provided, commodious tables, working space for hobbies in a large basement room, and a smaller room adjacent to this in which rows of chairs were set up for the lesson part of the class.
All children of all ages were, and still are, welcome, and it is not necessary that they hold membership in the Y.M.C.A. The hobbies have always preceded the lesson, as this gives the early comers a chance to spend more time on hobbies, and the late corners do not interrupt the lesson. Furthermore, the children leave more quietly after the lesson.
The attendance records show that the class grew to higher than sixty, but levelled off to a steady attendance of between 35 and 40. It is estimated that approximately 300 children have gone through the class since its beginning. Though the object was to reach children who did not attend any Sunday School, the results reveal that those who attend are in both categories.
The Bible lessons are given in turn by the leaders, these rotate month about; that is, each teacher is responsible for four consecutive lessons. The group was favoured one year by the help of a Christian kindergarten teacher who not only brought new ideas to the hobby class, but who presented the Gospel to the children in an excellent manner. There is need for more such helpers in this work.
The schedule of the Y.M.C.A. includes the activities of the Sunshine Class. It is given publicity by the “Y” in both their printed program and their radio broadcast. The primary public school Principals have also been very generous and helpful by announcing the resumption of the class each Fall, over their P.A. systems. The starting date Is in October, and the classes continue through to the early part of the month of June. The children usually are afforded some special Christmas party, but Christmas 1962 was quite different, it was celebrated by a trip to Homes for Elderly Persons in the district, when bags of Christmas cheer (part of the hobbies) were distributed to the residents. In June a picnic is arranged and special prizes given for regular attendance and memory verses.
The finances are taken care of by a nominal charge of ten cents for each child which is accepted at the time of his enrolment each year. This small fee helps to defray craft expenses, but, of course, the major part of this is made up by the teachers themselves and by donations from other Christians.
Now in its fifth year, many children who began with the Sunshine Class are in High School, and although they are enveloped in other activities, and have left Sunshiners behind, they take the Word of God in their hearts; that Word that is still the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth. It is encouraging to the sisters engaged in this work to know that many of these young people are true believers; their prayers follow them that they may prove themselves to be true witnesses for the Lord Jesus. May each child thus reached be throughout life a genuine disciple of the Blessed One who said, “Suffer the little children, and forbid them not, to come unto Me, for of such is the Kingdom of Heaven” (Matt. 19:14).