Small children to teens gathered under the shade of the picnic shelter at Summerfield Park on June 12 to learn more about God.
They listened intently as organizer Pat Carpenter led the first of this year’s weekly summer Bible study sessions and quietly bowed their heads during the prayer.
For the past 19 years, Carpenter has held Cross Connections for area children at the park on Tuesdays during the summer along with the help of her daughter, Fran Risse, and community volunteers.
“It teaches them to accept Jesus in their hearts,” said Carpenter. “It also gives them a place to come and play and fellowship with other children.”
Each week, the children listen to a Bible lesson, play games and eat dinner. Dinner is purchased with the help of donations, said Carpenter, noting it costs about $80 per week to feed the participants.
The weekly Bible study concludes each year in mid-August when the participants receive backpacks filled with school supplies donated by community members.
The program usually starts with 35 to 40 children on the first night of the program. By the end of the summer, there are about 120 children who participate each week, she said.
“They tell their friends and family about it and get them to come out,” she said. “I think they want to come because they realize we truly love them.”
They love Carpenter and the volunteers just as much, said 12-year-old Tyrell Robinson.
“I come because Ms. Pat makes it fun,” he said. “We learn about God and we learn Bible verses. I can still remember some verses I learned last year.”
At the end of the Bible lesson on June 12, Carpenter provided some words of wisdom and encouragement. She also encouraged them to not be afraid to have a conversation with God and to talk with others about faith.
“When God speaks to you, answer ‘As for me, I will always follow you’,” she said.
Cross Connections is held at 6 p.m. Tuesdays at Summerfield Park under the picnic shelter. Those interested in volunteering or making donations can contact Carpenter at (803) 279-3613.